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California Educators: State testing doesn’t measure student success

Yearly testing had been altered due to the pandemic.
School testing
Posted at 4:57 PM, Aug 18, 2022

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) — Part of school —whether kids like it or not —is yearly testing. As we enter a new school year, educators said those tests should not be taken at face value, especially as we continue with the pandemic.

Schools administer what is called the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CASPP.

For the state, data on the California Department of Education website shows less than 50% met or exceeded the standard for English and Language Arts for the 2020-2021 school year. The data was even worse for math. For San Diego County, the numbers were not much better.

Educators told ABC 10News these numbers do not tell a complete picture of a student’s achievement. There is also a warning on the education website that “care should be used when interpreting results.”

In the 2019-2020 school year, students did not take the yearly tests due to the onset of COVID-19. Last year in San Diego County, it was optional.

“What we know in San Diego County, only 18% of our students who would be in those testing grade spans actually took the statewide assessment,” said Steven Green, the Senior Director for Assessment, Accountability, and Program Evaluation at the County Office of Education.

“Unfortunately, because of that two-year gap, it is difficult to compare year to year because they're different kids, and there's been a multi-year gap,” said Dr. Matthew Tessier, Assistant Superintendent of Innovation and Instruction at the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

Educators said what has come to the forefront during the pandemic are factors beyond the classroom that can help academics.

In the Cajon Valley Union School District, Superintendent Dr. David Miyashiro said his district expanded before and after school care during the pandemic. Students who took advantage of this program had access to a teacher and activities as early as 6:30 a.m. and as late as six in the evening. The program is open to all students regardless of income.

“[Students can] come to school early and have a one-on-one session with a teacher to work on specific skills before they even start the school day [and] have a nutritious meal,” Dr. Miyashiro said. “Then after school… have sports and enrichment things that they like, followed up by homework help by trusting adults. That's wraparound service and care that should be standard for all kids.”

Educators at San Diego Unified School District also found added summer programs helped students keep learning all year long.

“Pre-pandemic, our summer learning opportunities were mainly for high school credit recovery and served around 2,500 students per summer,” said Nicole DeWitt, the district’s Executive Director of Leadership and Learning.

“In the summer of 2021, we actually made it a UTK (universal transitional kindergarten) through 12 experience that students could participate in and we served over 22,000 students in that first summer,” she added.

When it comes to testing, DeWitt said the district looks at “multiple data points to get a full picture of the student” to see what other kind of support and programming they should be putting into place.

Dr. Tessier said even though the school is in-person, they learned there was a place for online education. Some programs, like their virtual experiences called Innovaton Live, are here to stay.

“That was one of the successful things that came out of the pandemic because typically, a classroom may have 31 students… what we're seeing on these weekly innovation live events is we're having [up to] 1,400 students logging in and getting this experience,” Dr. Tessier said.

Educators believe these extra programs should be seen as helping a student’s achievement.

“Other measures [like a] student’s well-being, how they're doing socially and emotionally… those have an impact on their academics,” Green said. “I think we're looking at a broader set of measures to help support our school districts and schools.”

We have to build vocational identity, self-awareness, self-esteem, [and] long-term relationships on a path to gainful employment,” Dr. David Miyashiro added.