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Brown Signs California Overhaul of Standardized School Testing

By Michael B. Marois

Oct. 2 (Bloomberg) -- California will switch to computerized testing for schoolchildren based on Common Core benchmarks adopted by 45 other states despite threats by federal education officials to withhold funding.

The bill signed today by Governor Jerry Brown, a 75-year-old Democrat, will overhaul annual standardized testing by replacing the multiple-choice printed test students in the most populous U.S. state have taken for more than a decade.

The Common Core math and language-arts standards for kindergarten through high school are a response to U.S. graduates falling behind those in other countries. They were were finalized in 2010 by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, according to corestandards.org.

The federal education law known as No Child Left Behind requires annual testing of students on state standardized reading and math exams to measure school and individual performance.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last month that California may lose federal funds if it switches systems because the state would be left without required test scores for a year while the new exams are brought online.

“Faced with the choice of preparing California’s children for the future or continuing to cling to outdated policies of the past, our state’s leaders worked together and made the right choice for our students,” state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement.

The U.S. ranked 14th among 37 countries in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with higher education after being a world leader a generation ago, according to a 2012 report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Only 39 percent of 2013 high-school graduates who took the ACT standardized test met three or more of four college-readiness benchmarks, and 31 percent met none, ACT Inc., a non-profit based in Iowa City, Iowa, said in an Aug. 21 statement.

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