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Judging Schools by Test Scores Is Wrong

Recent extremist attacks on our public schools in Glendale have focused on “low test scores.”
I would like to correct the disinformation around test scores in GUSD.
Per state and federal law, GUSD students in grades 3-8 and grade 11 take the California state standardized test (called CAASPP) each year. This test assesses math and English language arts proficiency and is taken on a computer over several days in the spring.
State testing is an imperfect measure at best for the following reasons:
The test format has changed over time and was not given in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, making it difficult to accurately compare student performance year-over-year.
Per state ed code, English learners — who comprise 21.5% of all students in GUSD — are required to take the CAASPP despite speaking little to no English. Therefore, it is no surprise that the schools in GUSD with higher proportions of English learners have lower CAASPP scores. Should these children be ignored so that test scores go up? Of course not.
Several other factors complicate the “bad test score means schools are failing” narrative. Students with undiagnosed disabilities (dyslexia, ADHD) also take the CAASPP; poor results can be helpful as screening tools to match students with services and support. Furthermore, California parents have the right to opt out of state testing without any consequences for the child or the school. In addition, students in other grades (kindergarten through second grade, ninth, 10th and 12th grades) are not required to take the CAASPP. Finally, children in private schools and home schools are not required to take the CAASPP, so there is no data for comparison.
With this information in mind, it is unclear why the Board of Education candidates Jordan Henry and Aneta Krpekyan claim that “half of students in GUSD are graduating” without being proficient in math and English. Seniors do not take the standardized tests in GUSD, so it is false to suggest 12th grade students are “not proficient” on a test they never take.
Everyone can learn more about the CAASPP in GUSD at cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/ or by simply asking their child’s teacher and/or principal.

Carl Watkins

First published in the November 18 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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