PTA survey finds parents still in the dark on new testing
(Calif.) Despite a multi-year effort by the state to prepare for new testing aligned to the Common Core, a survey of parents reasonably engaged in their children’s schooling found a majority still had little or no understanding of the new assessment system.
The self-selected poll of more than 3,000 families conducted in September by the California Parent Teachers Association also revealed more than a third of parents reported getting no information at all from their districts about last spring’s testing while another third said what details they did get were only “slightly helpful and understandable.”
News of the PTA findings comes in the wake of September’s release of the first round of scoring under the new California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress or CAASPP and the arrival of some 3.2 million individual student reports through the mail. PTA officials said last week the results suggest a lot more needs to be done to bring parents up to speed about the new testing and what the scores mean.
“I think there’s probably a lot of parents who heard last spring that their child would be taking new tests but now that the scores have been sent home, they are now sitting up and asking a lot of questions,” Celia Jaffe, PTA’s vice president for education, said in an interview.
“So we have a lot of work to do – no question – but that’s not to say that schools haven’t been trying,” she explained. “Parents don’t necessarily pay attention to everything that comes home and sometimes it’s difficult for state or even local district officials to put on the parent hat and understand which of the nitty-gritty things parents want to know.”
The Common Core State Standards were adopted in 2010 under the Schwarzenegger administration and cover both English language arts and mathematics. Largely because of budget restraints, California was slow to transition to the new curriculum goals but now is recognized as one of the national leaders building the infrastructure needed to fully integrate the standards into day-to-day activities in the classroom.
The new assessment system, piloted in 2014, was administered officially last spring to students in grades three through eight and 11. Although most educators consider the first set of scores as a baseline, the results were somewhat disappointing: only 44 percent of all students met or exceeded the English language arts standard and just 33 percent reached the same benchmark in math.
The education community tried to warn against comparing the new results to scores from the prior statewide assessment system because they were based on a different set of curriculum goals. Most news outlets made the comparison anyway, likely adding to confusion among parents about what the scores mean.
The survey from the PTA suggests most parents were coming into the issue armed with little good information: 54 percent said they had no understanding or only a slight understanding about the CAASPP.
The poll found that 36 percent reported getting no information about the testing and 34 percent said the information they did get was not or only slightly helpful.
“Whether or not they were reading everything that came home or weren’t provided enough materials, the parents came into the fall this year – based on our findings – not really having a good idea about what to expect from the score report,” Jaffe said.
The survey, which wasn’t controlled to reflect a broad cross-section of the community, was offered through various PTA channels during the last weeks of September. About 3,000 parents participated in the effort.