The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Teachers Successful in Stressing Importance of STAR Testing

In the last six years, students have improved the school’s Academic Performance Index (API) significantly. API is California’s system for measuring school performance and improvement. It represents student performance on the STAR tests and is based off of a score as low as 200 to a high score of 1000. Last year, in 2012, Los Altos students reflected a score of 888, well above the state’s goal of 800 for all schools. This year, the school sought to build on this trend of improvement with a goal of 900. For this reason, it is commendable that teachers stressed the importance of taking the STAR tests seriously and performing to the best of a student’s ability.

“It’s good for Los Altos students or anybody out there in the public—parents, colleges, employers—to think ‘Wow, Los Altos is a really good school,’” Assistant Principal Galen Rosenberg said. “Most people decide that based off of our API score. We want to keep our record going up. We’ve kind of had this goal of 900, which is really really good for a diverse school like Los Altos. There are not many other high schools that get 900s.”

It’s not possible to meet this goal without the cooperation of students. However, some students felt that, despite the benefits that the tests bring to the school, STAR testing is just not worth the time.

“Honestly, I think the STAR test is such a waste of time,” junior Jasmine Pedroza said. “Most of the criteria that they test you on is information that you learned last year or maybe even the year before that. It’s never really relevant so it’s hard to take it seriously. Although, I do like that we get out earlier on the days of testing.”

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There is a general consensus among many students; most see the short school days as the only benefit. Some teachers also feel that the test is lacking.

“I think the STAR test is a very limited way to assess learning,” history teacher Seth Donnelly said. “The United States History assessment, for example, is based primarily on memorization, and while I think that some of the data that you need to know is legitimate, there are other things that are very important that are absent from the STAR test.”

Whether this is true or not, the STAR tests have a lot more going for them than early dismissal.

“While I do think that [the STAR tests] are not the best tests ever written in terms of assessing student learning, knowledge and skill, they do give valuable information to students about how they’re doing,” Rosenberg said. “So if you take the test seriously, or rather, just give your best effort, you do learn something meaningful about your understanding of biology or your knowledge of Algebra 2, of history, or of English. I think it’s good for students to get this outside objective assessment on how well they’re doing in addition to what they get in class, but you only get valid information if you try.”

Since some of the students don’t particularly look forward about the prospect of review,  teachers reminded them that they should keep in mind that the school’s API score not only influences the community’s view of the school, but the way colleges weigh a student’s performance. Student performance on the test reflects how the school is rated, which has an impact on college admissions and the weight of a diploma from the school.

When looking at a student with a 4.0 GPA from a school with a high API and a student with a 4.0 GPA from a school with a low API, it is more likely that colleges will prefer the higher API student because the school’s higher API score alludes to a more rigorous curriculum.

The school’s API score has a larger impact on an individual student than one might think. For this reason, it is important that teachers, as they did this year, continue to stress the student’s role in helping this score rise.

“We pull together, both teachers and students, and do what we can to get good results and improve our API score and meet our goal of improvement,” Donnelly said.

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