Sep 20 2016

Test Score Implications, Student Input and School Budget

On September 14th, 2016, the Piedmont School Board convened to address the recent results of the 2016 CAASPP testing and future budgets involving the school.

Starting the meeting, Max Miller of Millennium High School, introduced himself and the recent events that have or will occur during the school year. After describing Back to School Night and showing gratitude for new teachers at Millennium, Miller praised the recent support of the student body at school events, encouraging them to continue doing so.

Subsequently, the President of the Board, Andrea Swenson, asked the audience if anyone had any topics they would like to bring to the table, outside of the listed agenda. One by one, three students rose and walked to the podium. Amelia Henry, a senior at Piedmont High School, started by vocalizing her thoughts about academic stress levels and inquiring about the possible ways to decrease them and ease the student body. Following her was Cole Bloomfield, who questioned the merit of summer homework. He noted that he had lost all of his summer working on AP class homework that was quickly tested and put aside for the school year. At a time where college applications were already raising stress levels, he felt that “[his] summer had been wasted” on summer assignments.

And finally, Addilynn Perkins talked about the fences around Wildwood School and the obstruction they caused as she had to walk all the way around them to reach her home, once the gates were locked. She realized that they were a safety precaution but wanted to let the Board know that they create an inconvenience to those living beyond the fence.

After a quick listing of ways for the community to get more involved by Superintendent Randall Booker, President Andrea Swenson, welcomed  Dr. Cheryl Wozniak and Stephanie Griffin to reveal the results of the 2016 CAASPP.

The CAASPP stands for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, and recently replaced the STAR test that was administered in the PUSD. Being the second year in use, Griffin claimed that this computer based assessment was more precise and accurate about where a student was in their education level. Another benefit, mentioned by Dr. Wozniak, was that the CAASPP has a standardized measurement unlike the STAR test, allowing them to see how students are faring throughout the years and compare and contrast the relative scores.

After addressing the benefits of switching tests, Mrs. Griffin and Dr. Wozniak showed the Board the results of 2016 test on a powerpoint presentation. In all of California, 49% met or exceeded the standard needed to be prepared for college. Of this, only 37% of students in California met this mark in the mathematics section. Comparing this to the PUSD, 87% of students met or exceeded the standard for college with 87% of them meeting that standard in the mathematics testing. This contrast showed the success of the PUSD education department and thus they congratulated Superintendent Randall Booker, High School Principal Brent Daniels and their faculty. However, they noticed that 3% of students did not meet the mark in math and stated that Piedmont must do their best to remedy this small discrepancy.

96% of students took the test from Piedmont High School, Millennium and the Piedmont Middle School. Although only 10-13% did not meet the standard, and the PUSD scored a 97 on the ELA, Griffin stated that they needed to do better. Unfortunately, one must exceed the standard in order to be prepared for college level courses. She called attention to the Learning Center students and African American students in the district and how they could help them in their education.

Amid the applause, Rick Raushenbush, a Board member, expressed surprise and shock that the PUSD did not have 100% of their students meeting college criterias. He wondered what the problem was and how they could solve it. Superintendent Booker proposed that perhaps it was because it was the tests first year, and then turned towards the students in the audience asking if they had any input.

I, Sam Wen, a senior at Piedmont High School raised my hand and after being called on, walked to the podium to address the culture around the CAASPP. I expressed that the consequences of the CAASPP test was relatively unknown, being seen as merely something one should plow through and check off the graduation requirement list. I recalled how Mr. Daniels had told the class of 2017 that not enough of the seniors before us had taken the test, and that if we did likewise, Piedmont High School could be audited and this could drastically affect our college prospects. This was a surprise and unknown to me, as I did not know that the CAASPP test determined how colleges viewed our scores and thus our application to their colleges. I suggested that perhaps the school could educate future students on the consequences and importance of this test in order to create a culture around the CAASPP test and show them how it directly influenced their lives.

Two more students, Elisa Glauber and Elijah Levy, commented on how the CAASPP test seemed to be tacked onto the school schedule and that because the weight of the test was unknown and it was  the same week as normal school, tests and AP tests, they prioritized other things above the standardized test. They agreed that setting aside a special week for it, or clearing students schedules could help the results of the test. Mr. Booker nodded in agreement and thanked us for our input.

After this, the meeting was addressed the financial reports and half of the room quietly left, leaving the audience void of anyone except high school students. The Board talked about contracts and agreements on business services, curriculum and instruction and special education. They graciously accepted a $1,000 donation to the school’s Wellness Center, and hoped that they would receive more to help the program grow and relieve stress.

As the topic turned to school renovations, the Board seemed hesitant to improve the facilities because it pulled away from the General Fund. Although their budget allowed $190,000, they found that they were out of it, having spent $28,000 on the PHS Binks Gym and more on the PMS wall. Board Member Doug Ireland asked Mr. Booker whether this year had been merely expensive or if they needed to make the school budget bigger. Mr Booker replied that it was a combination of the two. He ended the discussion by encouraging members of Piedmont to get more involved and educate others about certain bills that would help their cause.

As the meeting concluded, I asked the president of the Board, Andrea Swenson, what sort of difficulties she wanted to remedy. She stated that although she was the president, she had equal power to other board members, Rick Raushenbush or Doug Ireland, and merely helped facilitate the meetings. She joined the Board in order to keep and maintain the close knit community in Piedmont. She wanted to “support kids and especially emotionally support them”, while “adequately preparing them” for college and life beyond. She tries to do this by hearing what students have to say and implementing their input. She sometimes has to deal with opposing opinions in public, however, although she may disagree, she respects the system and likes how it allows people to speak. Overall, she was very grateful to the students for coming and their input and encouraged us to continue to support the community she so dearly loved.

There is a School Board meeting once every two weeks, held in the Council Chambers of the City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

By Samuel Wen, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Leave a Comment