Posted by: Magistra | May 9, 2007

Be a STAR

Of all the many things I haven’t posted thoughts on, I don’t think I could let my first STAR experience go by without note. Before going through it myself, I didn’t realize that when teachers complained about standardized testing it wasn’t the tests, but the testing that was the big problem. I mean that it’s not (or at least not primarily) the test content or organization that gets teachers going, but the process of having to administer the tests. That’s not to say teachers aren’t concerned about test validity or reliability. Of course we are. But, like most people, we get hung up on the immediate problem (giving the test). And giving the test sucks. Big time.

I hear that this is among the worst schedules my high school has ever used (and the word was to blame the district, not the site administration – how convenient). Here’s how it played out for me. For three days (spaced out over two weeks, thoroughly disrupting all momentum and rhythym), I spent four hours with my first period class. There are students from three different grades in my first period class: 9th (18 students), 10th (10 students), and 11th (3 students). First day was okay, since everyone takes a language arts test. Second day was science in the first part and history in the second part. Mostly okay for part one, since only five students aren’t taking a science class. Then we get to history. There is no 9th grade social science requirement in California. This school requires that they take Geography, but they don’t have to take a state test. So two-thirds of my class (the squirmiest, chattiest part of my class) had absolutely nothing to do for two hours and they had to stay in a room with other people who were taking a test. I’m not sure what I was dreading more – this day when I knew the freshmen would have nothing to do for half the time, or the last day when only the freshmen took a general math test and the 10th and 11th graders would have nothing to do for four hours.

I have to give the students credit. It was much better than I feared. Still a long time together (especially on day 3), but they dealt with the down time fairly well. My 3-D cube puzzles were a big hit, and a couple kids even figured out a solution to my unicorn puzzle. My reading material wasn’t as popular (next time, more Sports Illustrated and comic books, less Entertainment Weekly). The number of kids who manage to get Mom/Dad to let them bring in a portable DVD player is fairly astounding. Really, the number who have a portable DVD player is astounding.

Interestingly, the students took these tests far more seriously than they take my tests. A lot of the credit goes to the English Dept. for making their language arts test results 10% of students’ first quarter grades next year. That made the kids take notice. Not sure if I like the idea or not, but it helped me out.

The other hooky thing the school did was get the ASB class to put positive test posters up in every room. “Be a STAR Tester” was staring you in the face everywhere you went. Of course the students made fun of them, but I think it’s like “Just say No.” I have never in my life heard anyone seriously just say no, but I’ve heard lots of people jokingly say it (but mean it), or tell friends to just say no, when they are turning down a “bad” option (like smoking, or having that extra shot, or yes, using illegal drugs). It was one of the more amusing social observations I made about Americans when I was living in Australia. No matter where in the States we came from we all knew “just say no,” a sign that we grew up in the 1980’s.

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Responses

  1. Well, have you recovered yet? Or is the nervous tic still showing up at odd moments?

    I hate testing too.


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