Friday, June 11, 2010

STAR tests and kids as pawns

I met with Ms. A, the school principal, about STAR tests (taken in every grade above 1st) and their significance at our little school. What I learned:
  • No one gets any money from anyone except for the schools who fail to meet their API benchmarks; they get money from the state earmarked for special programs, etc. 
  • No one loses anything, per se, for poor performance or poor attendance. If fewer than 85% of a school's students take the test, the school's API is considered invalid, and is published with an asterisk or whatever that denotes its, uh, invalidity due to low numbers of test takers.
  • Our school district has, indeed, analyzed some STAR test results (well, probably only because the scores fell, now that I think about it), and changed the math curricula as a result. Drill-based to conceptual. If 8th grade math scores hadn't been lower than expected, I wonder if the district would have taken the time to analyze anything.
  • Ms. A takes those tests pretty seriously, and I don't think she'd be on board for a mass boycott.
The entire test series takes about 10 hours to complete--our school breaks it up into 70 minute segments 4 to 5 days a week for two weeks. So if I have TZ opt out next year, what will he do for those 70 minutes? Read? Do busy work? I need to find out what the alternatives at school are. Or we could just take a two-week vacation. In that case, do I announce my motives or just "coincidentally" schedule a trip? Do I recruit people to the cause? What is the cause?

The other big question is this: Is it fair to TZ to "make" him not take the tests because of my convictions about them (though I doubt he'll object)? Will it make us the "bad" family, and will TZ (and later, K) have to pay for it somehow? Like, if there's an issue with a teacher or a kid or whatever, will Ms. A be less helpful to the boys because I'm a troublemaker?

What do you think, dear readers?


  1. go with your gut...TZ and K will see you standing up for what you think is right and see courage and strength in your decisions. maybe other parents at the school feel the same as you?

  2. The whole question of standardized testing is fraught. Are you clear about why you do Not want T to take the tests? I believe that, if you are clear about your motives, it truly doesn't matter what other think. It doesn't sound like T will be harmed academically by deferring. I would take a vacation, and maybe start a conversation about standardized testing with others at your school. You just might be ahead of the curve in your thinking!

  3. Hi Misa
    We opted out of the STAR test, or what ever it was called when my kids were in school. But then we were in a school where many of the parents opted out. The ramifications were that my children, (along with some others) had an alternative activity, that parents were responsible for supervising. In a traditional school TZ might have to go to the office, or library and read there. It also does not solve the problem of all the time spent getting ready to take the test. Some schools spend lots of time, teaching how to take the test, or "teaching to the test" rather than teaching to the needs of the children.

    One other ramification that we dealt with was my child had dyslexia and I was told they would have caught it if he had been tested. Of course I had been telling them for several years that he had a problem. So I did not actually buy their feedback.


  4. you could decide to go to a school that does not test, or unschool, start your own school, limitless alternatives...:)
    love, jen
    (unschooling mama who thinks you are an amazing mom xoxo)

  5. From a teacher's viewpoint... I wouldn't actively "recruit" others and wouldn't "announce" what you plan to do. Do have conversations with others and be transparent with the principal and classroom teacher (and other parents) about your concerns so that they realize you're not trying to cause them or the school any trouble and understand you've done your research and that you've really put a lot of thought into making a decision that's best for YOUR family (not necessarily everyone). I'd be really surprised if the classroom teacher agreed with the testing or wanted to take time out of her instructional day to do it, thus would hopefully be sympathetic and as accomodating as she's allowed to be.

    Definitely don't use that time to take a two week vacation. While it may seem like a waste of time to stick around, it might also look like you're opting out just to go on a vacation. I could see that having worse ramifications later on than just not taking the test. You're opting out of testing, not the entire school day.

    If the administration is doing it's job, then they'll respect your wishes and try to do all they can to accomodate those wishes (as long as you don't lead a mass boycott!)as far as they are permitted by the state...unfortunately that's who they have to deal with and answer to. If they don't, well it might be time to find another school that jives with your family's educational philosophy.