CAASPP testing is useless

Swasti Singhai, Staff Writer

On April 15, I celebrated my 10-year anniversary of standardized testing. The CAASPP test I took a few weeks ago was no different than the dozens of others I’ve taken— seemingly unnecessary, time-consuming, and frankly, its purpose unclear. 

In the testing room, my proctors began by announcing that the test had no bearing on college acceptances, shooting down the sole reason a majority of the junior class was even taking the test in the first place. They told us that the scores could be used for placement in English and math courses at California State universities. So, to be clear, a test we take in junior year, one whose content is relatively unknown until the day of, determines courses nearly two years later, in our freshman year of college. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the SAT or ACT was a mandatory part of a student’s application to nearly all colleges. The SAT has an English and math section, but I’ve scarcely heard of its use as a placement test. Many colleges, including the UCs, often use AP test scores  for course placement and awarding credits. Some schools administer their own placement tests as well. 

Even if we disregard the multitude of standardized tests that could be used as placement tests, the lack of transparency with the CAASPP test results in low participation—in most students’ minds, there simply is no incentive to take it. Within the number of students who do ultimately decide to take it, there’s a far lower percentage of students who participate with anywhere near the amount of effort put into AP tests or the SAT. And while the tests may factor into some state-wide rankings of schools, the implications of such rankings are not clear, or even mentioned, on the CAASPP website or the state’s Department of Education website. 

In years prior, schools that failed to meet a certain benchmark average score laid out by the state had funding withheld. That logic itself is counterintuitive—a school clearly lacking resources and not meeting the threshold should be provided more funding, resources, and training, not issued a punishment. 

The score reports the CAASPP tests are also generally released in the fall, and while the score report does show your score relative to the average score in the state, the results aren’t interpreted in much detail. A number given to you to measure your performance in the 200s range really gives no further explanation, something even the SAT score reports do if you opt to view your score-breakdown. 

Besides the practice tests I ran across when researching the CAASPP, the standards it aims to assess are unclear. I’ve taken the Integrated math series and Calculus, but I’ve never encountered some of the types of problems that were being tested. For the essay portion of the reading test, everyone I knew received vastly different prompts. Some had years of background knowledge on what they were asked to write an essay on, others couldn’t care less. The test, though “standardized,” is inherently subjective. A grader who has years of journalism experience may be less understanding reading an essay about biology, for one. 

So if these tests really aren’t being used for anything that another standardized test isn’t doing, why are we still doing them? Why are we wasting over six hours, nearly a full school day, to take them? I sure don’t know, and judging by the lack of clarity online, it doesn’t seem like anyone else knows either.