By Laurel Brodzinsky, Courier Staff Writer
Every year, students at James Logan dread taking the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) tests, which were given every morning last week.
Students take these tests every year from second grade to eleventh, in an attempt for the state to “measure students' progress toward achieving California's state-adopted academic content standards, which describe what students should know and be able to do in each grade and subject tested,” says the STAR testing organization. There are alternative tests for students with varying levels of disabilities. The specific tests taken by most students depend on grade level and the classes taken (for instance, what math class the student is in).
The results from STAR testing are released in the summer, last year in August. They classify students per subject as "advanced," "proficient," "basic," "below basic," and "far below basic".
Since 2003, the percentage of proficient and advanced (proficient being the target level for all students) has increased by 15 points in English, and 11 in math. Since 2006, the percentage of proficient or higher students has increased by 15 points.
However, the percentages of passing students in English and math is still no where near the goal of 100% in 2013-2014 set by the No Child Left Behind Act.
The number of middle schools and high schools meeting their goals of annual yearly progress has been decreasing over the years.
By failing to meet school goals, state funding is affected and the schools must focus on program improvement. That means less time actually learning for students, and more time of teachers frantically pushing for students to pass the test. This makes school even worse for students who are bored or not understanding material. Changes in funding for schools affect the programs (band, forensics, sports, etc) that schools can offer, the classes they can offer and the materials they can provide.
Seniors have been elated not to have to test this year, and have mornings off of school. They recall STAR testing being “boring”, “pointless”, “annoying”, and “tedious”. Those who still have to take the tests groan with the thought of long periods of testing. Many don’t actually take the test, just bubble in random answers or make patterns on the Scantron sheet.
An anonymous junior criticized the questions as “being stupid questions” that are too easy. The types of questions asked seem to actually encourage the mind to drift off daydreaming. Because there are no tangible direct consequences of doing poorly on the tests, since most are unaware of the effects of funding and special programs, students are unmotivated to even try to do well.
One student recalls “falling asleep during the test, and woke up with like five minutes left”.
Students hate the tests overwhelmingly, and teachers begrudge the lost class time and emphasis on test scores instead of understanding material.
This year, the administration has tried bribery to get students to show up to STAR testing. Prizes of free sandwiches, pizzas, a laptop, an Ipod, etc. have been announced in the last five minutes of school this week for students that have been on time to their testing classes (3rd period).
Are we truly resorting to bribery in order to achieve “academic excellence”? Given this, the feelings of students and teachers, and apparent failure of the program to push the percentage of passing students up, it is time for a change.
Continuing on this path isn’t helping anyone, least of all the students that the system is “leaving behind”, as now there are less resources and less time to try and help them