Preserving State Assessments in California Through Policy Innovation


Some states are passing policies designed to ensure state tests are administered even during this uncertain time.


Another academic year cannot pass without objective, comparable information about student achievement derived from a state assessment.  Amid the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, that has disrupted virtually every school and family in the country, knowing the impact on student learning will enable leaders to respond effectively. The rigorous expectations and administration of the state assessment are critical to keep the promise of equity and to make sure every student counts. 

States can look to California for one path toward ensuring the monitoring of student learning to provide a foundation for reversing potential learning loss during the pandemic.

You Can’t Solve a Problem You Can’t See

We measure because we care about student learning, and what gets measured gets done. State tests serve a purpose: to ensure students are meeting education standards that prepare them for success in life.  Understanding student academic achievement is the first step to ensuring state resources and supports are appropriately provided to students, educators, schools, and districts.

State education leaders must be prepared to administer a statewide, standards-based summative assessment in 2020-2021. Whether in a remote or in-person environment, gathering comparable and reliable information on student performance is essential to make objective policy and resource decisions. 

California’s Policy Innovation

Some states are passing policies designed to ensure state tests are administered even during this uncertain time. For example, on November 12, the California State Board of Education voted to shorten the Smarter Balanced assessments aligned to the Common Core academic standards for math and English language arts in grades 3-8 and 11.

The shorter tests will still cover all academic standards and be able to provide the first statewide snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on student learning, but the CSBE’s decision provides some flexibility for schools to administer the test during a shorter class time this spring while still collecting data about student learning amid COVID-19.

To date, there has been no uniform effort to measure learning loss during the pandemic. California advocates of the revised shorter test will generate standardized data that is crucial to address gaps in academic opportunities and outcomes that have likely been exacerbated by school closures.

Solution Areas:

School Accountability



About the Author

Christy Hovanetz, Ph.D., is a Senior Policy Fellow for ExcelinEd focusing on school accountability policies.

Solution Areas:

School Accountability