Mirroring statewide trends, Santa Barbara Unified School District students produced lackluster scores on newly rolled-out standardized tests recently. But that wasn’t particularly surprising, considering the circumstances. Replacing fill-in-the-bubble traditions, the new tests ​— ​taken on computers for the first time ​— ​are designed to sync with Common Core teaching methods that focus more deeply on layers of critical thinking and problem solving. “[Initiated in 2013, Common Core] is a new way of thinking, and this testing reflects that,” said school board president Ed Heron. “Students must give and support their opinions. The test is a lot harder and more specific, a whole new system of judging success in school.”

At Santa Barbara High School, for example, 32 percent of 485 students tested met or exceeded standards in math. For English standards met or exceeded, the percentage was 52 of 518 students. Using the scores as the district’s “new baseline,” Heron added that educators can now zero in on improvements in the classroom as teachers continue to adapt to Common Core methods.

In related news, a Senate bill (SB 172) to suspend the California High School Exit Exam for three years while it gets a makeover sits on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. Another relict of pre-Common Core educational standards, the exit exam represents a hurdle students must pass before graduation. Brown has until October 11 to pass or veto the legislation.


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