CAASP test attendance causes concerns among administration

The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System was established in 2014 as a replacement for the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program. The primary purpose of the test according to California’s Department of Education is to “assist teachers, administrators, students and parents by promoting high-quality teaching and learning through the use of a variety of assessment approaches and item types.” The CAASPP test is more effective than the STAR test was because it is a computerized adaptive test; if students get an answer right on the test, the questions get harder and if they answer incorrectly, the subsequent question is easier.

For the past few years, attendance for the CAASPP test has been low. By federal law, California schools are required to have at least 95 percent attendance, but Gunn has not been able to reach the minimum number of 11th graders. School

Board member Melissa Baten Caswell said, “We’re one of the few school districts that is having a problem getting to that number.”

According to both Baten Caswell and Collins, the problem of low attendance will have repercussions in the future. The California School Dashboard, a website that shows the performance of school districts in California, penalizes Gunn for the attendance rate. The school’s rank is reflected by the small percentage who take the test, and is therefore an inaccurate reflection of Gunn. Funding has been lost due to the low ranking that the school has received.

According to Caswell, the test helps show teachers and the California Board of Education how Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) schools are doing in general and in comparison to other districts. “If people don’t take it we can’t tell how we’re doing, and we can’t compare ourselves to other districts, so then we don’t know where we need to invest,” she said. School Board member Todd Collins agrees. “The CAASPP test is the number one basis we have for seeing

how teachers and schools are doing across schools and among subgroups and over time,” he said.

The lack of data due to low attendance also inhibits the administration from analyzing student performance over the years. This data is quite important, however. For instance, data on a student who is not proficient in the first test they take in elementary school can indicate that they will struggle in high school.

Taking the test has benefits for bilingual students. Those who take the CAASPP have the ability to qualify for the Seal of Biliteracy, an award given by the state to students who have

studied and become proficient in two or more languages before graduating high school. Multilingual students who do not take the CAASPP will not receive the seal on their transcript.

According to Collins, the test is also helpful for the ad- ministration because it tracks students of different economic statuses and ethnic groups. “It shows that we do not do a great job in terms of teaching particular subgroups of kids— in particular low income kids and some groups of minority kids,” he said. “The first step to solving the problem is finding out you have one, and this test is the most important way we have to figure that out at a system level.”

In attempts to raise the numbers last year, the school held a barbeque and a raffle with prizes like prom tickets or parking passes for students who took the test, with nine total winners. According to Baten Caswell, other districts have negative consequences for students that don’t take the test. “If you don’t show up in other districts there are some not good things that happen to you,” she said. “We don’t have that in our district. We have tried to focus on incentivizing students to do the right thing, but if that doesn’t work, we may have to do other things that are not-so-positive.”

The administration is currently trying to find a more effective way to increase numbers. Both Caswell and Collins urge students to take the CASSP test, as even though it doesn’t do much for each individual student, it would still greatly benefit Gunn and PAUSD as a whole. “It’s almost like voting: it’s a civic responsibility,” Collins said.