EYE OF THE TIGER’S VIEW: CAASPP, Testing students for testing’s sake


In elementary school, there was nothing more exciting than the opportunity to chew gum on a campus that had banned its presence entirely. If you were graced with the pleasure, your teacher had snuck in a couple packs to class to compensate for the even stricter rules that were about to follow. All of sudden, you’re presented with the hardest decision you’ve made all day. Tropical Twist or Smooth Spearmint? (Tropical Twist – of course – because you’re not a monster.)

You’re handed a set of #2 pencils and asked to bubble in your six-digit student ID. You fill in the required marks and your innocent naivety guides you through the next few hours of grueling test work. But of course, your teacher had been preparing you for ages.

You’ve perfected the art of the bubble. Mastered deductive reasoning strategies. Memorized your multiplication tables.

Fifth grade never felt so easy.

Fast forward six years, you’re sitting in the back of a portable and the unpredictable air conditioning continues to battle the inevitable heat that comes from a set of nearly 40 students stuck in a single room nearing its maximum capacity. Technology has evolved and your days of employing meticulous methods of bubbling in answers are long gone. A booklet is replaced with a Chromebook and your excitement for a mere piece of gum is replaced with a bitter taste for the torture that ensues.

You’re presented with a new question. Now, the hardest one you’ve made all day. CoolMathGames or funny YouTube videos?

Welcome to state testing week, where apathy and disregard flood our classrooms and students alike have come to the realization that we must relinquish autonomy for the time being.
“SohCahToa!” someone says in the class. It’s likely the first time they’ve uttered the mnemonic since taking a class that included trigonometry. If a student is relieved they’ve recalled a trig term, it’s likely that student is not going to encounter that field of math in their future.

And that is the problem with state testing.

We know disparities exist when there are students with a 4.3 GPA and students with a 2.0 GPA. It’s inevitable. But we must recognize these performance gaps are not simply solved through quantifying student ability based on their comprehension of math and language arts concepts — some of which are not skills we’ve practiced recently.

No child should be left behind, but what good does a state administered exam do for students that aren’t accustomed to the conventional education model? For these students, a test that requires them to hone skills that they’ve either long forgotten or are yet to learn only marginalizes them more. And that’s only if the student makes the conscious decision to actively participate in the testing room.

Standardized testing only works harder to embed the notion that education is limited to language arts and mathematics and if you cannot complete these tasks then you rank lower than your peers.

And many do not.

The repercussions of administering an exam to passive and disengaged students outweigh the so-called “benefits” of taking the test. For a single exam to evaluate an entire school’s quality seems outrageously generalizing. What is so conclusive about an exam juniors take on a random day in the spring?

Our scores do not reflect an education issue. Our scores represent an apathy issue.

Standardization embraces mediocrity at best. How can you really understand a student based on their comprehension of sentence structure and a math question they learned years ago. It only works harder to embed the notion that education is limited to language arts and mathematics and if you cannot complete these tasks then you rank lower than your peers. The ability to write an essay and recall math terminology is not an indicator of a student’s future success. Memorizing the quadratic formula is not the determining factor for being able to be a functioning member of society.

It does not account for excellence in athletics, performing arts or any other creative field. When you drag students away from their VAPA, CTE, AP and other core classes and replace their allotted time with standardized material, this essentially shows that a uniform and limited education takes precedence over their actual interests and core values.

Instead, standardized testing encourages a trend of learning for the sake of passing a test than for the actual sake of learning to become an enlightened and engaged citizen.

On the state level, it is unfair that sites which qualify for Title One funding must have 95 percent of our students take the exam in order to receive funds.

While schools like Roseville High School with a 32 percent socio-economically disadvantaged student population are given state grants for completing exams, affluent schools such as Palo Alto high school where the majority of students opt out of testing are granted the pleasure of facing little to no consequences for their minimal participation rates.

Standardized testing embraces monotony. Not our growth. Not our potential. Only a uniform education that funnels students through a filter that classifies student achievement on concepts that aren’t applicable to the majority of the population.


(This piece represents the views of the 2018-19 editorial board.)