Results of first California Science Test suggest students struggling with new standards

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Many local students struggled with the new California Science Test last spring, new data shows.

In Kern County, 21.1 percent of elementary and high school students passed the test, according to the California Department of Education. Statewide, the results were better at nearly 30 percent. The tests are based on new science standards that the state approved in 2013. 

“We weren’t expecting much for the first year of testing. This is a whole new way of doing science in the classroom,” said Michelle Roy, science coordinator for the Kern County Office of Education. “It’s going to take a while here in our county and statewide to get the scores to where we want them to be.”

Bakersfield’s two largest school districts — the Bakersfield City School District and Kern High School District — both saw less than 20 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards.

BCSD saw 15.5 percent of students passing the test, the lowest score among the major districts in Bakersfield. The district declined to provide comment about the test results. 

KHSD fared a little better with a 19.6 percent passage rate but still fell short of the countywide percentage. The district was not able to provide comment on Wednesday. 

The new online test was developed by the state to measure students’ progress on the Next Generation Science Standards, which were adopted in 2013.

The new standards marked a major change in how science was taught, shifting from the lecture- and memorization-based learning of years past and instead opting for a greater focus on hands-on projects that aim to test students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills. 

The new standards also test students on areas of science that haven’t been included in previous exams, such as energy resources and climate change. 

“The previous standards were much more focused on facts. Now, the focus is what (students) can do with the facts,” Roy said. “The new standards are much more rigorous. The problem-solving skills that students need has been really ramped up.”

Students in fifth and eighth grades take the test as well as high school students once between 10th and 12th grade. 

Implementation of the new standards has seen several hurdles, one of the largest being that the state didn’t approve a list of science materials until 2018, years after the standards were implemented, leaving teachers little time to use textbooks and other materials before testing started last year.

“When the test was administered last year, there were no materials available for most districts in the county,” Roy said. “The majority of our districts are just barely in the place where they can make a purchase.”

Roy said she expects county students to do better on the California Science Test this spring now that they’ve already experienced the test and classroom materials are more readily available.

“(The scores) give us a baseline and will help us move forward,” she said. 

To see the full 2018-19 test results, visit

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