To ensure you stay healthy, you go for your regular checkup with your doctor or dentist; to keep your car running smoothly, you make sure to take it in for regular maintenance. But what about our students’ academic performance? Shouldn’t an “academic checkup” be considered just as high a priority?
In September, the California State Department of Education released the baseline results for the new student assessment system known as CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress). These results are a first indicator of how California’s students are meeting the new more rigorous college and career-ready California Standards. This is that all-important academic check-up – a way to see where our students are academically; where they are healthy and strong or where they need some support.
So why should the community care? What does the CAASSP actually “do”?
· It helps facilitate conversations between parents/guardians and teachers about student performance.
· It serves as a tool to help parents/guardians and teachers work together to improve student learning.
· It helps schools and school districts identify strengths and areas that need improvement in their educational programs.
· It provides the public and policymakers with information about student achievement.
Sometimes we instinctively fear “the new” but just as our community has built itself on innovation, so should we too be willing to innovate in the way we measure academic success.
As Superintendents of Santa Clara County schools, these baseline results are imperative as they represent a first look at how our students are learning in a completely new system. The new tests are too fundamentally different from the old exams to make any reliable comparisons between old scores and new. This year’s results will establish a new baseline for the progress we expect students to make over time, which was not possible in California’s previous system.
The standards being assessed are new – they require students to not only know concepts and skills but also be able to apply them; the test itself is new – rather than a bubble sheet and a #2 pencil, students take both a computer-based and computer- adaptive test, providing students with a wider range of questions tailored to more accurately identify the knowledge and skills they have mastered. The tests also include performance tasks that challenge students to demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving, and to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems.
It’s important to remember that individual student results of the state tests are just one way to assess the progress of students. Students and parents should review the test results in combination with report cards, class assignment grades, and teacher feedback. These tests are a significant step forward in the way we provide that “checkup” but they don’t exist in a vacuum.
An initial look at the results shows that Santa Clara County students are outperforming students in other regions in the state. This means that our outstanding Santa Clara County public school professionals – teachers, principals, support staff – are making the changes necessary to help our students learn at deeper levels. We are proud of our work and we commit to continuing to help all students be college and career ready; the CAASPP is one important step in that direction.
Jointly written by members of the Santa Clara County Superintendents Association