WELKER: State science test experiments on seniors

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WELKER: State science test experiments on seniors

(NATHAN SANGRIA / EYE OF THE TIGER)

(NATHAN SANGRIA / EYE OF THE TIGER)

(NATHAN SANGRIA / EYE OF THE TIGER)

AJ WELKER

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Juniors just wrapped up the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), that seemingly meaningless standardized testing that finds new ways to make students feel worse about themselves. Now all sophomores, juniors and seniors are preparing for the California Science Test (CAST), the state standardized science testing that has the same effect on students, and more.

In 2017, the CAST test served as a census pilot. In 2018, the CAST was promoted to a census field test, with 2019 being the first operational administration of the exam. Meaning this time – it counts.

Looking through the standards required to demonstrate proficiency in the science examination, many are taught in lower level science courses, like biology or chemistry. Classes that most seniors haven’t taken since freshman or sophomore year.

Matter and energy in organisms, inheritance of traits, and space systems to topics as broad as the history of the entire Earth are all fair game. The standards are vaguely familiar at best, and completely foreign at worst.

The standards are written to fit students in grades nine to twelve, but when most high schoolers complete the basic science pathways by sophomore year, it seems unfair to test them on it two years later.

Even the students who do continue on the science pathway to upper level courses aren’t necessarily taught the skills necessary to excel on the state-administered exam. As the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) classes focus on hands on learning, there’s not a high priority for students to be reviewing standards that they may or may not be tested on.

At this point, many seniors have their post education plans figured out and are in the process of committing to their school of choice, or preparing for other careers. The motivation to do well on this test when there is no risk or reward involved makes the likelihood of seniors caring slim to none.

There is the potential threat for college placement, but as somebody who plans to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting, I’m not exactly worried about how my science performance will affect what courses I take. I’m sure many students are in the same boat.

There is no requirement that dictates that the CAST must be administered to seniors. The California Department of Education states that the examination must be given in grades “five, eight, and once in high school.” In other words, the choice to conduct the test on seniors isn’t a mandate handed down by the state- it’s a personal choice.

A choice that has no scientific explanation.

Senior year is already chalk full of standardized tests: SATs and ACTs seem never ending, and AP tests are just around the corner. I’d rather spend my time studying for exams that could earn me college credit and exemptions from certain GED courses than a new, state administered test that has no real bearing on my future.

There’s nothing like testing a group of apathetic, annoyed, or checked out students. The test scores yielded won’t be what administrators want, but they should be what they expect.

State testing should be catered to help maximize student success. Waiting two years after many of these standards have been introduced is a foolish mistake to make that ultimately hurts the school itself.

Roseville High School has many passionate and engaging science teachers who work hard to ensure their students understand their material. But if students aren’t practicing it every day, the probability of retaining the knowledge from freshman biology is low.

This means that teachers may be getting an unfair representation of how successful they really are with their coursework. If I had to take my chemistry final now, Ms. Cook would be incredibly disappointed in me. But that wouldn’t be an accurate documentation of how well I actually understood the material in her class.

Don’t experiment on seniors. Though higher ups may have hypothesized higher scores due to more education, they should’ve considered the explosive reactions of students learning they’ll be subject to yet another state standardized test.