The long-awaited return to in-person instruction for all Pajaro Valley Unified School District students begins on April 5. As we build our “new normal,” our commitment is to make the most of our instructional time. For this reason, at our Feb. 24 Board meeting, the PVUSD Board of Trustees passed a resolution in favor of waiving the annual statewide standardized testing. We hope that the federal government will heed the requests of our district and the California Department of Education.
If you are not familiar with the different kinds of testing that the State of California requires our district to use, the acronyms can blend together. The various assessments serve unique purposes. Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) creates standardized tests that align with common core standards. Multiple states (such as California, Maine and Nevada) use their assessment tools. California’s tests are known as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System. Under normal circumstances, these tests give the district data regarding how our students perform in language arts, mathematics and science; all compared to other students in the nation. This information helps guide our decisions about where to focus academic resources to support student success.
However, this year has been particularly disruptive to learning. In addition to the stress of the pandemic alone, many families are experiencing economic hardship. This academic year started with a natural disaster in the form of wildfires in our area. The information we would obtain from these tests will simply not be reliable—there are too many confounding factors. Additionally, we know that these circumstances likely had a negative impact on learning. Taking additional time away from instruction is not a prudent use of our resources.
Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests are different. They are a part of our Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan, which the state required every district to complete to gauge the effects of the pandemic on learning. As a district, we are continuing to support MAP testing. While these assessments are standardized to students throughout the country, they also give us valuable information about student progress within our district. PVUSD conducts MAP testing three times a year: Fall, Winter and Spring. As a result, we can gauge progress within the context of what is happening in a particular year. Are we at least seeing a year’s progress in math and reading—even with all that is going on? If not, what supports do students and staff need to make up that difference? If we do not have the internal resources to provide those supports, how can we coordinate other options to obtain what we need? As conditions improve, are we starting to see students close the educational gaps caused by these unprecedented circumstances? And because MAP testing data is tracked year after year, the district can better target our responses to these questions.
While we are not opposed to all standardized testing, we want to be mindful of what we are asking of our students, parents, staff and community. We feel that while MAP testing helps fulfill our mission to “support students in reaching their highest potential,” CAASPP testing does not—at this time. Our PVUSD community has power. We encourage community members to advocate for a waiver of CAASPP testing for the 2020-21 school year. This waiver comes from the United States Department of Education. Whether or not your household has a PVUSD student, if you feel that CAASPP testing is not appropriate for this year, please contact Dr. Miguel Cardona, United States Secretary of Education. You can send a letter to him at 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202, call him at 1-800-872-5327 or send him a social media message at @SecCardona.
A humbling aspect of becoming a school board trustee is realizing how many different considerations go into every decision. This column is PVUSD’s community outreach to clarify how the board arrives at its decisions. Jennifer Holm is President of the PVUSD Board of Trustees and Jennifer Schacher is the Vice-President. Their views are her own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian. Contact Holm at [email protected] and Schacher at [email protected].