Before the Obama administration left office, California education officials had one final request: give us a pass from federal testing laws so we can begin giving students a new statewide science exam.
Last week, a top Obama administration official at the U.S. Department of Education formally rejected that request, ruling that California Department of Education leaders will be breaking federal law if they move forward with their current plans to administer the new tests this spring — plans state officials still have no intentions of changing.
But it will be up to the Trump administration to determine whether California should face consequences for ignoring the ruling — such as potentially losing its federal schools funding — setting up a scenario that could reveal much about the next Secretary of Education's approach.
Some background: California is in its first full year using the new Next Generation Science Standards, and state officials want to administer a new, online exam that matches those standards.
But the state's transition plan calls for students to take a shortened, pilot version of the new test this spring, and in 2017-18, to take a "field test" of the new assessment. Federal officials are concerned that plans leaves the state without meaningful science test score data until 2018-19.