For the first time in over 25 years I was not directly involved with the start of the school year. So I can now provide perspective from the outside.
With start of the new school year there is always talk about how well schools are doing. Traditionally, a school is evaluated using student scores on standardized tests. Each spring students in grades 2-11 take grade level specific English and Math tests as well as various science and history tests. In August, individual student results are sent directly to the students’ home. In September the State releases combined school and district scores and establish the Academic Performance Index (API). Schools are assigned a “growth target” and a school is considered making adequate progress if they meet or exceed their target growth rate.
Schools that do not meet their growth target or drop below the previous year’s API score may face potential consequences. Schools attaining an API of 800 or greater are exempt from potential sanctions. The state uses the API to then rank schools and compare schools with similar student populations.
Here is a simple way to use STAR Test results at various levels.
Student and Family: Review scores to identify Proficiency Levels. Scores of Advanced Proficient or Proficient identify areas of strength. Scores of Basic and Below Basic in a content area could potentially identify areas of weakness. Parents talk to your child about their performance and together establish expectations and goals. Keep the conversation positive not punitive. If you have any concerns or need clarification, do not hesitate to talk to your child’s teachers. If you have not received your child’s results, contact their school. Results were sent to districts and schools. The district or school then mailed the results to you.
Teachers: Look at your current students’ scores. These can help set baseline measurements from which a student can grow. You probably didn’t teach these students last year, so look at the scores as a starting point for this year. Your goal is to take a student where they are when they come to you and move them forward. If you are compelled to see how your students from last year did that is fine. After looking at individual scores, look at class scores to see if any trends are apparent. You can use that information to help identify instructional and curriculum strengths and also potential holes in your program. Don’t take results personally- but do look at them professionally.
Administrators: Remember that it is the students that are enrolled at your school since the first Friday in October and are still enrolled as of spring testing dates that are included in the API calculation. Students that arrive after the October date are not included. Those students’ scores are used for informational purposes only. Keep in mind all of the factors that can influence test scores. Familiarize yourself with composite school results as well as grade level or “course specific” tests if you are at a high school. Also- you should be the first to look at disaggregated results based on demographic and socioeconomic status. You should know your school better than anyone.
The way schools are evaluated is going to change in the upcoming years, but for now this is the system that is being used.