California School Boards Call for Study of Alternative Assessments

K-12 Testing

The school boards of Los Angeles and San Francisco have adopted nearly identical resolutions that approve “a study of alternative assessments that could be used by the District to the benefit of its students and schools.” The resolutions passed after intensive organizing efforts in the two cities. In Los Angeles, the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) worked for months to persuade board members, while in San Francisco the effort was led by Teachers for Social Justice in collaboration with several board members. Assessment reformers see the resolutions as an important step in an effort to change both district and state testing policies.


Both resolutions condemn the misuse of standardized tests. They point to resource inequities, including less qualified teachers and overcrowding, in schools serving low-income communities and communities of color. The inequities result in a large achievement gap. This is the first time the Los Angeles Board has acknowledged the disparities in an official resolution. The state faces a major lawsuit, the Williams case, in which parents and communities are seeking funding adequacy for public schools.


The resolutions further say the Stanford-9 standardized achievement tests, the main test used by California, and the new High School Exit Exam discriminate against students whose first language is not English and promote a narrow, teach-the-test curriculum. They also point out that “groups locally and nationally have developed alternative, potentially more equitable and academically constructive tools to measure student learning and school performance.”


In each city, a task force is being set up to conduct the study and report back in the next six months. The reform groups are working to ensure that the task forces are not dominated by supporters of the tests, such as the school department officials in both cities who strongly opposed the motions that their boards passed. Activists in other cities are planning similar campaigns as part of a variety of overlapping efforts in California to oppose high-stakes testing for students and schools (see story, p.1 ).


• For information on CEJ, contact; for Teachers for Social Justice contact or