On March 5 and March 6, MVHS juniors took the state-mandated California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) in which they were tested for proficiency in English Language Arts and Mathematics.
According to the California Department of Education, the CAASPP test is meant to assist teachers, administrators, students and parents by promoting high-quality teaching and learning through the use of a variety of assessment approaches. Assistant principal Nico Flores views CAASPP testing as a way to gauge the academic progress of students and to further improve MVHS’ academic tactics.
“CAASPP testing measures a number of different things,” Flores said. “[It] allows us to see the progress of our students and to determine whether or not the work that we’re doing in our professional learning communities, in regards to building coherent and essential learning, are having an impact. [It’s] one indicator of whether or not we are meeting our goals as a school and as a district.”
CAASPP testing is also used to derive a school’s ranking. While there are many factors that go into a school’s rating, CAASPP scores have a large impact on the ranking of a school, which is why some administrators are alarmed that some students are not taking the test seriously, either by not trying or by opting out of the test entirely. According to Flores, not only do these students lose the opportunity to assess their own academic level, but they also hurt the school and community.
Since CAASPP testing consumes about four hours each day for two days, Flores and a team of staff members, including Library Media Teacher Laura Utile and AP secretary Tricia Palomino, worked to create a new schedule that allowed juniors to both take the CAASPP test and attend their regular classes for 50 minute periods. Under this schedule, juniors were to arrive at school by 7:35 AM on Monday and Tuesday, while the rest of the student body was given a late start of two or three hours, depending on the day.
For junior Benjamin Bedregal, this adjustment meant that he would not be receiving a late start for the sole purpose of taking a test, which is why he decided to opt out of taking the CAASPP assessment during his sophomore year. As a self-identified “sleep-deprived” individual with heaps of extracurriculars, Bedregal says he couldn’t care less about CAASPP testing and its impact on MVHS’ reputation.
“I equate [taking the test] to nationalism,” Bedregal said. “Americans, for example, some [of them] really care about America, but some people are like ‘Ehh, whatever.’ And for me, I don’t know if I necessarily care about [MVHS]. I guess it depends on how prideful you are.”
What Bedregal does prioritize is sleep. As a matter of fact, getting sufficient amounts of rest was the driving factor behind his decision to opt out of taking the CAASPP assessment last year. In what Bedregal considers a highly competitive climate where many students are barely getting enough sleep, he suspects that other individuals feel the same way.
Like Bedregal, Junior Cynthia Gong also opted out of testing this year, wanting to use her extra hours to focus on academics and extracurriculars. To do so, she had her parents sign a self-written letter expressing her desire to forgo taking the exam due to personal issues and scheduling conflicts. She had expected the process to be short and simple — she would turn the letter in to the front desk, and that would be that.
Upon turning in her letter, Gong was directed to Flores’ office, where he reminded her of her responsibility as a student to give back to MVHS, and how taking the CAASPP is one way to do that.
“I went into [Flores’s office], and I talked to him,” Gong said. “[At the end], he said, ‘I’m going to have to schedule a meeting with your parents to make sure that you fully understand what opting out is doing.’”
After the meeting, Gong was shocked by the emphasis Flores and the rest of MVHS staff placed on standardized testing. She feels that the quality of the learning environment and students’ health is far more important than test scores.
“I don’t think that MVHS should only be defined by its API and its school ranking,” Gong said. “There are other things that can define MVHS and give it its good characteristics. I feel like because I’m not taking [the CAASPP test], I’m not taking anything away.”
On the other hand, Flores says students deciding to opt out of CAASPP testing or purposefully leave questions blank leaves him extremely disappointed. Flores explains that he takes the time to personally talk to each student that opts out of the CAASPP test to make sure they understand the full magnitude of what they are doing.
“People not taking the test, it hurts,” Flores said. “It hurts on the inside, to be honest with you, and it really disappoints me. I get that it’s their right, but I do my best to make sure they understand from our perspective why they should take the test.”
According to Flores, it is a student’s obligation to take the test, as it is a small way of giving back to a community that has provided so many with so much, whether that be in-class experiences, field trips or rallies.
However, Bedregal says that the majority of students he has discussed the topic with don’t care about MVHS’ reputation.
“I’ve even seen people jokingly say, ‘I’m going to purposely fail because I hate MVHS,’“ Bedregal said.
Flores is very prideful about MVHS. He also highlights that a new schedule was developed for the students’ sake — so they would not have to miss any class time in order to take the test. For this reason, he thinks that it’s inexcusable to avoid the test, especially with all the adjustments that were made to smoothly integrate the test into the schedule.
“We created a unique schedule so that you’re not missing class,” Flores said. “I think it’s our obligation to give back to the school that’s going to give us so much. I don’t think that four to five hours is asking too much, especially when we’re adjusting schedules.”
He believes that upholding MVHS’ reputation is a shared responsibility, which needs to be honored by the students, teachers and administrators. He believes that in this mission, MVHS’ notorious competitive nature is a strength, not a weakness.
“Let’s all work together to make sure we don’t lose that MV[HS] status,” Flores said. “So it hurts [when students don’t take CAASPP testing seriously] because I take pride in this place. I take pride in being here and the families we represent.”