Ventura High state test scores show a shocking trend

Tatum Luoma and Sam Hicks

Declining test scores could have detrimental effects for VHS

The CAASPP test, all juniors in the state of California are required to take it. School officials even went around to classes, lecturing on the importance of the test. But what do the test scores we receive every year really mean? 

CAASPP stands for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress. Each year, juniors throughout the state of California participate in mandatory testing in Math, English and Science. These tests represent the level of proficiency in the subject areas tested.

Scores from the CAASPP are totalled by school and  ranked into five different color groups on the California School Dashboard: red, orange, yellow, green and blue, red being the lowest and blue being the highest. The areas that are ranked in this system are English Language Arts, Mathematics, College and Career, Graduation Rate and Suspension Rate. So, where does Ventura High School fall on this testing spectrum? According to the California School Dashboard, in 2018 VHS was 8.3 points below for English Language Arts (a 29.7 point decline from 2017) and 83.8 points below average for Mathematics (a 17.6 point decline from 2017). Not only this, but only 43.4 percent of VHS students were deemed prepared and ready for college. These scores place Ventura in the second to last color, orange.

VHS is ranked lower in English Language Arts and math than both Buena High School and Foothill Technology High School. BHS is only 5.1 points below in English Language Arts and 78.1 points below in Mathematics; Foothill is 43.9 points above in English Language Arts and 21.6 points below standard in Mathematics. 

Furthermore, the suspension rate here at VHS is higher than that of both BHS and Foothill, with 5.2 percent of students being suspended at VHS compared to 4.8 percent and 1.7 percent at BHS and Foothill respectively. 

Why is it that VHS has such a low math score? If students simply did not care about testing, then both math and English scores would be equally below standard. When asked what he thinks is the reasoning behind our school’s sub-par math testing, VHS math teacher Mark Tolkmitt said, “One of the biggest things is [that] we no longer offer a Math 1 or Math 1 equivalent in 8th grade, so what’s happened is you are taking a group of students who used to be able to excel throughout the curriculum and holding them back. So for example, you won’t see a 10th grader in Math 3 unless they came from another district.” Tolkmitt continued, explaining that this concept is “holding students back . . . we’ve impeded students advancement.” 

The extremely low math scores at VHS may simply be that the school is no longer allowing students to advance, rather they are being held back by classes that are not rigorous enough. Tolkmitt also added that these scores may be low as a result from “the transition made to adopt the new Common Core.” 

All California schools are reviewed by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges to improve schools and assure quality education for all California students. According to WASC, schools are accreditted if they meet “an acceptable level of quality in accordance with established criteria”. With the WASC review looming over the administration’s heads, will this year’s junior class be able to raise our scores to a higher standard? If VHS does not meet the standards set by WASC, we are no longer an accredited school. This means that VHS would no longer be  recognized by WASC as a quality learning establishment. Stay tuned for a follow up article on