The SBAC test is more serious than first anticipated

As part of the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), juniors must take the computerized Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC test) to ensure their readiness upon leaving high school. This 11th grade English and math test, developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium consisting of 22 states including California, is based on Common Core standards.

The previous year, the pilot year of the test, Newbury Park High School received a lower score than both Thousand Oaks and Westlake High School.

To many juniors last year, this component of the CAASPP seemed like just another test that would not affect them individually. In fact, some even made jokes in their answers, not taking it seriously or trying their hardest. Anjali Kokatay, senior, was one of the juniors who did not see the significance of the test.

“Honestly I was just ready to get it over with. It was a very easy test,” Kokatay said. “It wasn’t on my important list at the time.”

The students’ scores reflected this perceived lack of emphasis and because these scores are used in determining school ranking statewide and nationwide, NPHS’ rank dropped significantly according to US News, now being unranked. Many believe that this is the cause of college rejections. Tina Coleman, counselor, clarified how colleges see the SBAC test.

“[Colleges] can view school ranking,” Coleman said. “They cannot view the individual [score], unless the individual reports it on their application.”

Only the state and the school are allowed access to student scores, unless the student grants permission, but Coleman says that the school’s ranking and overall score may still impact college admission.

“I think overall when you are looking at the strength of a program, if a school is highly ranked then you know those students are meeting their needs and being prepared for college,” the counselor said. “So [for] the students that have [good] grades in [high-level] classes, it is not a grade inflation.”

In addition, Coleman explained how the CAASPP test includes an early assessment program for those attending California State Universities and community colleges.

“It provides an early indicator of their college readiness in English and math. So if the students do well on these tests, they are exempt from taking the placement test from those universities or community colleges, so that can help them save time and money,” Coleman said.

Kokatay said she was never affected by her score, but, among others, was upset that it brought the school ranking down. She says she believes that this should not put a damper on student confidence and pride in the school.

“It sucks that our school did go down, but again, our school is more than just the tests that we take. I think we are more than what our score is,” Kokatay said.

Before taking the test, Rohan D’Souza, junior, said that he is not going to follow in the path of last year’s scores.

“I feel like it should be taken seriously. Last year, a lot of juniors completely disregarded the test,” D’Souza said. “I try to make others aware of the importance of the test. And I personally will take it seriously when it comes to actually taking the test.”

Natalie Noriega, junior, seemed to agree with him. She said she wanted to try her hardest, studying in class and with practice tests.

“I wanted to try my best because it’s a test and it represents the school,” the junior said.

Before taking the test, she learned that her score could help determine her placement in college, since she intends to go to Moorpark Community College. She took the test more seriously after that.

“I feel like I did the best that I could do,” Noriega said.

Because of the scores and rushed atmosphere of the test last year, a new testing schedule was created, one that would let juniors feel more able to comprehensively take the test without fear of missing important classwork. Coleman said she believes that the school responded well to this, and expects higher scores.

“Just from proctoring, what I’ve seen is that students really took their time, they tried, they weren’t feeling rushed, they weren’t feeling like they had to get to the next class to prepare for their other exam,” the counselor said. “I think they understand the benefit not just for themselves, but for the Panther Pride that came through, that they want to do well for their school.”