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 Michaela’s scores was enough to tell me that something is significantly flawed with the design of this test. Michaela 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 Mika 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, Michaela 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 Michaela, 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 diservice 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!“.