state board
Education leaders emphasize progress, adopt shorter statewide exams for next year
State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond opened the board’s November meeting by acknowledging the challenges that the state’s students, teachers, families and administrators are facing while outlining the progress they have made in reopening schools. The board also approved a shorter version of the 2020–21 Smarter Balanced assessment consortium to provide a flexible option for district leaders in an uncertain time, and approved detailed indicators for the implementation of Assembly Bills 1505 and 1507, last year’s charter school authorization package.

Darling-Hammond outlined the impact that a public health crisis, an economic crisis, a climate crisis and a civil rights crisis stemming from a long overdue reckoning with systemic racism have had on public education. At the same time, she shared news indicating that, while there is a long way to go, more students are engaged in learning. While more than 90 percent of students started school in online learning, as of the end of October, there were about 750,000 students attending in-person classes in 21 mostly rural counties. In 20 counties serving about 1.7 million students, there is a mix of districts offering in-person instruction and distance learning. Now, only 17 counties report they will remain in full distance learning models until at least through Jan. 1, 2021. Those counties serve about 3.6 million students and include some of the largest urban districts in the state.

Darling-Hammond noted that the California Department of Public Health had yet to find an increase in COVID rates associated with school openings, and credited both state and local efforts to ensure student and teacher safety.

“During these times of great social upheaval, we also have opportunities for great social transformation,” Darling-Hammond said. “We don’t want to return to the status quo with many of the inequities that have plagued the system of education in every state for many years. We want to return to a new normal in which [we] think differently about how we organize schools, how we support our educators and how we support our students. I think that’s something we’re going to see on the State Board’s agenda in the coming year.”

Young girl participating with school on a laptop
New, shorter assessments will allow LEAs flexibility in upcoming testing season
The board voted to revise and shorten the state’s annual standardized Smarter Balanced tests in math and English language arts in an effort to provide a flexible option for district leaders in an uncertain time. The shorter tests can provide overall results comparable to the full versions, according to CDE staff.

The board approved shortening the exams that students in grades 3-8 and 11 are required to take in math and English language arts by nearly half. Typically, the tests take seven to eight hours to complete; the 2021 tests should take three to four hours.

Board member Cynthia Glover-Woods expressed the importance of providing guidance to LEAs on how to communicate to their stakeholders what the shortened tests entail, why they are being administered instead of the longform versions, what the results will tell families about their children’s academic achievement, and the different modes in which they may be administered. “I feel [that] will be very helpful for those in the field as they make decisions how to go about ensuring students have a spring testing environment that will best set them up for success,” Glover-Woods said.

Given the extraordinary circumstances and many pressures preventing schools and families from functioning normally this year, CSBA has maintained that additional flexibility through the federal waiver process would be welcome. In the absence of that, CSBA views a short form test as the best of the remaining options, albeit one that comes with many equity issues and operational challenges, such as poor or nonexistent home broadband access, online fatigue, the lack of tech support in the students’ homes, and variable test taking conditions in different households. In addition, with fewer questions comes greater measurement error as well as the variance that could be caused by the unusual context and inequitable conditions students are experiencing.

Student receives hand sanitizer in the classroom
Progress made in implementation of charter renewal/establishment law
CDE staff provided an overview of the implementation of Assembly Bills 1505 and 1507 — specifically, the new review standard and process of the State Board and the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools in hearing appeals for the establishment and renewal of charter schools.

AB 1505, which went into effect on July 1, 2020, included new rules and standards for reviewing charter schools seeking establishment and renewal by governing boards of school districts, county boards of education and the SBE. Changes include extending timelines for reviewing petitions for the establishment of charter schools at the local level; identifying specific findings for the denial of petitions for the establishment of charter schools at the local levels, including interests of the entire community and fiscal impact; establishing additional criteria for chartering authorities to use when determining whether to grant a charter renewal, including charter schools’ performance levels and verified data; revising the process for charter schools appealing to the SBE; redefining the role of the Advisory Commission and SBE; defining situations in which the CDE is to treat charter schools as “continuing for all purposes”; and phasing in the requirement that charter school teachers have the same teaching credentials as traditional school teachers.

AB 1505 changes the submission process of new charter school petitions to district and county boards of education and appeals to the SBE. The bill also requires authorizers to consider “verified data” for renewals of charter schools that fall within the low-performing and middle-performing categories. Verified data is defined as “assessment data from nationally recognized, valid, peer-reviewed and reliable sources that are externally produced.”

As recommended by CDE, the board approved the recommendations of criteria to define verified data, the data use procedures related to verified data, academic progress indicators for inclusion within the approved verified data list, and postsecondary indicators for inclusion within the approved verified data list. The full list of recommendations for academic progress indicators and postsecondary indicators can be found at

View the full State Board Report at

The next State Board virtual meeting is scheduled for Jan. 8–9, 2021.