Half of Palo Alto high school juniors opt out of Smarter Balanced test | News | Palo Alto Online |


Half of Palo Alto high school juniors opt out of Smarter Balanced test

Low participation rates could have data, funding implications

About 50 percent of the junior classes at both of Palo Alto's public high schools decided to opt out of the new Smarter Balanced Assessments this week, concerned about the two days of standardized testing scheduled the week before Advanced Placement and SAT exams.

Gunn High School junior Hayley Krolik said she first heard about the opt-out option from a classmate who posted an article on the junior class' Facebook page: "More California parents exercise right to skip standardized test."

Movements to opt out of the new Common Core State Standards testing, which for the first time this year will return results to school districts and students, have popped up across the country for various reasons, from protesting an emphasis on standardized testing to the new, more rigorous standards themselves, which some critics view as a top-down approach to education.

But in Palo Alto, it was about stress -- unrelated to the exam itself -- and timing. AP testing begins at Gunn and Palo Alto High on Monday, May 4, for juniors and seniors. Some students are also taking SAT tests this weekend.

Students who wanted to opt out of the Smarter Balanced test, which took place this past Monday and Tuesday, were required to get a parent's signature.

"Everyone is really stressed out with AP testing coming up," said Krolik, who opted out of Smarter Balanced. "They were excited to have the two days off but also didn't really feel test was important, so if there was a way to get out of it ... they were thinking about it."

"It's a bad perfect storm for student stress," Chris Kolar, director of research and assessment for the school district, said of the test's timing for students.

Paly students similarly heard from their peers online about the option to not take the test. Some students were under the impression that, like last year's Smarter Balanced testing, this was a trial run and the results "didn't count." Juniors last year participated in a statewide pilot of the new test; this year, however, will yield full results that are meant to serve as schools' benchmark data for years to come.

District officials said it is unclear what implications the lack of participation will have for the district in terms of data collection and funding.

Lynn Drake, who as a Common Core supporter was adamant that her son, a junior at Gunn, take the Smarter Balanced test this week, said she felt like there wasn't enough communication from the school about the significance of the new test.

"The general mood is that this test doesn't really matter," Drake said. "There seems to be a misunderstanding or a lack of understanding about what this means."

As students were talking about it online, parents were too, with debate over the pros and cons of opting out taking place over the Gunn juniors' parents' email network, Drake said.

Students who did take the test, however, weren't as concerned about its proximity to other exams. Paly junior Martin Manasherob said he didn't have to study for Smarter Balanced and felt less pressure about it because the results don't have a direct impact on his grades or factor into college admissions, unlike the AP or SAT.

But Manasherob said the first day of testing felt like a waste of time, with too much time allotted for certain sections of the test. Paly students were released early both days.

"Taking roll and just starting the test took around 40 minutes, and there were two people absent for every one that showed up," he said. "At this point, if you had opted out, you were the smart one."

He said that the first section, on English-language arts, ranged from four to six questions for each student and took about 15 to 20 minutes for most to finish, though it was scheduled to take two hours. Some classes were given a one-hour break before returning for the second section on mathematics, which Manasherob said took substantially longer. Some students in his class spent almost the full two hours to complete that portion of the test. One class at Paly accidentally switched the two sections, so they didn't wait through the hour-long break, one student said.

The second day of testing on Tuesday went more smoothly, Manasherob said, with different proctors and a shorter 15-minute break that allowed students to leave for the day at noon instead of 12:30 p.m.

Smarter Balanced is an adaptive test taken on computers, meaning that the number of questions and their difficulty adjusts to the student as he or she moves through the test. Kolar said the allotment of time for each section is determined by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a coalition of states that adopted the Common Core standards several years ago, but the district will take feedback like that into consideration as it refines its own testing protocols and scheduling for future years.

Participation is key, however. California schools are expected to meet a 95 percent threshold on participation, according to Janine Penney, manager of research, evaluation and assessment for the Palo Alto school district. The state won't be using test results but rather participation rates to hold schools accountable, Penney said.

"I'm not sure what the implications are at this point if the participation rates are low at the high school," she said.

Kolar said the district is hitting its participation rates at the elementary and middle school levels. Palo Alto third- through eighth-graders also started taking the test two weeks ago.

The district has not yet seen what the Smarter Balanced results will look like -- though it's likely that they will be a complete departure from the previous test's categories of "advanced," "proficient," "basic" and "far below/below basic."

"I think it remains to be seen," Penney said. "We have to see what we get back in order to make that determination."

The district is also in the process of following up with the California Department of Education for guidance on how the participation rates could affect funding the high schools receive from the state, Kolar said.

Paly's and Gunn's principals and the director of secondary education are also meeting next week to look at scheduling for next year's Smarter Balanced testing and will consider the scheduling of AP and SAT exams.

"High school is in a different context," Kolar said. "I think that we'll be taking more of those contextual factors into account with the scheduling and making sure that the experience of students – that they feel comfortable participating in it next time around."

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6 people like this
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:55 am

Common Core. Pfffft.

38 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:14 am

Taking this test wasn't about the individual student, it was about teaching students to step up and be helpful community members. We need some level of standardized testing to let the state and country know how educated the population is. Already this nation doesn't take seriously educating it's population and common core is a start (although I agree not even close to good enough). By letting their students opt out to rest or study for other tests, parents are failing in their duty to teach the lesson that you sometimes have to step up and do something that isn't "all about you" to help a community. Those students who showed up and took the test also have AP exams, school assignments and tests and yet they still helped with their civic responsibilities. This is a good life lesson - take care of what you have to do but also make sure that you give back to the community as a whole.

28 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:23 am

@cm - riiiiight, so there's this whole problem about how students are overworked and don't get to spend enough time just being kids, and you're saying they should "step up and do something that isn't "all about you" to help a community"? You sound like a fantastic parent.

33 people like this
Posted by hmmmmm
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:31 am

cm: These kids are already giving way too much back to the community by just enduring the atmosphere of our high schools these days. I am all for anything that takes stress off of them. They already have to take too many tests and now you think you should guilt trip them to "give back to our community" by taking more tests so that we can wave rah rah banners about how perfect we are in perfect Palo Alto?


24 people like this
Posted by Don't like tests
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:37 am

Smart kids for opting out is all I can say.

14 people like this
Posted by Greenmeadow parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:42 am

Kudos to these students.
Yes, I opted out for my three Gunn alumni several years ago.
There were more important and productive use of their time (homework, projects, portfolios, college prep/application, free time), especially during their junior year.
A no brainer for me as a parent. In 2007, one of my daughters and I were actually chased, confronted and harassed (yelling in the face with finger pointing) by the principal at the time.
She had overlooked my letter and email two prior.

29 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:44 am

My junior did the tests and there was no discussion that he should opt out.

Back again really to the educational system in this country. It makes no sense for high school students to be taking three independent tests for three separate reasons at this stage of their existence.

AP tests and finals should be the same animal as should these tests. One overall test should be sending results to 3 different agencies as well as the high schools and the students/parents.

Do other countries have this really outdated system? No. Most have finals that are at the end of their high school career and test for 3 or 4 years work. These tests actually mean something and help them to get into colleges. They also get reported school by school to see how schools are performing.

Where else in civilized educational countries do we keep putting all these tests that are different and confusing to the same students for different reasons.

Let's get basic common sense back into the educational system here. Let's get college applications back to common sense. Let's get common examinations once a year for all students reporting to different bodies to allow our students to actually learn the material rather than worrying about a never ending list of tests that only confuse.

33 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Lets face it. Palo Alto Unified is a Basic Aide district that get minimal funding from the state. What is driving this test locally? Real Estate! High API scores mean high home prices! That is the bottom line. Colleges don't look at these test scores and they don't really drive classroom instruction. It is the deeply rooted real estate interests in this town that care about API scores. Lets stop worrying about these tests and get back into the business of raising and educating our children.

25 people like this
Posted by Opted Out
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Our students opted out because of SAT and AP tests. We only found out about the opt out option at the last minute. The timing of this standardized test was not good. Communication about how participating would impact the school district was not clear.

The additional time was used well.

16 people like this
Posted by Don't like tests
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:39 pm

@Paly Parent: I'll tell you why: capitalism. All these tests help people make money. Even private non-profits need revenue. While the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium is, in their words, "a public agency supported by 18 states and one territory" with what appears to be good intentions, they still need revenue and justification to function. And let's not forget the College Board: making money off of hapless parents and students since 1900, implementing culturally-biased and annoying standardized tests that often don't have relevance to what kids learn in school or need for college. I know what you are talking about with respect to other countries. In India, for example, students who study under a "board"/standard (like O-level etc. in the UK) all take one test at the end of high school. This super-final exam tests them on what they learned in school, plus determines their fate during the college entrance process.

They have some serious flaws, for example, which fields/universities you can go to is determined for you to some extent, based on the test results, regardless of your dreams and aspirations. (Ajay - you can go to IIT/engineering, Meera - you can go to medical school, etc.) A student in the US has more freedom of choice, something we should treasure but take for granted. But the one-test policy elsewhere is better than the ridiculous system we have here in the States.

8 people like this
Posted by EmmaB
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:11 pm

EmmaB is a registered user.

I second Don't Like Test's comment! Smart kids for opting out!

Standardized tests are a waste of their time. These kids should be out riding their bikes to the beach and building multi-level tree forts and solving social problems in their community -- not filling in bubbles like mindless hoop jumpers.

Granted, these kids were opting out of one standardized test to prepare for another... so maybe it's not THAT epic that they opted out. In my opinion (and that of many others - as per "APs Make You Look Complacent, Not Cruious" Web Link ), APs are generally sort of a waste of time, too. Unless you're taking them to save money when you get to college, kids would be better served by doing something unique that they actually love. Not staying in the library till it closes studying for the AP exam.

7 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:25 pm

That house you purchased for $3,000,000 will soon be worth $2,500,000 once API scores are lower. Perfect storm in a community of stressed out people. AP tests should be eliminated altogether. That's the problem. The standardized tests are probably not that stressful but the SAT score and AP Score are another story altogether!

5 people like this
Posted by Long time Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:27 pm

@Paly Parent:

What is Common Sense and where can we find it anywhere now? I am quite serious.

13 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:38 pm

We let my son opt out. He's taking AP Bio, AP Calc BC, and AP C Physics in a week, plus he has tests for those classes to study for, plus he has finals for those classes, plus he's taking the SAT II Physics test this coming weekend. The last thing he needs is to spend two mindless days taking useless test. To those on this form that think he has some civic duty to take this test so bureaucrats can evaluate the quality of his education, I suggest you just look at the data from AP tests, SATs, PSATs, and ACTs to see if his school is doing its job (and BTW, Gunn High School does its job exceptionally well).

1 person likes this
Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:43 pm

muttiallen is a registered user.

Now Paly and Gunn won't have API scores at all. You have to have 95% participation for the school to 'count.' So with no scores to compare to other districts real estate prices in PAUSD can maybe go down to something closer to 'normal.' What happened with this testing in Cupertino? Did those students opt out, too?

26 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Don't worry all you nervous home owners..... the state decided that it would not be issuing API scores again this year and the test is still considered a "Semi Pilot". Your over inflated home values will not be in jeopardy. Hmmm. I wonder why the state decided to not post API scores? Because the test is so flawed and they knew that many schools could not get 95% of their students to take the test? Next year, unless the extend the "Pilot" another year, is when things will hit the fan.

12 people like this
Posted by Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Greedy Real Estate agents. Destroying the quality of life in Palo Alto. They are the ones pushing for all this standardized testing so they can get bigger commissions on their over priced, over hyped properties.

Isn't there some way the city can limit the over advertising by the real estate agents, in the name of preserving some quality of life?

11 people like this
Posted by Private Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:09 pm

By my rough estimate, PAUSD high schools lose about eight-days' worth of instruction-days of 180 per school year to standardized testing (this includes the math competition that they cancel normal classes for).

In other words, if we halved the amount of standardized-testing we did, we would effectively use another week to slow down instruction and spread out homework, which would reduce the load we insist on throwing onto our students.

Most standardized testing is a total waste of time, but even if you think it isn't, there is too much going on right now. It squanders resources that could be better spent in actual instruction.

19 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Get rid of the tests! They offer no value!

10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 3:16 pm

cm is right. Smarter Balanced Assessments may not be perfect and they have a dumb name, but we'll never get 100% agreement on what goes into a standardized test. They're much better than no assessment at all, because you can't fix what you can't measure.

Yes the timing is unfortunate re AP's etc, but those tests only took a couple hours each, not all day, and there was no school the rest of those days. My kid certainly did not spend all the rest of those days studying for AP's and finals. If yours actually did, you're excused. If you personally believe tests and grades should be abolished, you're excused. All others, opting out of SBA is a disservice to everybody else.

2 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Not to prove a point. But, when I just brought up this article...4 of the seven pop up ads were for REAL ESTATE!!!! The other 3 were for a city garage sale day, an open studio in SF (because what artist could afford to live in Palo Alto) and cleaning your home from a natural disaster.

18 people like this
Posted by FormerResident of PA
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Good for these kids and their families! These Big Standardized Tests (BS tests, yes, BS) measure such a narrow scope of what a child knows, that they are virtually useless. You could get almost the same numbers by slotting in the parent's zip-code and socio-economic status, and save a heck of a lot of money. If only the state/country would spend this money instead on actual learning, it would make a real difference. But the test-making companies would not be very happy. BS testing is a cash-cow for them, to the detriment of our children.

4 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Resident - a bad test isn't better than no test! A bad test could indicate changes in things that aren't broken, and end up breaking them. A bad test might gloss over problem areas. Ask any SIlicon Valley business if they'd rather make decisions based on bad analytics, or no analytics.

17 people like this
Posted by SusieQ
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:10 pm

@Resident says "They're much better than no assessment at all, because you can't fix what you can't measure"-- if that's true, then one would have to agree that standardized tests actually measure something useful; they don't. The new SBAC and CAASP tests in particular have a poorly thought-out and difficult-to-navigate interface, which are highly dependent on students' typing and computer skills. So these new and shiny tests are really a GREAT measure of kids' typing skills and ability to navigate a poorly designed interface on computers or iPads. The subject matter? Not so much. These tests are also a great measure of how much test-prep the students have been subjected to, and also a good measure of how enriched the student's home environment is. Focusing on tests scores distorts real education and learning. Instead of this narrow-minded focus on test scores, our country needs to focus on equal opportunities and supports for all students and families, and on fully funding ALL of our public schools. Those steps would ultimately lead to excellence everywhere, not just in Palo Alto. That is what Finland did several decades ago, and they have excelled in education --- and all without big stakes tests.

1 person likes this
Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:12 pm

muttiallen is a registered user.

Actually, these tests are better than the old paper/pencil fill-in-the-bubble tests. Kids have to write essays and explain how they got the answers on math problems. That part is good. Anyone can take the 'practice test.' Web Link
Just login as Guest, pick your grade level and have fun. The "Training Test" is only 10 questions or so to help students learn to navigate the system. The "Practice Test" is much longer and shows all the different types of questions that students will get. There is also a 'Performance Task' test where there is a discussion on some topic in class the day before, and then students answer questions based on that discussion.

But, who is going to grade all those essays and long explanations? Machines? Right now Calif is trying to hire teachers to spend their summer doing it.

16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 8:02 pm

I want to know why I didn't know it was an option. What BS. My kid gets stressed out and subjected to this experience while other kids are doing homework and projects or relaxing. I want equality. Either communicate this option or penalize those who take advantage of me and my kid.

2 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 29, 2015 at 9:04 pm

@Susie Q

So... are you a teacher?

The tests are supposed to test critical thinking skills.



Thank goodness you let your son opt out of taking the test. I was exhausted after reading what he has to be tested on. Talk about who is putting stress on students. Hmmmm ...

12 people like this
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Apr 29, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Our children have taken state tests every year in school. Can't we drop the test for the Juniors who are taking a sh*t load of tests all in the same months APRIL, MAY and JUNE. Let's see there is SAT, SAT II (a couple of these), possibly ACT and then 4 or 5 AP tests. Doesn't that seem like enough. Can't California determine the value of it's education system with 8 or 9 years of testing and give the Juniors a break.

6 people like this
Posted by Kerry55
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:10 pm

agree with Emma B:......
Standardized tests are a waste of their time. These kids should be out riding their bikes to the beach and building multi-level tree forts and solving social problems in their community -- not filling in bubbles like mindless hoop jumpers.
Wonderful TV segment on pbs about a model school in Maine, with head teacher M Atwell, a truly inspiring teacher and school. We need less emphasis on testing and more emphasis on great teaching methods and programs to engage all our students . 4

5 people like this
Posted by tbt to wasc
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:17 pm

@Resident: You mention that there was no school on the SB testing days. Realize that, for many juniors, this was more a detriment than a benefit; those days lost would have been, for the vast majority of AP classes with tests next week, an opportunity for structured review time, or time for students to clarify information with teachers. Missing those days of instruction hurt rather than helped many students.

Like this comment
Posted by who?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 30, 2015 at 7:25 am

"Janine Penney, manager of research, evaluation and assessment for the Palo Alto school district."

Who is this person and when was she hired? I literally have never heard of her.

3 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2015 at 8:09 am

These tests are just more stress, which means more kids falling into depression, suicide, and drugs.

The mainstream media refused to cover these issues honestly. Education in the US (and thus parents and students) is now just another ping-pong ball that politicians hit back and forth, destroying lives, nobody gives a shit.

I never supported vouchers until the past year. Mine eyes have been opened.

2 people like this
Posted by Jordan Parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 30, 2015 at 8:21 am

Thanks "Chris" for pointing out that there would be no API test reporting again this year. I didn't realize that. Now I understand why the district would allow 50% participation by PAUSD Juniors. I doubt it will be that easy to 'opt out' next year where they need 95% participation to get a valid result. In fact allowing your best students (those that are taking AP classes or studying for SAT) to skip the Smarter Balanced Test this year creates a lower baseline in a year that results don't count. Our district will score higher next year when we require everyone to take the same test. I don't think there is a big conspiracy, just pointing out that this result is actually advantageous for PAUSD API scores in the future.

4 people like this
Posted by Well
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2015 at 11:23 am

What happens if the parent tells the school their child is "sick" on the day of state testing? Are they forced to take it another day or can they stay home and study?

1 person likes this
Posted by Where is the School Board?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 30, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Where is the School Board in this Smarter Balance testing fiasco? Where is the Superintendent? Who is Janine Penney? Is her position to do some HEAVY thinking in terms of testing in general, or is it just logistics of administering the tests? Why isn't the School Board ahead of "the walkout"? Interesting that the Elementary Schools had no organized protest about this poorly designed test. Personally, it seems like so many creative, awe-inspiring teachers are forced into giving these tests against their personal beliefs. PAUSD needs to have some type of scenario for "opting out" of testing(for parents) along with homework accountability(teachers & students). I for one am planning on pulling my child out of all standardized testing through 7th grade!

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Posted by educator parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Dear parents who love all the AP, SATII, and of course SAT/ACT testing: why don't you hate these standardized/normed tests? Why do you force/let your students take such a high number of AP courses per year/ per high-school-career? These are the high-stakes standardized-tests that put pressure on your students. Fortunately - my community is not so-parent-obsessive. And yet one of my kids made it into and out of Stanford (academic honors and distinction, < ave. "PAUSD # of AP tests"). Quality and depth, not quantity is what the most competitive colleges want. And what the high school parents in my community seem to favor.

3 people like this
Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2015 at 3:05 pm

casey is a registered user.

I have no problems with the Common Core or standardized testing in general, but I am quite skeptical of Smarter Balance based on the sample tests they have online. The UI is so poor. If we are still in the testing phase, half the class should take the test by pencil and paper so that we can determine whether the computer interface handicaps the students.

2 people like this
Posted by someone who gets it
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 1, 2015 at 12:20 am

First off, this test did not cause stress AT ALL. People opted out of the Smarter Balanced because the test had no seen effect on the person. Also, the day after the Smarter Balanced, students had to take finals on their AP classes. So would you rather spend a couple hours on a stupid test, or not take it, study for another class test, or even just relax?
2nd, @ educator parent ,I think Palo Alto parents know what they need to do to get into the most competitive colleges, hence a rather large amount of each class going to some of the best. Also, as a student, I can say that parents are not forcing their kids to take all AP's and what not, students themselves take it by their own choice. There still is the question if people are taking it just to look good for college, but regardless, students are taking responsibility for their actions and are doing quite well for themselves.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 7:41 am

PAUSD is not going to get 95% participation in the Smarter Balance exams. So whatever numbers are generated from those who have taken the exam will not be reported. Real Estate Agents and Developers are worried that this will affect their even increasing property valuations. That's doubtful. (The defeat of Measure A, however, might.) But the opt-out is symptomatic of the larger problem that a lot of parents and students are not very happy with PAUSD and PAEA.

3 people like this
Posted by in the East Bay
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Our SB tests aren't until after the AP tests, HOWEVER, that will make 7 out of the 9 weeks remaining in school my son will have testing and this isn't even including the ACT and SAT he is taking. They are having the SB testing spread out over 2 weeks over here. I probably would have rather had 2 days of it rather than 2 weeks of it. I still see no benefit to the student and they seriously should not be having this testing Junior Year. That makes absolutely NO SENSE. Or if you are in AP English and AP Math you can have those scores count and not have to take the SB test. These SB tests should be lumped with the Sophomores taking the High School Exit Exam. Now that would make sense. Even give it to Freshman who don't have any testing going on. Junior year is the hardest and most impt year in high school and to add another layer of testing is ridiculous. This is why parents are opting out. If they would have picked any other grade besides Juniors I don't think there would have been nearly this backlash.

Oh and by the way, my son is taking AP classes because he excels in those classes and if a college is looking at his transcript and sees he "didn't challenge himself" he would not have as good a chance at getting in. At least that is what the college admissions people at the colleges keep telling us. I wish you all over in PA good luck and thank you for starting the large opt-out movement! Can't wait to hear how our district is going to respond!

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Posted by BH
a resident of Los Altos
on May 1, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Several things:

1) Per PA Weekly article dated 4/25: "Since there was no feedback or data provided from last year's trial run of the Smarter Balanced tests, school district officials and site administrators are largely in the dark about what the new results will look like or how the measurements will be broken down."

2) For students who do not use computers regularly, that is a detriment, and that goes double for students who have reading comprehension problems (ESL students). Those two factors screams of bias.

3) "Don't like tests" is correct: An entire cottage industry has been developed to help kids prepare for the myriad of tests they are told they must take. As soon as they take a test, the College Board shares student names and email addresses with colleges and the poor kids are inundated with email invitations to attend this or that "elite" summer program (fees of course) or apply to their college ($), regardless of transcripts etc. It is insane.

4) As for AP exams, unless students score a 5, many colleges simply use them for admission purposes, and do not bestow credit for core or required distribution coursework. An AP course is NOT a college-level course and I've seen students become way too self-assured when they in fact do not have the foundational basis they need to succeed in college.

What we need is a smarter, BALANCED system that offers access and equity. I doubt this is it. Opt out kids!

2 people like this
Posted by BH
a resident of Los Altos
on May 1, 2015 at 1:26 pm

@cm: Your post is a non sequitor. How does taking a test teach students to help their community or become civically engaged? It doesn't. That comes from being engaged with and IN the community, such as Youth Community Service (YCS) experience. There are already many standardized tests. Have they helped get students out performing service, or voting? NO.

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Posted by Test Results?
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2015 at 1:55 pm

@Chris - if the State is not issuing API scores this year, does that mean parents will not receive individual student scores and test results?

2 people like this
Posted by who?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 1, 2015 at 1:59 pm

[Post removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 3, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Ze'ev Wurman is a registered user.

Some clarifications seem to be needed on this topic since the people quoted in the piece seem rather uninformed.

Calif. Ed Code 60615:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a parent’s or guardian’s written request to school officials to excuse his or her child from any or all parts of the assessments administered pursuant to this chapter shall be granted."

Calif. Code of Regulations 5 CCR 852:

"(a) Each year the LEA shall notify parents or guardians of their pupil's participation in the CAASPP assessment system in accordance with Education Code section 60604.
(b) The notification to parents or guardians, as defined in subdivision (a), shall include a notice of the provisions outlined in Education Code section 60615 "

In other words, opting out in California is legal and is not a matter of district's "permission" but rather of a parental right. Furthermore, it is the district's OBLIGATION to annually notify parents of that right. Since Gunn junior Hayley Krolik is quoted saying she wasn't aware of that right, I suspect the parental notification letter about testing illegally did not include this information.

Regarding consequences of failing to meet the 95% testing, the rule is very simple:

a) California Accountability Plan with the US Dept. of Education (Web Link ) spells out the implications (p. 61): "An LEA, school, or student subgroup that does not meet the 95 percent requirement is deemed to have not made AYP, regardless of whether or not it would have met the AMOs, i.e., the percent proficient or above."

In other words, below 95% participation will make the district "not make AYP." This has no other implications for Palo Alto, particularly since about every district in California does not make AYP since 2014 anyway, when 100% proficiency for all disaggregated groups was required.

b) As long as the state applies that meaningless "penalty," no other federal implication can occur, since the feds signed-off on California Accountability Plan. Ominous and baseless talk of possible financial implications are likely more to scare than to inform.

So much about the legality and the financial implications. But what about the test itself?

SBAC tests take between 7 and 8.5 hours (depending on the grade) compared with 5-6 hours for the old STAR tests. Worse, they require the use of computers. Consequently, some schools will not be able to test more than a single grade at a time (and sometimes not even that), stretching the testing window to 2-3 weeks. Even worse, during the testing window no computers are available for regular classroom instruction, so even non-tested classes are instructionally affected.

And all that for what? For a test that has NOT been validated. For a test that does not offer End-of-Course (EOC) tests in high school (Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, etc.) like the STAR did. For a test that does not release sample items so the public -- and teachers -- will never see the actual test items students are expected to solve. And for a test that is *at least* twice as expensive (four times as expensive if technology cost is factored in) than the old STAR test.

If I had kids at school at this time, I would opt them out too. A huge and costly waste of time with meaningless and unreliable scores. As simple as that.

Kudos to Paly students and parents for getting that.

2 people like this
Posted by Cliche thinking
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2015 at 12:14 am

"you can't fix what you can't measure." Rubbish.
It is a nice-sounding cliche. Maybe it's true for engineering problems but it's not true in real life. Common sense, observation, and experience can fix many problems.
You don't need a number to know when you don't feel well, and you don't need a number to apply a remedy that works.
You don't need a number to know whether you like an idea, or a food, or a person.
In cooking, a pinch of salt is just as effective as 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
You don't need to measure a person's distress in order to comfort them. A good heart is what you need.
And on and on. Applying engineering principles to every problem is faulty thinking. Common sense is powerful stuff.

3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2015 at 8:39 pm

John Oliver discussing American testing on Last Week Tonight.

Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Gunn Junior
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 4, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Y'all should watch this segment from John Oliver on HBO's Last Week Tonight talking about standardized testing. Summarizes the issue perfectly: Web Link

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