version of the high-stakes exam set to be field tested this spring, state
Department of Education officials announced Monday that Palo Alto-based
American Institutes for Research had been selected for the task.
Brown and other panel members will meet in Sacramento in February to
review and make recommendations on the pool of test items that will be
put together by American Institutes and an advisory committee.
The exam, required by one of four school reform bills approved last
year, must be ready for the 2000-01 school year. It will first affect the
graduating class of 2004.
The state Department of Education first asked for exam proposals in
November and found test publishers unwilling to step forward, said Gwen
Stephens, director of the department's Standards and Assessment Division.
"It's a high-stakes test in a big, big state that's very visible," she
In an effort to attract test publishers, the department lowered the
stakes earlier this month by asking for only informal bids. The move
attracted four responses, three of which were deemed viable, Stephens
Field testing must be done this spring and the results evaluated in
time to make the exam available to ninth-graders in the 2000-01 school
year, she said.
The exam will be a requirement for all 10th-grade students by 2002.
Students will likely have the option of taking it at least three times a
"The governor doesn't want this to be a 'gotcha,' " Stephens said.
Brown said the exam panel decided to include Algebra I material on the
test, even though the state and many school districts do not list the
subject as a requirement for high school graduation.
"There are many school students in this state that graduate with no
algebra or geometry," he said. "It will take some time for districts to
make the adjustment."
Algebra I and geometry are graduation requirements in the Glendale
Unified School District.
While the test will include mainly what the state considers
eighth-grade level math, Brown said the exam will not be easy.
"This is not a dumbed-down exam," he said. Brown said he hopes the
test will later include more geometry and some probability and
Aside from math, students will be tested on English language skills,
which include reading, listening and essay-writing and literary
Brown estimated the exam would be about three hours long and mainly
He said the test will have a noticeable affect on curriculum,
instruction and achievement as districts make changes to ensure students
"What might have taken several years to do without the test will get
done sooner," he said. "It is not the answer to improving student
achievement but it is part of the picture."