STAR Testing Needs to Be Taken Seriously

Most people think of STAR testing and roll their eyes in disdain. After all, it is just more standardized testing, something that takes up valuable time and in recent years has not contributed to the school’s academic reputation. However, STAR testing does have real benefits. Though STAR testing ended last week, both students and teachers should adopt the mentality that you can never do “too well” on the tests. Everyone should strive to continuously improve these scores because of the weight the scores carry. Admittedly the STAR test means that teachers must teach “to the test” and exclude some material from their curriculums. “Sadly, a lot of fun stuff … [and] taking a more in-depth look at certain subjects had to go away because you just don’t have time,” science teacher Lisa Bolton said. But going through more material means that students get a broader understanding of the general subject and could actually help them study for other tests. The Academic Performance Index (API) score, which is heavily dependent upon the school’s overall STAR testing scores, is an excellent way to measure how the school is doing, whether certain programs are working and if teachers should be focusing more on a certain area in the curriculum. This is an objective method of “grading;” the scores from STAR testing are accurately used to measure LAHS against other schools. All schools are measured against a statewide standard of what students in each grade should know. While some may argue that STAR testing is just a way for schools to boost their own rankings and does not benefit the actual students, there is no harm in that. Schools with high API scores often get monetary and incentive awards, so boosting the school’s ranking would in fact benefit students—those monetary awards would be invested in improving classes, programs and resources. The fact that Los Altos’ API dropped from 802 to 795 last year, compared to Mountain View’s increase from 833 to 854 and Palo Alto’s increase from 883 to 900, should be a serious wake-up call. Something definitely needs to be changed. “It’s sort of embarrassing … that our score dropped again,” junior Julia Samuelson said. So while many students bemoan the loss of tutorial periods in the past few months, STAR test prep is indeed necessary, even if the specific methods are not perfect. “I’d rather have tutorial, but it’s good we’re doing something,” freshman Emily Johnson said. Students are definitely capable of high academic achievement; for the past several years, students have exceeded national averages on the SAT Reasoning Exam. The problem with STAR testing is not with the actual test itself, but students’ attitudes. When no one takes it seriously, STAR testing does indeed become a nuisance. “It’s tough to hold anyone more accountable for their [STAR testing] scores,” Bolton said. The school’s reputation inevitably declines, which has serious consequences. College acceptances could be influenced by the school’s ranking in terms of API and STAR test performance. Despite complaints about Tutorial being taken away and standardized testing’s apparent uselessness, students should not view STAR testing negatively. It could bring benefits to everyone, and students need to take them seriously so the results shed a more positive light on the school’s image.