WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16TH, 2019

Each year, as the end of March approaches, many juniors scramble to obtain a written request for the principal from their parents or guardians excusing them from the dreaded California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. 

However, this may change with the passage of Assembly Bill 751, known as the Pathways to College Act, introduced by Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell and is currently on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk awaiting his signature. The bill would allow schools to use approved, nationally-recognized high school assessments, including the SAT and ACT, in place of the CAASPP. The Campanile supports the passage of this bill and urges Newsom to sign it.

According to school board member Melissa Baten-Caswell, replacing the CAASPP with the SAT or ACT would likely significantly increase test taker turnout. While the state-required participation rate for the CAASPP is 95%, Paly’s turnout has been far lower. Director of Research and Assessment Christopher Kolar said the estimated participation rate of Paly juniors for 2019 is 49%. Failure to meet the 95% participation rate has a negative impact on a school’s Academic Indicator, which may decrease their measured performance levels, according to California School Dashboard website.

One factor contributing to the low turnout is that while the CAASPP provides the district and state with valuable information on overall achievement and progress, many students, and even parents, do not see the value in taking the CAASPP, as it does not provide obvious, direct individual benefits. The assessment also does not match the curriculum students are learning in their day-to-day classes. However, if the SAT or ACT were offered instead, the district would likely be able to easily meet the 95% participation rate because the exams would be offered for free and taken during the school day based on the law.

By requiring students to take the SAT or ACT instead of the CAASPP, not only will PAUSD increase its testing rate, but a greater percentage of students would qualify to apply to colleges requiring one or both of these college entrance exams. With this change, students unable to afford the regular testing fee or travel to a further testing location would still be able to take the assessments. 

According to a study conducted by Joshua Hyman, a researcher at the University of Connecticut, many more low-income students took the ACT and performed well as a result of Michigan making the exam mandatory for all public high schools. Thus, there was a large increase in percentage of students who qualified to attend a four-year college, which they would not have otherwise.

While opponents to this change may argue that requiring students to take college preparatory tests creates a more stressful environment, PAUSD would also likely implement SAT or ACT test preparation outside of the classroom and regular curriculum if this law takes effect, according to Caswell. The combination of the exam being free, during the school day, and having prep support is an effective equalizer for all students’ opportunities in college. 

Additionally, Caswell said CAASPP results are positively correlated with SAT results, meaning teachers, the district and the state would still be able to utilize student results on ACT or SAT to gauge overall performance and progress of the district. 

Because implementing the SAT or ACT requirement in place of the CAASPP assessment would boost the number of students eligible for college admissions, still provide data and feedback to the district and help level the playing field in terms of college admissions, The Campanile backs Assembly Bill 751 and urges Newsom to put his signature on it as soon as possible.

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Annie Chen
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