Every year in late spring, California students in grades 3-8 and 11 take the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) test. The test is a low-stakes exam for students since the outcome does not affect their grades, ability to pass classes, or even college admissions. It is high stakes for teachers and administrators as it generates tremendous data that reflects the effectiveness of teaching pedagogy and curriculum. It also breaks the aggregate data by grade, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and other fields. Parents receive their student’s scores as part of their parental rights, but school sites and districts input aggregate data into repositories like California Dashboard (www.caschooldashboard.org) to compare and observe yearly trends.
The test measures a student’s mastery of standardized grade-level information in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics and includes a science test for grades 8 and 11. It is a snapshot of overall student understanding of the standardized material during a couple of days in a school year. If a student is stressed or unwell, an individual may do poorly. It simplifies understanding a student’s mastery of basic subjects.
It reoccurs yearly, so many people want the data to be the determinant of overall student growth year to year, but that is not the best use of this data. In years when student scores go down, the results are often delayed, the test is deemphasized, and administrators focus on physical, mental, and social factors impacting student’s lives. In years where the scores go up, the growth is celebrated. The most useful way to use the data is to look at year-over-year trends in different data sets (students separated by ethnicity, economic status, English language learners, etc.) to assess if changes in curriculum, teacher development, or new social service supports are making impacts to different data sets.
Pre-pandemic test scores reflected a steady 2-4% yearly growth since the CAASPP introduction 2014. Distance learning chaos saw an inflated test score rise and a dive in scores once students resumed “in-person” test taking. The second year after returning to in-person learning and with massive state recovery money, both the Fullerton Joint Union High School District (FJUHSD) and elementary Fullerton School District (FSD) used the 2022/23 CAASPP scores to gauge whether their intervention plans to recover learning growth were succeeding. Using the 22/23 CAASPP scores to compare to their previous score last year and their 2019 scores (pre-pandemic), both districts were satisfied to see recovery with upward trends. Both districts did better than the state and the Orange County school district averages.
FJUHSD exceeded the state by 12% points in ELA, 17% points in mathematics, and 10% points in science. The district also had higher passing scores in all categories than the county. Individually, some schools made tremendous recoveries. Troy High School scores were static yearly, and only Sonora High saw a decrease. Fullerton High, La Habra High, and Sunny Hills High all had 6-10% increases in ELA and mathematics. FJUHSD thanked students and teachers for their hard work, satisfied with their ongoing SET for Success Professional Development, increased wellness support, and expanded student and family engagement opportunities.
Fullerton Elementary also posted a steady increase in percentages of students meeting or exceeding mastery, exceeding the state ELA scores by 12% and mathematics by 15%. They did better than the county in mathematics and matched the ELA scores. Although not yet back up to pre-pandemic level scores, the elementary district is utilizing effective interventions and sees data trends moving upward.