Last spring, students in Mariposa County took state tests that were unlike any that the kids had taken before.
The tests, known as the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, require students to not only figure out answers, but to show how they got the answer, and even write a little paragraph about the answer.
Not only are the tests something the students have never seen, the teachers in the Mariposa County Unified School District were also working on a learning curve.
And those students did pretty well on the tests.
“I am actually quite pleased with our results,” said Robin Hopper, superintendent of the school district. “It’s going to take a lot of time to adjust to this new way of testing of the standards.”
The results of the testing backs up Hopper’s satisfaction with those results.
In 11th grade English language arts and literacy, 87 students in the district took the test. Of those students, 16 percent exceeded the standard, 33 percent met the standard, 30 percent nearly met the standard and 21 percent didn’t meet the standards.
When compared to the overall state results, 11th graders in Mariposa County pretty much mirrored the rest of the state.
Across the state, 23 percent of 11th-graders exceeded the standards, 33 percent met the standards, 24 percent nearly met the standards and 20 percent didn’t meet the standards.
The students who took the tests not only were tested with new types of questions, they also had to be very literate in technology.
“It’s quite an adjustment to the students,” Hopper said. “Just the keyboard skills they have to have is difficult.”
Although the students who are in school now have grown up with the technology that helps them with the tests, there are still differences from the old way of testing that is difficult for some students.
“It’s like comparing apples to watermelons,” Hopper said. “There is no comparison between the new tests and the old ones. “It’s a huge learning curve, not just for students but also for teachers.”
In order to make sure students in the district are able to learn the technology they need in school nowadays, every student in sixth through 12th grades has a personal Chromebook.
“We know that a personal electronic device isn’t the be all and end all, but it is the future,” Hopper said.
The state has put examples of tests on the CAASPP Web site, and the questions aren’t easy.
“There’s a lot more writing in these tests than the old ones,” Hopper said. “Students may watch a video clip, read a paragraph and then justify their answers.”
Hopper said students are required to do a lot more writing in the new tests, and there are no more multiple choice questions.
While students are taking the tests, the technology adjusts to the students. Two students sitting next to each other and taking the same test may not get the same questions.
Hopper said she believes the testing is a positive step forward in guaranteeing that students in the county receive a first-class education.
And for the next few months, district administrators, teachers, parents and members of the community will be analyzing the data that comes from these examinations.
“I am very, very pleased with the results,” Hopper said. “I do feel we can do better, and there’s always room to grow. But we did as well as students throughout the state, and even exceeded the state level at some grades.”
Robin Hopper Superintendent Mariposa CA