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Board discusses CAASPP, minority students’ results


At the Feb. 25 Board meeting, the Palo Alto Unified school board covered topics including the consequences of electing out of CAASPP testing, as well as concerns regarding minority student performance on the California-wide College and Career Readiness standards.

After opening the floor to public comment, PAUSD Board member Melissa Baten Caswell spoke on the issue regarding CAASPP testing. The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, used to evaluate and rank public schools throughout California, is commonly opted out of by PAUSD students.

“I feel like we need to be a little bit tougher,” Baten-Caswell said.

Baten-Caswell compared the district’s lenient enforcement of CAASPP testing to other districts’ in California.

“Our policies make kids feel like they should take it, except other districts don’t stop there,” Baten-Caswell said. “Many districts have negative impacts if you don’t take the CAASPP.”

Later in the meeting, The district administrator currently overseeing secondary education services, Sharon Ofek, presented on the California Department of Education’s College and Career Readiness scale.

According to Ofek’s presentation, the main criteria for attaining ‘prepared’ status on the readiness scale involve meeting the standards for ELA and mathematics on the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments along with being compliant with the UC and CSU A-G and CTE requirements.

Ofek’s main concern was the performance and representation of minority students on the College and Career readiness scale.

“This slide provides you with the percentages of students who obtained each of the three possible levels, ‘prepared’, ‘approaching prepared’ and ‘not prepared,’” Ofek said. “You will notice that, like much of the other data we’ve shared with you this year, that underrepresented groups… are less likely to obtain ‘prepared’ status compared to their peers.”

Ofek went on to point out an example in the data.

“A particular concern is the fact that only one of the 17 African American students in this cohort of students obtained ‘prepared’ levels,” Ofek said.

Ofek voiced her support for a program that could help keep account of student performance across PAUSD demographics.

“It is abundantly clear that we need to utilize a more robust tracking system for student journeys.” Ofek said. “We’re exploring tools that can accurately reflect the trajectories in real time so we can work with family to respond appropriately when humans are falling short of meeting specified criteria.”

Ben Gordon, senior and Paly-PAUSD student board representative, is in charge of reporting school happenings at each and every board meeting as well as gathering student input on agenda items. Gordon aims to keep student-shared concerns with the board and work with them to resolve the issue in the best interests of all PAUSD members.

“This year, one of the main focuses for the board is on an increase in transparency as well as development of more equitable academic opportunities across all schools,” Gordon said. “Recently, there has been a focus on middle school academics.”

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