Lack of motivation for state testing


By Luella Searson, Reporter

Students at Tamalpais High School returned with full nights of sleep and tan lines from the week off. Spring break was a much-needed reset time for students who were stressing about Advanced Placement (AP) Exams, SAT testing, and more. However, as soon as students returned, another test awaited them just days after coming back.

The week back from spring break was kicked off with California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) testing, which ranks California schools state-wide based on the results that students score.

State tests are an important piece of school-wide data that allows us to see where we have strengths and challenges in our programs (…) For these reasons, we take the tests seriously and deeply appreciate our students stepping up and giving their best. Thank you for making TAM shine!” Tam administration wrote in an email. 

The test does not affect students’ grades or go on college applications. While it’s important for students to test to accurately represent the school’s academic progression, many upperclassmen have opted out of testing this year because of the seemingly low-stakes for their personal academics.

“I opted out because it doesn’t affect my grade,” junior Chloe Whitmore said. “I already have too much homework I need to catch up on.”

While many opted out, the majority of students chose to stay and test. “We need to get Tam’s ranking up,” senior Trevor Allan said. “Colleges look at your high school’s ranking on applications and if everyone opts out it’s not good for Tam’s academic reputation.”

“I know many students opted out because of AP exams,” Assistant Principal Andy Lieberman. “There’s already a lot of stress academically for upperclassmen …one word got out that you could opt out, I think word spread really fast.”

On Monday, April 24, Tam administration sent out an email and announced over the loudspeaker that the attendance for the CAASPP test did not meet the 95 percent requirement. The school titled the email “We Need Your Help,” as it begged students to help the school meet the participation requirement.

“It’s not too late to help the school meet the 95% CAASPP participation rate! Low participation impacts funding, hiring, and most importantly Tam’s rating on the California Schools Dashboard …  you can help Tam meet the 95 [percent] participation rate. [Assistant Principal Tara] Ranzy will facilitate make-up testing in the library this week Wednesday and Friday,” administration wrote in an email. 

“Makeup testing has gone well,” Lieberman said. “Many students have decided to take the test, but our participation is still very low.”

The Tam administration mentioned over the loudspeaker that they would “not make the same mistake next year” in terms of CAASPP testing. So, what should the school do?

“The reason so many people opted out was because it was so easy to do so,” Allan said. “We need to only let the students with 504 plans and accommodations get out of it.”

Many students also opted out because of the lack of importance on personal academics. Even though it doesn’t affect students’ grades, it impacts the schools’ ratings that they go to, which can change a college’s perspective on the school they went to. By educating the students about the issue opting out poses for their applications and their high school, and making it more difficult to opt out, maybe the attendance rate won’t suffer as much next year and we can make sure to give back to our school.