By Brandon Yung
The test results from last year’s Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) were announced during a school board meeting on September 8. Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Ms Christiane Gervais gave a presentation on the results for all of the participating grades within the district, including the Class of 2016.
A total of 307 juniors took the English Language Arts test; 297 took Mathematics. From this group, 26% did not meet the English language achievement standards, and 43% of students failed to meet the math achievement standards. Overall, however, around 70% of South Pasadena students met or exceeded standards in both ELA and Math for almost every grade, while the only notable exception was the low performance in 11th grade math.
The previous year’s juniors were part of the first year of students to take part in the SBAC, a test designed adjacent to the Common Core curriculum. Some speculation as to the reasons behind South Pasadena’s low math scores scores surrounded the possibilities associated with the unfamiliar format. “Some of the [students] didn’t even know that there was a calculator available [on the computers] for them to use during the test,” Commissioner of Internal Affairs Kristen Kafkaloff said.
Gervais explained that a lack of student participation may have caused some of the poor test results, because many of those who didn’t participate were AP students who didn’t have much incentive for to study for the SBAC. This may explain the anomaly in the 11th grade math scores. However, the same conflict of interests were present in other competing schools.
“[The other school districts] don’t have the lag that we are reporting. Their 11th grade scores are more in line with their other grade levels,” Gervais said. “There must have been an incorrect assumption that this was a field test… I think the message that it not being included in the API (Academic Performance Index) may have been misunderstood.”
While the overall scores of the school district prove to be competitive, the issue of the low participation rate and math scores still remain a subject of concern throughout district faculty.
“[The results] were not as high as we would like them to be, but I also don’t think it’s a number that should frighten anyone. I think it is something we can improve,” Math Department Chair Andrew McGough said. “The big problem I have with the test as it stands is that there’s really no incentive for the students to put in effort.”