Editor's note: Should teachers retroactively raise semester grades for students who test proficient or advanced in the California Standards Test?
A group of Del Norte High School students submitted letters dealing with the issue. Here are excerpts:
People are always talking about the California Standards Test (CST), but no one ever seems to ask us, the students, the ones who actually take the test, how we feel about it! You recently had a letter that you printed on June 10 from Lisa Kramer ("Grades should reflect a full semester of work"). She stated that how improving someone's grade for performing well on the CST is unethical. I disagree in many ways!
I disagree because many students just go through and bubble in answers, but there are some that actually read and answer all the questions. Those who do take the test and improve should have the right to get their grade bumped up a letter grade. If you have noticed, students have been doing very well on the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), but not on the CST. If you don't pass the CAHSEE test, you don't get to graduate until you pass it. Maybe they should start thinking about making the CST more like the CAHSEE.
- Aari Sharp
For once I actually support the teachers on this one. I believe rewarding kids with academic excellence is an outstanding idea. If a child can obtain an over-achieving score, then they are smart enough to get a passing grade. I also support the idea that a student cannot achieve an "A" grade because I believe an "A" is a grade that is reflected from inside the classroom.
Second off, kids will always strive for a reward. Isn't this the American culture? It is always something for something. Well, that's how we were raised. If we do not reward kids, the kids will not effectively try to pass the test.
- Jordan Lacy
Before rewards were offered for students, they would just randomly bubble in the bubbles and the test scores were incredibly low. Now that they're being offered a little reward, they are actually trying on the test.
... With more kids trying, the test scores will be higher and that makes the school look better. I don't see what the problem with that is.
- Meagan Orton
The tests are supposed to be an overview of what we've learned and it's not wrong to be rewarded for learning. I have a hard time with organization and I've had this problem since I was in grade school. I do my homework and participate in classroom assignments, but I lose most of my work and it takes a terrible toll on my grade. I am a great test taker and I think that the importance shouldn't lie in the work you do, but your ability to reflect on it and prove that you actually gained something.
I believe that raising a grade for showing that you actually learned something and paid attention isn't a bad thing. Some kids just let things flow in one ear and out the other or write things down, not recollecting any of it afterward. They don't learn anything, yet they are getting a better grade than me?
- Meagan Anderson
When a student, such as I, is handed a 90-question test and told that it has no effect on them at all, then they're not going to complete it with all of their effort.
... Student incentives for state testing are, in my opinion, completely ethical and necessary. Without them our already low scores would be even lower. Thank you for your time and understanding.
- Mikie Tyce
The current incentives are the only reason that a lot of students try. I've seen the majority of a class complete the CST in under five minutes. The students at Del Norte High School find it hard to take the testing seriously when their graduation isn't at stake.
- Joshua Kaupang
I have been taking the CST all my life and knowing that it has no effect on our grades makes me not have a lot of ambition to get a high score. Having high scores throughout our school helps with funding. So, that being the case, teachers try to get us prepared to try our best on the test.
Is it wrong for them to want us to do well so that we can have more funding to better help our school? Giving us incentive saying that they will raise our grade if we score proficient is not wrong.
- Casey Walch
I am 17 and am a junior at Del Norte High. I always try my best, not only to improve my grade for the semester, but I also learn a lot. And also I would recommend students to request their grade be changed and provide their teacher with the necessary forms.
- Rocio Aleman
The incentive program helps kids who need it the most by helping them get ahead if they missed the work for some reason. In the most extreme cases, all it does is raise your grade from an "F" to a "C," which is not exactly high. As a teacher you should know that. While I have never needed to use the incentives, I know that many people would fail and maybe drop out of high school. The incentive program offers kids who missed a month or two due to illness or a family disaster to get up to a passing grade.
... Should the incentive program be discontinued, more students will fail, more kids will drop out and more teachers will be laid off.
- Bryce Hawley-Jones
I don't really agree to this form of testing incentive. For example most students in class are completing all class assignments to earn a "B" when another student can get away with not doing any class assignments, have a low grade and score high on the CST and make up that grade by one letter grade.
- B. Hensel
I think that CSTs are a waste of time, are costing the state too much money and are useless. Those tests are the most tedious, long and repetitive tests ever. All kids hate taking those tests. We have been taking them since around second grade and we practically know the instructions like the back of our hands. The students hate taking them and the teachers hate making you take the test because they are pointless.
... So the test is useless. They should be checking our grades because a lot of kids are really bad test takers so they could do really bad on the tests, but they actually have really good or decent grades.
- Lissette Villanueva
The teachers of our school have decided to offer us some incentives to try hard and actually take these tests. I, along with others, agree this is more effective than just trying to force us to take the test. There is no crime in persuasion, just the good-willed intentions of teachers trying to make our high school years a little easier.
- Graysen Olson
As for lowering the grades, as well as raising them, that's a debatable issue. Since students dread this test, giving them a reward of a positive grade change was a simple and effective answer to getting more students to try on the test. It's the one stress-free test. Why add more pressure?
As a student, I personally think we take enough tests during the school year that we have to study and stress over, because there's always the chance of failing it and having that reflect poorly on your grade. The chance for a fool-proof test inspired students to try, so don't take away an opportunity for students to excel and only excel.
- Brilynn Welch
The CST has no impact on our grade so we are basically taking that test for the school and the state of California. Consequently, the high school must offer an incentive so we will do well. This only makes sense. I mean, would you work for free? Well, neither will we.
We work when it matters. We are not falling behind in school. In fact, more than 80 percent of my peers passed their high school exit exam on their first try. Our government should take a look at this test and evaluate what this test is really doing and the benefit for the students and teachers.
- Kyle Schiavone
It's a plus that if we do well on the CST then we can up our grade, but in a way it's not fair to others. Some do very well on tests but never do class work and others do all their class work and fail the tests. Having a test be worth so many points makes it really stressful. Also, I feel cheated because I try on all the tests including the CST and I don't get anywhere with them. If I want to pass my classes I have to do all my class work and go every day that I can.
... I don't think that our grade should be affected in any way by the test. It's not meant to in the first place, it's all to see how we're progressing. I think the grade that you finished your year with is the grade you should be stuck with. It shows what you did to deserve it. If someone goes and takes the CST and gets lucky on it, it doesn't really show much about what they know. It's too sketchy to change someone's grade that was already given the grade they deserved.
- Tracey Wardlow
I believe that the kids who care about their future will try on the CST and put in effort on it, but most kids don't care because it doesn't affect their grade if they just bubble. Most of the kids who would be eligible for the grade change don't need it because they are the students that try in class and most likely aren't failing.
- James Matthews