Student Performance as Community Soundness

By: Natalie Vang

Standardized testing has been a staple in the United States education system. Schools create high-stakes testing environments in which teachers push students to strive for perfection. Standardized tests aren’t inherently wrong. After all, schools and states must have some way to receive feedback about how well students are learning. Although measuring school effectiveness was a key motivation for creating standardized tests, those tests are now used to judge student intelligence rather than as an instrument for evaluating teaching quality and school outcomes in my opinion.

Many students in Stockton Unified School District perform poorly on standardized tests, which is disappointing. When students cannot demonstrate proficiency on standardized tests, it is a sign that our community is not well. Stockton is a city of great potential, yet that potential will never manifest if students exit school unprepared to make significant contributions.

More concerning is the truth that some students will leave Stockton schools more prepared than others. The distinction between ready and not ready is often denoted by student race. During the 2020–21 school year, Black high school juniors had the highest net negative for English Language Arts scores across the main SUSD school districts. We saw similar results for Hispanic/Latino students, who only performed slightly better. Surrounding communities of Lodi, Stockton, and Lincoln followed the same trend across racial lines, although the actual percentages differed.

While many data sets were missing information, available data demonstrated how severely schools across Stockton are failing students. The alarming performance gaps between students underscore my sentiment about things not being well. We must see school performance as a metric for measuring community soundness, and perhaps we would then rally in support of our students.

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