State, students struggling in STAR wars

Every May, California public schools begin the STAR testing program. Since 1998, the STAR has been given to millions of students from grades two to eleven. California uses the test to determine how well schools are performing.

When students do well on these tests, property value rises. This is because parents want to live where schools can provide an exceptional education for their children. Castro Valley High’s Academic Performance Index (API) is determined by STAR scores and it is what home-buyers and the government look at.

In the past six years, the CVHS API has gone up by 64 points. In 2005, the API was 754 and in 2010, the API was a whopping 816. These scores, all out of 1,000, put CVHS in the top ten percentile for public schools. On a scale of one to ten for state scoring, Castro Valley High’s API score receives eight.. CVHS does very well compared to schools such as San Leandro High, San Lorenzo High and Hayward High.
However, many students and teachers have a different opinions about the week of standardized testing. Brian Zhang, a junior here at CVHS, feels that the STAR test has become useless since there are so many other academic priorities he must worry about.
“Really, who has time to worry about state standardized testing when there is bigger stuff on your plate?” said Zhang.  “With SAT Reasoning, SAT Subject tests, Collegeboard, AP tests, ACT, class entrance, exams, summer school entrance exams, résumés to write, people to persuade, STAR is like the last thing on my list right now.”
Back in 2001, President George W. Bush enacted the No Child Left Behind Act.  It was created based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The act required states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades if those states were to receive federal funding for schools.

However, since then, state funding has fallen and President Obama has created his own program called Race to the Top (RTT). The program awards teachers based on tests such as the STAR. When the scores come out, teachers can be laid off or rewarded with extra cash based on their school’s performance.

John Green, the new president of CVTA (Castro Valley Teacher’s Association), voiced his opinion on why the our district stays out of RTT.

“Many unions chose not to participate in RTT because it relies too heavily on tests like STAR to judge schools and uses ‘merit pay’ to encourage good teaching,” said Green.  “But ‘merit pay’ assumes that teachers will only try hard for their kids if we offer them cash and that good teachers are just those whose kids do well on standardized tests.”
Another astonishing fact is that the government actually can no longer afford to give money. “There used to be a program called the Governor’s Performance Award program that gave money to schools and teachers when certain API benchmarks were met, but that no longer exists due to the great budget situation,” said junior counselor Duane Magno.
The only real sources of money CVHS can rely on are the families that choose to have their children attend CVHS. If the school’s API is high, parents see that and enroll their students into CVHS.
Many students have been told by teachers that the government gives the school money based on the API. Students who have been interviewed randomly about the testing have said they stopped caring and would rather doodle on the Scantron than waste their time.
However, Assistant Principal Jesse Woodward stated his views on the STAR.
“I’m proud of the students,” said Woodward.  “Our AYP (Academic Yearly Progress) is so important and I want it to reflect what school CVHS is.”
If CVHS does not meet California’s AYP standard, the state can take control of CVHS and make it a remedial school. This means that all the money that is currently put into electives, such as foreign languages, would be put into remedial math and English classes.


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