Oct 20 2018

Free Breakfast to Encourage Student Test Takers ?

On Wednesday, October 10th, I attended a School Board Meeting at City Hall to discuss California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, CAASPP, testing. At the front of the room sat student representative, Myles Smith, School Board Members – Ms. Smegal, Mr. Ireland, Ms. Pearson, Ms. Smith, and Ms  Swenson – Ms. Wozniak, and Superintendent Mr. Booker.

The meeting began with student representative Myles Smith discussing past and upcoming Piedmont and Millennium High School events. He touched on many topics including: the Consent assembly, the new physics teacher, an ASB Halloween event, etc. His inside view of everything happening right now really seemed to intrigue the board members.

Next, Mr. Booker discussed the Education, Equity, and Inclusion plan that centers on supporting students and helping them develop into mature young adults. This plan prioritizes students feeling both physically and emotionally supported, as well as the motto “all means all”. He presented a large poster filled with trees and roots, which depicted this all- inclusive plan.

My peers as well as all the school board members found this visual very interesting. This plan seems like a very nice and ideal goal for the Piedmont Unified School District, I just wondered what steps and specific actions they would take to achieve this goal.

As the meeting progressed, I became increasingly nervous, as I knew my time to talk was coming soon. The cards with our names on them and what we were going to discuss, lay right in front of the hands of the School Board President, Ms. Pearson.

Ms. Stephanie Griffin, Director of Instructional Technology, was the next to speak. Her very thorough and statistically oriented presentation showed how Piedmont really excelled in the CAASPP testing, a fact that shocked every student sitting in the audience. She explained how we ranked 2nd in the state with 87% of students exceeding state standards for ELA and 84% exceeding state standards for math.

Once Griffin finished her detailed presentation, Ms. Pearson picked up our cards and called us up to the podium to discuss our views on the CAASPP testing. I focused my short presentation on 5 main points: 1. How surprised I was with the results, 2. Students are not aware how this test impacts us and our school, 3. We were never informed that sometimes CSUs look at these scores (Ms. Griffin explained this) and that if we had known that our effort level would have increased drastically, 4. Students are not motivated to try on this test, and 5. Students don’t try because there is no apparent effect on us.

After we spoke, the fun part of the meeting began with an almost heated debate between Mr. Ireland and Ms. Smith, over the points we brought up about motivation. The three of us awkwardly stood at the podium while this debate happened, unsure of when we were supposed to sit down.

After several minutes of back and forth between the two, we finally took our seats, and Vivian Hung went up in an attempt to resolve this debate. She presented an interesting alternative which she believes will motivate people to try harder: free breakfast. The whole board began to laugh and Mr. Ireland proclaimed, half joking half serious, that he would single-handedly buy hundreds of bagels if that is all it would take to motivate students.

After the tangent of Mr. Ireland buying the whole high school bagels ended, the meeting continued and discussed the California Dashboard with local indicators and the United Against Hate Movement. These topics did not interest me as much as the CAASPP testing, but it was really interesting to see how board members voted with seconding by saying “I” and raising their hands.

Overall, despite how long the meeting was, I found this experience very interesting. I enjoyed speaking to the school board and especially enjoyed what happened afterward with the heated discussion. Also, now CAASPP testing will be a little less brutal with help from Mr. Ireland and his free bagels.

After the meeting I conducted an interview with Stephanie Griffon, the Director of Instructional Technology.

Why they are there? What difficulties and problems brought them there?
– “Here to publically share the results of the District’s CAASPP testing. I also had to, required by the state, to report on our local indicators that we are going to report on the new accountability structure called the California Dashboard.”

What next step will they take to get their particular concern addressed?
– “We are going to be leading two more meetings in the L-cap, which will be digging more into the CAASPP results. This allows us to look more closely as opposed to overall, answer more questions, and discuss how those are going to affect our ranking and accountability measures by the state. Those sort of discussions inform possible changes to structures, courses, actions, and services to improve student learning. Feedback comes from students, teachers, and parents who have new ideas to help serve students better.”

 by Moxy Moss, Piedmont High School Senior


On October 10th, I attended a Piedmont Unified School District board meeting. The Board of Education meets every two weeks in the City Council Chambers. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the CAASPP test results and the California Dashboard. The CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress), which replaced the STAR test, are computer based assessments in English, Math, and Science.

The School Board was presented with the 2017-18 test results by Stephanie Griffin. The California Dashboard is a tool that helps districts and schools identify strengths and weaknesses in order to find student groups that may be struggling. The results are not just based on test results however, but multiple aspects to determine performance and growth.The California Dashboard was discussed to see Piedmont’s strengths and weaknesses. An info-graphic was presented to show where officials would like to see growth.

Superintendent Randall Booker said that PUSD raises up future leaders, therefore should be a student centered ecosystem. At the roots of the tree was the institution’s partnership with the community. Students come first, and the District wants to develop healthy, happy children that are proud of their identity. The big goal is for every graduate to be a leader of change.

Griffin also showed strengths of Piedmont. About 97% of PHS graduates had completed the A-G requirements. All students are equipped with textbooks, both virtual and physical. Students with disabilities met the requirements for the CAASPP test at about 50%, which was higher than the overall percentage achieved by all students across the state of California. Booker said that this shows how exceptional our teaching faculty are.

Stephanie Griffin, the Director of Instructional Technology, presented the CAASPP test results. In our 2017-18 results, Piedmont scored the second highest for K-12th grade in English Language, Arts and Mathematics. 87% of students met or exceeded the rigorous state standards. 84% met or exceeded in Mathematics, which was the same as the previous year. This may be an argument of stratification. It has been Piedmont’s fourth consecutive year as #1 in Northern California. We are currently the third school district in the state.

Some action items were:  continue the current instructional strategies, as that has clearly been shown to be beneficial; to have a case study on math outcomes in 11th grade, and to hold intervention programs at primary grades to ensure a good high school foundation.

A problem discussed during the meeting was that many students have felt unmotivated to achieve high scores and even to attend the CAASPP tests. A reason for this lack of motivation could be that many juniors have SAT, ACT and AP testing.

Roxy Moss, Dominic Arrabit, and Paige Ellis, all high school seniors, spoke on this problem. They said that many students were surprised at the results, they did not really make an effort. They felt that they were not given proper notification that these results would be very important.

Although Mr. Mapes was supposed to have told each class about the significance of their performance, Moss said she was not given any announcement by the former vice principal.

Sarah Pearson, the school board president, asked what the penalty would be if Piedmont had opted out of taking the test. If our school opted out, a penalty percentage would be applied to our percentage distance from standard, which is a measurement of how far a school is from grade standard.

Amal Smith, Vice President of the School Board, suggested that we focus on the message the test gives to students. Around this time of the school year, many students are focused on other testing that can make them extremely stressed out, which means that on top of the fact that they have used their energy for other important things, and if they don’t get the proper message from school officials, they will not be able to give their full attention to the CAASPP tests.

Doug Ireland, a School Board member, opposed that idea, stating that test taking is a student’s job.

Vivian Hung, a high school senior, proposed a solution. She suggested that the school offer free food, such as bagels for everyone, as an incentive. Many students will wait half of their lunch period just to get free food from ASB, which signifies how free food can be a big motivation.

Ireland was very interested in that solution, declaring that he would buy everyone bagels if it meant they would come to testing.

Griffin said that she will be leading two more meetings on the LCAP to dig more deeply on the CAASPP results. She stated, “those will effect Piedmont’s ranking and accountability measures by the state.” Additionally, Griffin says these discussions may “change structures, courses, actions, and services we offer to improve student learning everywhere.” The feedback she receives is from students, parents, and teachers.

In my opinion, I think the CAASPP tests are a waste of time. With not understanding the ramifications and not being particularly motivated, it is hard to try if you don’t need to, especially if you have better things to study for. Many students were clicking through the test not to sit around and do nothing, but to finish homework or study for tests. I even knew a girl who opted out of the testing so she could study for an AP Biology test. Because of the AP Bio test, I wanted to use as much time as I could get to study, so I didn’t try very hard on the math sections and clicked through some.

With all the stress, especially being a junior, I think the school should make teachers keep the workload of their classes low, at least for the week where CAASPP testing. This would take away some of the stress from the testing and could increase the effort put into student performance.

The purpose of this school board is to discuss upcoming goals for the district, approve and/or adopt any resolutions, and listen to any comments made by the public.

by Angela Huang, Piedmont High School Senior


Piedmont Board of Education Meeting on October 10th, 2018

The Piedmont Board of Education is a five-member group that discusses the education system and environment as a whole and makes decisions based on what they think is best for our community. They generally meet on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month at 7:00 pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall. At this particular meeting on October 10th, 2018, the board discussed a couple of issues, including the Piedmont Education Foundation, the new CAASPP testing, and the indicators for our schools.

On the topic of the Piedmont Education Foundation, a staff member of the Foundation addressed the need for more funds from the Giving Campaign in order to fund both the Spring Fling and their other events. The Board seemed to support these requests and agreed to continue to work with the Education Foundation.

Then, a student representative from Piedmont High School’s Student Body talked about the current events at the school and possible upcoming changes. Afterwards, Superintendent Booker discussed the newly hired teachers in the Spanish and Physics departments and also touched on the future STEAM building plans.

After the student and Mr. Booker finished their announcements, they then moved to the discussion of the CAASPP testing.

Ms. Griffin, Piedmont High School’s Director of Instructional Technology, made a slideshow presentation of the background, results, and comparisons of this new form of testing where the board commented and asked questions about the results they saw and hoped to see. They discussed whether the testing was good for students so close to other testing.

There was some disagreement among board members. One argued that students already have enough pressure with finals coming up and standardized testing as well. However, another reminded them that this test was essential to the profile of our school and that ultimately, would benefit students when applying to college.

Students from the audience then brought up how they did not feel an incentive to try on the CAASPP testing because they did not understand the importance of it and were too busy worrying about other tests and commitments.

Another student suggested that free breakfast be provided to give that incentive for students to come and actually try on the test. Personally, I liked the idea of providing a real incentive for students, food being a really good one, since it is an important test for our school and will benefit us in the long run.

After interviewing Ms. Griffin, she said that they would have two more meetings that would be “digging more into the CAASPP results” and “talk about how those [results] are going to affect our ranking and our accountability measures by the state.” They will also discuss how they would take student, parent, and teacher feedback to possibly change structures or courses to improve student learning.

Next, was another presentation by Ms. Griffin regarding indicators for our school showing if it met all the education standards, including faculty and facilities. These measures could help determine the areas our schools could improve in and those that we are doing well in.

This was the conclusion of the Presentation portion and the board moved onto the Review in Action segment of the meeting. Dr. Wozniak, the assistant superintendent, brought forth the items to be agreed on. The first one was about sufficient textbooks and resources for each student regarding their courses and all members were in favor of the measure.

The second was on the “United Against Hate Week”, where they asked for the board’s support in this and all gladly approved this action as well. After these decisions were made, Ms. Cavenaugh announced her appreciation for the board’s acceptance and emphasis on unity, which is making our community a better place. Finally, the board members shared what they had done prior to the meeting, for example, some toured the elementary schools.

by Ashley Gao, Piedmont High  School Senior


One Response to “Free Breakfast to Encourage Student Test Takers ?”

  1. Clarification to Ms. Gao’s piece – Piedmont Education Foundation does not raise money from the Giving Campaign to fund Spring Fling and other events. PEF raises money from both the Giving Campaign and Spring Fling, as well as the Harvest Festival, Partners in Education, and a myriad of other campaigns and appeals to fund the work of PUSD for the benefit of Piedmont’s students and schools.

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