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TUHSD standardized testing participation declines due to students opting out

Camilla Craig
Students prepare for CAASP testing at Archie Williams High School.

This coming April, the English Language Arts (ELA) and Math California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) assessments for 11th and 12th graders will move up earlier in the month, to increase participation. The state-required CAASPP tests assess student academic achievement for schools in California. Due to declining student participation rates in the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD), administrators are working to bring test participation up again, and inform students and parents about the importance of CAASPP.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, in the 2022-23 school year, TUHSD student participation in the CAASPP was below the 95 percent required attendance by the U.S. Department of Education, due to many 11th graders opting out of the test. Out of the 1,246 11th-graders in the district, only 874 took the test in the 2022-23 school year. 

Each of the students that opted out of participating were categorized as “not meeting proficiency standard.” This impacts the average proficiency of the school and lowers its ranking, with the lack of participation appearing as declining proficiency. 

Archie Williams Assistant Principal Kaki McLachlan holds concerns about how the scores could affect the district. 

“Lower ratings suggest a school is not academically rigorous. That’s our concern. We do have rigor, and the students that are testing, are scoring as they typically have in the past,” McLachlan said.

The CAASPP testing dashboard, an online tool, shows the performance of schools by state measures and test results. The dashboard placed TUHSD in the “orange” section, lower than standard levels of proficiency. If more students participated, TUHSD would have appeared “blue” (very high/above standard proficiency level), and “green” (high/above proficiency standard) on the dashboard.

TUHSD Senior Director of Curriculum and Instruction Paula Berry understands why some would choose to opt out of CAASPP testing.

“There is a perception that the CAASPP assessments (Smarter Balanced Assessment System, ELA, Math, and California Science Test) aren’t important yet students and families should understand the ways in which these assessments benefit students and our programs,” Berry said.

Students may experience test fatigue around the time of the CAASPP test, due to class finals and AP testing. Often students choose to skip the CAASPP test because it does not contribute to their grades. 

Archie Williams junior Vivian Fulton will participate in CAASPP testing this year, but shares the popular opinion that CAASPP does not have much importance.

“I usually [take the CAASPP test,] but I don’t view it as all that important. I think, since so many people opt out, [admin] definitely excuses it,” Vivian said. 

Though many view the test as unimportant, in reality the CAASPP results show the academic rigor and common core standards of TUHSD schools, as well as help teachers improve their curriculum. According to District Superintendent Tara Taupier, CAASPP testing also affects colleges’ views of TUHSD schools.

“Colleges and universities are often looking for some standardized measurement when comparing school districts. Most colleges and universities do not feel that GPAs [alone] are very accurate, as they are subjective,” Taupier said.

According to Paula Berry, federal funding and grants intertwine with the school’s ability to achieve 95 percent participation in CAASPP as well. When less than 95 percent of students participate, the state can penalize schools. 

To help bring up CAASPP participation, TUHSD devised a few strategies. 

The district will work to inform students more about the CAASPP tests through leadership messaging and teachers and administrators talking directly to 11th grade classrooms about their value.

They will also now require communication from parents in addition to having a conversation with the parent, student, and site administrators, for students wanting to opt out. 

TUHSD also decided to move the ELA and Math CAASPP assessments to April, away from the time of AP exams to aid test fatigue, the reason many students opt out of CAASPP testing. This year, Math and ELA CAASPP testing will occur April 2-3, featuring an altered class schedule. 

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About the Contributors
Camilla Craig
Camilla Craig, Reporter
Camilla is a sophomore in her first year of journalism. She enjoys listening to music and her favorite holiday is halloween. She joined journalism because of her interest in graphic design.
Betsy Engelhardt
Betsy Engelhardt, Reporter
Betsy is a sophomore in her first year of journalism. She likes to read and bake. She plays the piano and you can often find her watching NCIS.
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