Score reports for the 2017 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress revealed a 10.72 percent decline in English Language Arts and a six percent drop in mathematics scores among TPHS juniors compared to 2016 results.
In 2014, the California Department of Education replaced the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program with the CAASPP, as a part of its transition to the Common Core Curriculum. The test includes ELA and mathematics assessments for eligible fifth, eighth and 11th graders; the pilot assessment was conducted in 2015, when TPHS juniors scored in the 84th percentile in ELA and the 70th percentile in Mathematics. In 2016, TPHS juniors scored in the 79th percentile in ELA and 62nd in math.
In 2017, 68.28 percent of TPHS 11th graders met or exceeded ELA standards. The 2017 drop puts TPHS fourth out of the four SDUHSD high schools for meeting or exceeding the ELA state average, and 3.89 percent above the San Diego County ELA standards.
The six percent drop in math scores put 56.68 percent of TPHS juniors at meeting or exceeding standards in math in 2017, 20.53 percent over the San Diego county average. TPHS is also now third out of the four SDUHSD high schools for meeting or exceeding the math state average, above only La Costa Canyon High School, by .6 percent.
“There’s a lot of things that factor into [our scores,]” chair of the math department Robert Preske said. “First of all, it’s too early to make a judgement call on that test. It’s only the first two years. The reason for [the decline in scores], it could be that sometimes [in] the student population from class to class, the ability level varies. Sometimes the way the test is administered. Little factors go into it.”
Most notably, special education scores dropped 56 percent from 2016 to 2017.
“I do believe that this new test has not been rolled out like the old test,” English teacher and chair of the special education department Elizabeth Marshall said. “With the old STAR test, there was a lot of campaigning, a lot of prep, a lot of pretests that were samples that were given to the students prior to the test date. This CAASPP test was not; we were told the first one is a pilot, the second year it was all new and I think that is really the huge indicator as to why the scores were low.”
Eighty-one percent of SDUHSD students met or exceeded state standards for the ELA section of the CAASPP, which placed SDUHSD 25 percent above the San Diego County average.
According to Principal Rob Coppo, the state goal for all schools is a one- to three-percent improvement in test scores each year.
“You want to give a number that’s attainable; one to three percent is attainable,” Coppo said. “Now the funny thing for us is that it isn’t really attainable because we’re already [performing] at the 85th percent[ile]. At some point you hit a ceiling. … We’re going to have a lot of credit for our status and some of our successes. But achieving it for us by next year, I think it will be more than doable to put it mildly.”
On Nov. 29, TPHS staff met to discuss the factors behind the decline in scores, what the decline means and how to improve performance next year.
“I think that the way the culture of our school is and how seriously we take the CAASPP has to be changed, and that has to happen in the students, that they recognize that this really has an effect on the perception of our school for universities as well,” English teacher and chair of the English department, Lisa Callender, said. “On the other hand, there was no drop in our [Advanced Placement] test scores and things like that, so I think that just shows the issue of the CAASPP test, particularly the problem we have with taking it seriously.”
Breana Nguyen (12) also said that the fact that CAASPP scores are not recorded in a students’ transcript may negatively impact motivation when students take the test.
“The [CAASPP] doesn’t go with your name and doesn’t really count for your own personal success,” Nguyen said. “I believe that people try less because it doesn’t really apply to them and whatever they get just applies to the school.”
According to Callender, there also could have been several other factors that caused the decline, including the absence of a formal testing schedule.
“Also, think, it’s a brand new test and it’s still floundering in its ways as well,” Callender said. “I do think that the scheduling is a little bit of chaos. I think we need to have a real testing schedule so that students can take it seriously.”
The 2017 CAASPP was given over a four-day period during students’ English and History classes soon after annual AP testing.
“The [CAASPP] was pretty long, convoluted and it was also taking class time,” SDUHSD School Board Student Representative Isaac Gelman (12) said. “[Having it after AP tests] was not good for students, but, at the same time, it was that way for everyone [in the district].”
Chelsea Jones (12) also said the timing of the test may have affected students’ performance on the test.
“Because of the timing and how close it was to AP testing, I didn’t really try because I didn’t feel motivated to try on a test that wasn’t going to personally affect my grades,” Jones said.
According to Marshall, the special education department will take specific measures to improve their scores.
“We will be doing sample tests, which will be released by the state,” Marshall said. “We will prep the students on how to pace themselves to get through the test … But I think that the students haven’t realized the importance of them giving it their all.”
Until 2013, the California Department of Education evaluated the progress of public schools with the Academic Performance Index, which assigned schools a numerical value from 200 to 1,000, based exclusively on students’ STAR standardized test scores.
“The state got rid of the API scores for some of the reasons that it wasn’t a great indicator of whether a school was doing well or not,” Coppo said. “It was just about moving forward and that wasn’t a great way to judge a school and if it’s not a good way to judge a school then how do you decide how you are going to fund schools in districts?”
The CDE is now developing the California School Dashboard, a public report of every California public school’s performance based on six factors: high school graduation rate, academic performance, suspension rate, English Learner progress, preparation for college/career through the Career Technical Elective pathway programs and student attendance.
“[Standardized tests] are one of six things now on that list,” Coppo said. “ Given the fact that the state has put almost a billion dollars into CTE pathways in California, I think that’s going to be a massive focus because that’s where the weight is going to be.”
Schools will receive one of five color rankings, on a scale of blue, the best possible, to red, the worst possible. With these new accountability standards, schools will also receive a College Career Readiness number, which will contribute to the color rankings on the Dashboard.
“How it’s calculated is one of those things that has yet to be explained and that’s what I’m curious about,” Coppo said. “How do I get to be green or blue? Is green or blue based on a bottom line number and how do you define how a school is similar to mine? Is it just demographics?”
According to Coppo, the new accountability standards will allow for a more comprehensive evaluation of already high-achieving schools like TPHS.
“In other words, we’re not going to start off as empty [circles] with no color and then we’re going to have to work toward the blue and the green,” Coppo said. “We’ll be in the blue and the green for a very long time, especially in academic achievement, and it might fluctuate a little bit but they’re going to give us credit for already being a high-achieving school with high-achieving students.”
However, student performance on the CAASPP still has a variety of implications if TPHS continues to receive low scores on the exam in upcoming years. The scores could affect enrollment, how much funding TPHS receives from the district and the state and the TPHS CCR score, which could subsequently affect nearby property values. Teachers also use the scores to improve the curriculum going forward.
“As teachers, we want to look at the test as well; we want to focus on and look at the real, hard data,” Callender said. “And that would be across the board because English skills are not just taught by English teachers, they’re also taught throughout the curriculum.”
The Dashboard will be available for viewing on the CDE website starting Dec. 4.