Sep 102011

A week or so ago I got my daughter’s STAR test results; she’s currently a fourth grader at Roosevelt Elementary. Her scores were fine, but significantly lower than they had been the previous year, when she had attended McKinley Elementary. I was glad.

Even a quick look at my daughter’s scores was enough to tell me that something is significantly flawed with the design of this test. My daughter is a great reader, she devours books. She’s also a pretty good writer, her stories have a real voice, are funny and well constructed. Her real trouble at school is in math. She hates the subject, she doesn’t feel she’s any good at it and puts little effort into it.  Imagine my surprise, then, when her math scores in the STAR test were much better than her English scores. As a parent, I have no way of knowing /why/ her English scores were relatively low, I’m not allowed to see the actual test she took, but I do know that any test that says she’s better at math than English is profoundly flawed.

I have another big reason to deplore the STAR test. When my daughter was at 2nd grade at McKinley all she studied was English and math, English and math and English and math. She did get a couple of hours a week of “test preparation”, but there was little or no science or social studies. That’s one of the main reasons why I applied for a transfer to Roosevelt. I want my daughters to be educated, and that means exposing them to a variety of fields of knowledge – not just English and math. At Roosevelt, my daughter flourished. In addition to math & English, she learned history and science, thus developing her critical thinking skills. She’s become our little expert on the Ohlone Indians; and through learning about them she’s learned how people adapt to given environments and use and develop its natural resources.  She’s delved into San Leandro history by exploring the stories of the families who developed this town – not only learning about how San Leandro grew, but also gaining an understanding of how the personal and the political merge.  In science, she learned about different ecosystems – she surprised me once, when I was reading her an African tale and came upon the name of a native tree I didn’t know how to pronounce, she knew all about this tree, however, as they’d studied about its ecosystem in class.  And she knows about so many other things, every day she astounds me with some observation or piece of knowledge I didn’t have myself.

Roosevelt STAR test results, however, went down last year (while McKinley’s went up).  I’m worried now that the Principal and Administration will feel pressured to change Roosevelt’s curriculum to put more of an emphasis on the tested subjects.  That would be a terrible disservice not just to my daughter, but to all the other kids who deserve an education not just narrow instruction on two subjects. And the emphasis on the test is a terrible disservice to all the other children in all the other elementary schools in San Leandro who are only learning those two subjects and little else.

I’m not sure what can be done about this, but I’m seriously considering keeping my daughter from taking the STAR test this year.  Perhaps, if enough parents boycotted the test, the state and Congress (with their short-sighted “no child left behind” mandate) would listen and drop it altogether.  My sole stand against it will definitely not accomplish anything, but I figure someone has start and say “enough!“.

  7 Responses to “STAR testing in San Leandro – Let’s dump it”

  1. Could not agree more. I never even shared my son ‘s results w/ him. It’s unfair to the teachers and kids and a very poor measure of a real education. Although my son will have to take a standardized test this year at St Leander, thank goodness it won’t be STAR testing and teachers there don’t have to teach to a specific exam.My son went to Roosevelt too and I was very happy with his education. However I am even happier with the structure at St. Leander. Oddly it reminds me of.the discipline required in the public schools I went to a million years ago when standards and expectations were high. And there was no STAR testing!

  2. Lisa, St Leander’s will also give your son a good dose of Papal Infallibility, the role of a woman in society, a priest’s right to choose his victims, a nun’s lack of virtue to assume the priesthood, marriage only between men and women, the immorality of abortion, and the responsibility of women to submit to their husbands. Good job mom, keep the church involved all the time.

    • Hear, hear, Thomas. Spoken like a true new atheist. Not sure you are a value add to this discussion about effective and humanistic education models in the Bay Area, but what ever floats your boat.

      Intolerance rocks! (?)

      • Leah, this is a discussion? Marga wants to dump STAR testing that measures whether children are being taught basics well and how they measure up, Lisa wants to educate her kids in the Roman Catholic Church, and you are an apologist for the humanistic education through Episcopalian outreach.

        San Leandro’s schools are little better than those in San Lorenzo and Hayward and lag far behind those in Castro Valley. Eliminating STAR tests and keeping your kid home from them sounds a lot like the effort by misguided and ill informed parents that have not vaccinated their kids. Pathetic.

        • Thomas, has it occurred to you that those of us who actually have school-age kids have a better understanding of what’s going on in the classroom and what helps and hurts children?

          • Marga, I am sure that you and Leah and Lisa know better than anyone else how to care for your kids. I know that that was the case with my son. Knowing what helps and hurts children is exactly what the education is about. You certainly can decedide what your child learns. That way the child will only know what Mom wanted. Valuable I am sure. Makes it much easier to outcompete in the job market.

  3. Leah, I am not an atheist and I do not drink the blood of a martyr nor dine on his flesh. I leave that for you and your other true believers.

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