It’s more important than ever that students graduate with the knowledge and skills to attend college. But how do you know if a student is ready for college and how do students get there? That’s the question we’ll be exploring in this series of articles for parents.

This year, students across California are officially taking the state’s new standardized tests for the first time.

In 2010, California adopted the Common Core State Standards, which set expectations for what students should know and be able to do by the time they complete each grade in English language arts and math. These new standards are more rigorous and are much better preparation for students to be truly ready for college. But how will we know students are learning what they need to learn?

California’s new standardized tests (often referred to as Smarter Balanced Assessments or the SBAC) are designed to assess the extent to which students have learned the Common Core Standards. Many schools did a practice run of the new test last year, but student results weren’t collected or reported. This year, schools and families will have student results for the first time.

What is the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC)?

Students in California have been taking standardized tests for many years. The previous state test was called the CST (California Standards Test) and was often referred to as the STAR tests. The Smarter Balanced Assessment (or SBAC) is a new test that was developed to better measure whether students are on track to graduate ready for college. The test is aligned to the Common Core standards and is taken on a computer rather than on paper.

This doesn’t mean more testing for students – the new SBAC tests replace California’s old standardized tests. Also, California will now be testing students in fewer grades: grades 3-8 and grade 11, rather than every single year from grades 2-11.

Infographic How the New SBAC Test is Different from the Old Ones

What does this mean for my child and my school?

This first year using the new test is a learning year for everyone – teachers, parents, students and our elected officials. With the new tests, student scores may decline because the Common Core Standards set a high bar of getting students ready for college. But students, parents, and teachers should not be discouraged by SBAC scores. They are not used to determine whether a student moves on to the next grade.

Schools will use the test results to see how well they’re adapting to teaching the new standards. Parents will receive their children’s scores in the summer, telling them how their child is progressing on the road to college-readiness.

Top Resources to Learn More

Try taking sample questions from the new test.

See what the parent report with the new test scores will look like.

Check out these great, free videos showing what students success looks like in reading, writing and math, grade by grade. (en Español)

Innovate Public Schools

We are a nonprofit organization focused on ensuring that all students in California, including low-income students and students of color, receive an excellent education.

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