A bill that would end STAR testing in California schools a year early is sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk waiting to be signed after it passed both the state assembly and senate earlier this month.

A bill that would end STAR testing in California schools a year early is sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk waiting to be signed after it passed both the state assembly and senate earlier this month.

If the state moves forward with the bill and schools don’t administer STAR tests this year, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned there may be sanctions, including the withholding of federal funds to California schools.

AB 484 would eliminate the “Standardized Testing and Reporting” program and replace it with Smarter Balanced Assessments designed around new Common Core standards, which will be required anyway in the 2014/15 school year. This year’s testing would be a pilot of the computer-based tests, explained Kathi Emerson, superintendent of Mount Shasta and Weed elementary schools.

Local legislators, including Senators Ted Gaines and Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman Brian Dahle voted no on AB 484 though California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the California Department of Education supports it.

“The STAR test is no longer relevant. It would be a costly, time consuming distraction,” said Emerson. “The STAR test is no longer aligned with current standards. We would benefit from the opportunity to preview the new testing format and measure our own progress by piloting the new test this spring.”

Duncan expressed his disapproval of AB 484 in a Sept. 9 statement. “A request from California to not measure the achievement of millions of students this year is not something we could approve in good conscience,” said Duncan. “If California moves forward with a plan that fails to assess all its students, as required by federal law, the department will be forced to take action, which could include withholding funds from the state.”

Torlakson responded in a press release saying, “We don’t reach (our goals) by continuing to look in the rear-view mirror with outdated tests, no matter how it sits with officials in Washington.”

Torlakson said Smarter Balanced Assessments “reflect the deeper earning and critical thinking our students need to compete and win in a changing world.”

“Our goals for 21st century learning, and the road ahead, are clear,” Torlakson continued in the statement. “We won’t reach them by continuing to look in the rear-view mirror with outdated tests, no matter how it sits with officials in Washington. We look forward to the opportunity to make our case to the Administration... we hope they agree that withholding badly needed funds from California’s students would be a grave and serious error.”

When asked for a statement on his AB 484 vote last week, District 1 Senator Ted Gaines said, “Objective measures of student progress help to make sure none of our students are falling through the cracks. These tests can help identify areas of strength and weakness for students, teachers and schools that are critical to improving our entire education system and I don’t want to see them suspended.”

Dahle said in a phone call Monday morning he voted no because without testing of some kinds, schools will have no baseline to see if their students have improved or declined.