Every year, students find themselves taking standardized tests at school, but many students immediately lose the incentive to do well on them when they realize that the tests don’t affect their individual grades. Public schools in California are required to give standard testing; however, the question remains of whether or not these tests are needed.
The moment a teacher says that a test does not impact students’ grades, one way or another, many students often lose the motivation to do well on them. They feel no need to put in that extra effort. Theoretically, this can have many consequences; yet, the impacts do not seem all that extreme.
Assistant principal Jim Larson explained the flipside of the mandate.
“It helps us measure if kids are making that academic growth in those certain areas where the testing happens,” he said.
While it is essential to have this information to analyze, the data itself appears to be flawed. Even some of the most hard-working students take a step back and relax regarding standardized tests.
AP student Haley Lakritz shared her experience with the tests.
“I feel as though students don’t have as much pressure on them to do well on the state tests as they do in their regular classes because they know it won’t impact their grades or transcripts in the future,” she said.
This seems to be a prevalent reason as to why students lack incentive to perform well on the standardized tests, essentially making the data inaccurate and misleading.
Sophomore Sanaa Wiley agreed.
“Maybe like 40 percent?” said Wiley when asked about the amount of effort she puts into standardized testing.
“Essentially, it’s not really doing [anything] for you or your grade,” continued Wiley.
Another issue with standardized tests, such as CAASP, is the making of the test. Students take the test in 8th grade and then do not retake it until their junior year of high school. At that point, students are in different math and English classes. For example, some students take calculus and AP Language and Arts, while others are repeating geometry and taking English 11. Still, they’re all taking the same test, possibly altering the results.
NHS math teacher David Blair revealed yet another issue with the results of the standardized tests.
“The problem with the CAASP tests is that we don’t always have access to the data quickly, which makes it hard to evaluate it for the students coming in next year. A lot of the time, we don’t get it until the end of July or the beginning of August,” Blair said.
This makes it difficult for teachers to measure their students’ proficiency, as they no longer have the students in their class the following year. Again, this leads to questioning the point of the test.
While many schools across the country receive funding based on their students’ performances, such as P.S. 188 in Manhattan, Larson said that’s not the case for Novato High.
“Schools do not receive funding from testing results regardless of whether they do well or poorly,” he said, when asked about NUSD schools.
However, students’ performances impact how appealing the school looks for potential students and their parents (along with homeowners in the area), proving some usefulness.
Blair offered solutions used by his former school, Point Arena High School, which incentivized their students.
“We actually gave cash rewards to students that performed at proficient levels. There was also talk of tying it to your final grade. For instance, let’s say you had Algebra as a freshman, and you got a C. But when you took the standardized test, and you performed proficiently, we were talking about bumping your grade up and vice versa,” Blair described.
Although none of these solutions are currently implemented at Novato High, perhaps they should be considered.
Lakritz agreed that these incentives might help motivate other students to put in more effort on their standardized tests provided by the school.
Whatever the future holds for standardized testing at Novato High School, change is necessary.