Carol Galic: Math testing reports are complex |

Carol Galic: Math testing reports are complex

Regarding Thea Hood’s remarks on state math testing in the Jan. 13 “Hits & Misses” column:

First, as Ms. Hood failed to acknowledge, it should be noted that the state reporting site warns, “Due to factors surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, testing participation in 2020-21 varied. Care should be used when interpreting results.”

As a retired elementary math specialist, I would like Ms. Hood to know that a summary report from the California Collaborative on District Reform back in 2018 showed that (between 2015 and 2018):

1) Test scores are rising very slowly, (2) fewer than 39% of students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 met or exceeded math standards, (3) overall math scores rose by about 1.1 points from last year, (4) California’s achievement gap is still a chasm, and (5) test scores for 11th graders took a nose dive. (These data can also be found through multiple other sources).

So, be clear, this past year’s SBAC data are not an outlier. There continue to be multiple hurdles with math achievement in the state from curriculum design, teacher education, number of minutes permitted to teach math, class size, lack of flexibility on the part of some administrations, flawed testing, families not having the background in today’s mathematics education and topics, and property tax based funding for schools.

We have multiple models from around the world on how to improve mathematical thinking and performance for students, but have generally been unwilling to make deep system wide structural changes, including convincing the general public that these changes have benefits to us as a nation.

When mathematics standards were revised in California, we were warned that it would take a generation, if not longer, to bring our math students up to world class levels.

In addition, how testing data is reported is tiered. It is not a matter of meeting or not meeting standards. I find it remarkable that California students and their teachers did as well as they did. When evaluating and reporting data trends, it’s always important to look past the headline and try for more complex, nuanced information. For a simple breakdown of the 2018-19 math test data, check out the California Assessment of Student Progress website.

Carol Galic

Nevada City


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