STAR Test Results Released

Only 52 percent of high-schoolers proficient in math and only 52 percent of third graders proficient in English; educators say test is just one of many assessments of student progress


Only half of all third-graders in district are proficient in English and only half of 11th graders in the district are proficient in math, according to STAR test results released Friday.

STAR, which stands for Standardized Testing and Reporting, consists of four tests developed specifically to assess student knowledge of California content standards, outlining what all children should know at each grade level.

In the , only 48 percent of third graders are considered proficient or higher in English and only 65 percent are proficient in math. Among the higher grades, only 49 percent of students are proficient in math and 69 percent proficient in English.

Click here to see all STAR scores by school, district or grade

Despite the low numbers, both districts show a slight improvement from previous years.

Old Adobe Superintendent Cindy Pillar was out of town and not available to comment on her district’s results, but Steve Bolman, the superintendent of Petaluma City Schools, said the scores are just one of the many ways students are assessed.

“Everyone is grouped together and everyone has to improve year to year,” Bolman said of the STAR test, mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. “But that’s hard to do when you’re talking about English Language Learners who are just learning the language but are expected to be proficient.”

STAR consists of four tests including the California Standards Test, California Modified Assessment, California Alternate Performance Assessment and Standards-based Tests in Spanish.

But changes are in store for California schools as they shift to Common Core Standards by 2015.

The new, $330 million assessment system will include both multiple choice questions as well as essays and give teachers more freedom in the classroom instead of simply teaching to the test.

After all, the overall goal remains the same: to make sure students not only show improvement from year to year but are actually prepared for college or work when they graduate.

What do you think of the STAR results? Are you concerned? Or should federally required standardized tests be eliminated altogether?

Caroline September 04, 2012 at 01:34 PM
These tests don't reality mean much , except funding for the schools and District. I did not star test my kids. My oldest was going into 7th grade and before school I received a Title One letter saying because he scored so low on the star test he was entitled to all kinds of services. I called the school as talked to the Counselor. He proceeded to say that the letter came because he scored so low on the Star Test. I asked if he used this to place him in class. He said yes. I asked if they look at the grades at all. He said no! I laughed because I found it repulsive that they base placement solely on this test. They make placement on the 5th grade star test results. I proceeded that he should look at grades because my son is a 4.0 student and that I don't Star Test my children because so much instructional class time is so wasted on this test and they are so prepped for it that they know most of the answers whether in elementary, jr. High or high school. It is also a waste of money!!
Chris September 04, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I totally agree with Caroline and I too did not have my kids participate in the STAR testing. Total waste of time and money.
Betty Harrison September 05, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Whether you like the STAR tests or not, standardized testing is a reality for kids. While there are many flaws in the test, it does give you a good idea about your child's progress in school. If my child had excellent grades and scored poorly on the test, I would be worried about the inconsistency. Public schools are under enormous pressure to improve performance, yet at the same time their budgets are being slashed. If you want your child to read, write and compute well enough to go to college, I would get involved! Find out what your child is supposed to be learning, and if they have in fact learned it. Nothing less than the future is at stake.
AyurvedicMama September 05, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Hi Betty! I couldn't agree with you more! My daughter transferred from a school with that was not up to par, into Liberty when she was in 2nd grade. Her STAR test results reflected how she was doing that year showing that she was in the "Basic Range" in both Math and Language Arts. She struggled to catch up despite the fact that she is one BRIGHT kiddo. This past year she was in 3rd grade and with a ton of support in both homes (I am her Stepmom) along with after school tutoring, her comprehension on these subjects soared. There was no pressure on STAR testing, at least not at our school. When we received her results, it reflected that she is now in the Advanced category for both Math and Language arts. A vast jump in just one year. In my Daughter's case, I believe it was accurate...however I do understand testing anxiety, other issues that may prevent accurate scoring, etc. Education starts and should continue in the home! P.S. Betty... this is Kirsten (formerly North) ;)
John September 06, 2012 at 03:13 PM
If STAR testing is a reflection of the child's progress and the success of an entire class or school, then maybe some teachers and faculty should get fired for scores as low and pathetic as this. Half of 3rd graders proficient in English? That's terrible. What does the faculty have to say for this? I understand budget problems and stuff, but schools with less have produced more than that. Half of 11th graders proficient in math? No wonder we aren't represented enough in the scientific community. I will never put my kids in a public school, I will sacrifice so much to pay tuition for a good school. After all, for 18 years someone else is supposed to matter more than you do.
AyurvedicMama September 06, 2012 at 03:43 PM
You just hit the nail on the head! Our children should be far more important than ourselves! I think that is a huge part of the problem which is why I mentioned that education should begin and end in the home. I fought to get my children into a charter school, which happens to be the best in the area and I feel so blessed. We have incredible parental involvement in supporting the school to keep science, physical education, after school tutoring, music, art and other enrichment programs ALIVE and top priority. I think it's not fair to put all the pressure on the faculty. I think pressure needs to be put on the parents too! It's not acceptable to expect teachers and school faculty to raise our children, which is essentially what they do.
John September 06, 2012 at 04:05 PM
I agree, active parental involvement is the only way. And whether or not schools raise our kids, I guess in some cases that's exactly right, but they should be pressured. They have an important job to do, as do parents, and active parenting is key. If you value the success of your child and thus their education, you know you have to be involved to the up most detail. Parenting is a lifestyle, and an active one at that.
AyurvedicMama September 06, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I like your style!
Betty Harrison September 06, 2012 at 07:23 PM
It's not the teachers or the schools... and it's not the parents either. All want the best for their children, without a doubt. It's POLITICS! Kids were reading just fine before the politicians got involved and wanted to "standardize" education. Do you have a "standard" child? I didn't think so... neither did I. These tests have no business in elementary school. It's way too much stress for many little kids, and it's driving the classroom teachers crazy. Saying this, students do need to be assessed against their grade level curriculum, which good teachers do. Sorry John, but I wouldn't bet on a private school being better. I have tutored many students who attended them and were still way below grade level. (BTW, the curriculum is online at the state dept. of ed... anyone can check it.)
Betty Harrison September 06, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Kristen (Hi!), I totally agree that parents have to pay attention, check homework and keep in contact with their child's teachers. I think most already do that, but feel confused and frustrated. What the emphasis on tests has done is change the way we teach. The tests ask more questions about phonics than comprehension, more about spelling than composition... Why? because they are easier to test! And here's where the politics plays a part. Politicians like to compare numbers because it makes such a good sound bite? Do they know what they are talking about? No, never. The answer is to read with your child often, help them write coherently and explain that school is their job and will prepare them for a good future. Kids understand that. PS Oh my, Kristen, married with children! Boy do I feel old!
John September 06, 2012 at 08:08 PM
More reason the end federal education, and let states and communities decide whats best for the children. Politics is a killer, and apart of the problem. No argument on that.
Petaluman8tv September 06, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I disagree with the idea that standardized testing is inherently a bad thing. On the contrary, I think it is necessary and important. Without standardized testing it is not possible to measure the progress and performance of the kids, nor is it possible to evaluate teachers completely. Teaching to the test is such a silly cliche to toss around. Teachers SHOULD teach to the test. And the test should cover the topics that are critical to ensuring that our children are progressing academically. The only place for debate on this topic IMO is among educators, who should work diligently to prepare tests that adequately and appropriately cover the critical subject matter for the grade level being evaluated. It is difficult for me to understand why parents would not want to see standardized results for their schools. How else can they possibly know how effectively their school is teaching, at least compared to schools with similar demographics?
John September 06, 2012 at 11:00 PM
I never claimed to be against testing, in fact quite the contrary. I just believe that more blame should be put on those who are responsible. If only half of 3rd graders are proficient in English and Half of high school kids are proficient in Math then something is clearly wrong, and the faculty, and the educators better have some answers. And it's up to parents who are active in their childs education to demand those answers and see that their child gets a decent education, or we change the system until we can get them one. Politics and budget cuts are serious concerns and valid ones, but it doesn't take just money to educate children.
Betty Harrison September 06, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I actually agree that standardized testing is appropriate in secondary schools, but not elementary. Elementary students need a much more comprehensive assessment in order to determine their specific needs. Unfortunately by high school, kids have to deal with the reality of a competitive world and they need to know how they measure up to everyone else. This being said, I am not sure this kind of testing gives you a valid evaluation of student accomplishment and ability. I spent the last year reading tests, and they are filled with errors, cultural bias and irrelevancy. You might want to look into who owns the testing company and what their profits look like lately... but that's another story. I am so pleased that we are finally discussing the STAR test results. It's a conversation that is long over due for Petaluma.
Petaluman8tv September 07, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Betty, I'm not understanding why you think standardized testing is not appropriate for elementary school students. Elementary school students are getting comprehensive evaluation every single day, by their teachers. In Petaluma, most K-3 classes are 20 kids. Teachers know every one of those kids individual strengths and weaknesses, if they care to, at least in a general way. STAR testing has some value beyond individual students, as it allows teachers and schools to dig into the results and pull out areas that need improvement. The sections are broken down into different areas. If the 4th grade class at your school scored well in math across the board, but all the kids did poorly in one subsection of math, then that would obviously be a place the curriculum or teaching methods need to scrutinized. How can that be a bad thing? And I would be very pleasantly surprised if you choose to provide some substance for your rather wild inferences about testing. Please elaborate on how the tests are arrived at, and how that affects the corporate bottom line. Also, looking forward to hearing about that nasty cultural bias in math.
Betty Harrison September 07, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I completely agree, elementary students require constant assessment, and classroom teachers do this brilliantly! But that's not what is meant by "Standardized". The term has come to mean a single, nationally leveled achievement test. In California, it's the STAR test. In other states it has different names but I believe it is essentially the same test. That was the intention of the [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] known as No Child Left Behind. The intention was to keep states from neglecting their public schools. I am afraid by now it has become a business. This single STAR test is used to assess both teacher and student, which seems appropriate, ...until you read the questions on the test. You can read them at the Dept. of Ed site, search "released STAR test questions". Of course these skills have their importance, but they are not a true measure of how well the student is doing, but they are given enormous power and importance by a system that requires them to be used for student placement and school funding. One test. They start in Second Grade, and spend way too much time on test preparation, not by choice, but by political mandate... based on one test. Crazy, huh.
Betty Harrison September 07, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Oh dear, I am not trying to cause trouble. I know what the tests are. I gave them for years. I have studied statistics and know what they are supposed to do, but will you not agree that assessing a student's progress is much more complicated than the STAR tests can measure? I think there is an enormous over emphasis on them, causing schools to focus on a particular learning style that does not meet the needs of all students. I work with bilingual and dyslexic kids who are often "left behind". I know the public schools do the best they can and are faced with many problems. I just don't think those particular tests help as much as their emphasis would imply. Peace.
Petaluman8tv September 07, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I think there is plenty of room for reasonable people to debate on ways to improve the testing. It is possible to debate what the standards are that are supposed to be evaluated. It is possible to debate if the questions ask actually adequately measure the standards chosen. But that is not what you are saying. You disagree with the idea of standardized assessment of elementary school children. I couldn't disagree more. The K-6 years are critical learning years, and are very highly predictive of future academic success. It is too late to wait until middle school or high school to assess the quality of education, and the level of learning our children are achieving. It needs to be done in time to effect change, where change is warranted. You dismiss the testing with phrases like "these skills have their importance, but". STAR tests reveal the success or failure of teaching, individually and collectively. "skills" is a subtle way to diminish what is revealed. STAR testing is focussed on the core standards that all students need to master to be successful academically. The sooner problems are revealed, individually or institutionally, the better for our children. Waiting until later years to institute standardized testing would do a grave disservice to our children. And I am looking forward to hear how corporations are making big money off STAR testing, at the expense of our children.
Ann Popovic September 07, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I don't need the STAR tests to know if the teachers at our school are doing a good job. I know what my boys are supposed to be learning and how well they're doing because I talk to the teachers on a regular basis and I review homework. The problem as I see it with the STAR tests is that the teachers are reduced to cramming that which is necessary to score an acceptable grade ON THE TEST. But that's not learning. That's parroting. And that's not reflective of the skills kids REALLY need to succeed. Yes, you need the basics. But if you're constantly forced to teach to the lowest common denominator because you need to make sure EVERYONE does well on the testing...how is that beneficial? We hire teachers to TEACH. And yet we treat them like fast food workers; just follow the script and nobody will get hurt. And then we wonder why our kids aren't getting the education we want for them. So... we CUT THE BUDGETS! Yeah, that makes sense. Hey, you can't get it done with $50, you need to TRY HARDER and do it on $25! WHO needs math lessons? Seriously. You want your kids to learn? Start by respecting the occupation of 'teacher'. Pay them what they deserve, give them budgets to teach using ALL the tools available in this amazing era we're in, and let principals make decisions that reflect the populations they're serving, NOT some generic standard for PretendsVille. And every parent who whines about their school/teachers/unions should be forced to volunteer one day a week for a month.
Betty Harrison September 07, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Thanks Ann, that's exactly what I mean. I could get into the technical reasons why taking language apart and testing the parts is not particularly helpful for comprehension or fluency, but I'm afraid our anonymous friend will run with it, and bore the rest of the participants to death! Suffice it to say, those STAR test grades are misleading and pointing a finger at teachers, who do not carry the blame for this. They emphasize what is testable and ignore the more subtle aspects of comprehension and fluency. Teachers usually assess for phonics and vocabulary, but this is only a small part of reading, and should not be used to place students and fund schools.
Betty Harrison September 07, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Anonymous Petaluman: why are you so hostile? I am not trying to start a fight. I am just pointing out the limitations of high stakes testing. I do not want to get into the unhealthy association of past Los Angeles School Board members with the test prep and testing companies, not to mention the incredible scam with farming out mandated tutoring... I'd rather do that in the voting booth. Are you a teacher? Do you have experience teaching reading? I have, 30 years of it. Come out from behind the curtain and tell us what you know, not what you think.
Petaluman8tv September 11, 2012 at 01:48 AM
I'm not hostile at all. Not sure where you came to that conclusion. You said you welcomed a discussion of testing. Apparently that is only true if people uniformly agree with your position. Won't bore you anymore.
Ann Popovic September 12, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Petaluman8tv, nobody answered your question so I'll try. Mind you, I'm not an expert, I just like to read. I agree with Ms. Harrison when it comes to testing elementary school kids. The biggest reason? The disparity in brain development in kids younger than 12 is astonishing. We all know that as a general rule girls mature more quickly than boys, but the difference between a child who has turned 6 in November versus a child who will turn 6 in March can be huge! Anyone who has boys will tell you so. There's also the child's relation to his siblings; only children who've been around adults versus children who've been playing with older and/or younger siblings -- their frames of reference are very different. By testing these kids, you're labeling with something they could very well be stuck with their WHOLE LIVES. You tell a kid they need help reading at 7 because they're not up to snuff on a test they don't comprehend, you may very well be setting that child up to BELIEVE that he or she is a poor reader for the REST of their LIVES! Sounds like fiction? Sounds like whiney drama? Look it up. There's no NEED for tests at this age if the parents and teachers are working together. Punish a teacher because some of her students are lagging? My eldest STRUGGLED with reading until 2nd grade. Then it clicked. Now I can't get the books OUT of his hands. Were his early teachers negligent? Absolutely NOT! He needed time. And Meadow teachers are FANTASTIC. My two cents.
Betty Harrison September 13, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Where's the thumbs up icon, Ann, for every word. I could not agree more. Teachers assess kids all the time. It's not as if anyone is ignoring what statistics can show us. The problem is with how these statistics are used.


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