Smarter Balance?

States look to new ways to approach junior testing

Megan Dean, Reporter

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Spring Break, a much needed mental break for teachers and students alike. With the break done, students might expect to simply ease themselves into school mode again, but don’t get too far into that state of mind if you’re a junior. Get ready because here they come: state English test, AP testing, and the state math test. But wait there’s more! Not only do juniors have these huge tests, they happen to be consecutive weeks.

Juniors, don’t fret; you can put your soapboxes away; we aren’t the first and probably won’t be the last junior class to have the weeks of anxiety attacks, for California that is. However, elsewhere a shift in junior testing is taking place in the United States.

In case you’re keeping a running score, that is a total of four tests a junior should be taking to be on track for college (the English test, math test, SAT, and ACT) in addition to any AP tests a student may be taking. While the SAT and ACT aren’t necessarily a part of the panic weeks -if you will- they are still as much a stressor during this time. In fact, the next SAT juniors could be taking does indeed fall in this time as it is scheduled for May 6.

Aside from AP testing, which is testing whether or not a student can perform at the college level, the other tests assess the same basic concept: college readiness.

With that in mind, what determines which tests are used by the state?

In terms of the panic weeks, the state of California requires the SBAC tests as a mean of federal accountability. However, this is only one method the state could approach testing by the terms laid out in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which took effect in 2015. ESSA allows states to use college-entrance exams rather than standards-based tests to oversee high school performance.

According to Education Week, “Seven states have won permission from the U.S. Department of Education to use SAT or ACT for federal accountability.”

This means that students do not have to take both the SBAC and SAT or ACT, but rather they only have to take the SAT or ACT. Of course there is wide controversy over the effectiveness of this type of accountability.

“How well a national exam can reflect state standards is a central—and unanswered—question in the use of college-entrance exams for accountability purposes,” said Education Week.

Likewise the question of whether or not the goal is to measure grade level performance or college entry performance remains.

Clovis High learning director Donelle Kellom said, “ I think it’s only fair that you would look at a test that is based off of grade level standards.”

Students should be prepared for the state tests because that is what they have been taught throughout the year. On the other hand, students are not necessarily taught how to take the SAT or ACT meaning the preparation for testing would have to change should the SAT or ACT replace the state tests.

The reason this would be helpful is because high school itself is stressful especially as an upperclassman, and additional stress seems to spark left and right during the weeks after spring break. Academically, teens are facing prepping for finals, 12 week grades, and of course any state required testing. Outside the classroom, teens are battling for prom dates, getting ready for graduation, and finishing the competitive spring sport season. The balancing act is insane, especially for all this to be happening at once.

“I don’t like it being all at once. I think it would be better if it was spread out,” said junior Allison Schindler.

While the concept of participating in this transition seems brilliant from a student’s perspective, it is still uncharted territory. However, the concept of reducing the test load on students from 3-4 to 1-2 would help students. Joining Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming in this new age of high school testing may be something for California to consider for the sake of its juniors’ sanity.

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Smarter Balance?