Sophmores pilot online STAR testing

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Audrey James-Anenih, cub writer
All sophomores on May 13-24 took a pilot version of the state’s STAR test.
The California Department of Education is working to transition Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) to be taken on a computer instead of with a Scantron and pencil.
“Each spring, students in grades two through 11 take a STAR test. The STAR Program looks at how well schools and students are performing. Students take tests in math, reading, writing, science, and history. Teachers and parents can use test results to improve student learning,” as stated on the California Department of Education (Dept. of Ed.) website.
Many California schools were selected to pilot the new testing as a way for the Dept. of Ed. to experiment with their latest development. The schools chosen to pilot were based on ability to reach specific requirements and demographics.
“We were selected because of our demographics and we fit a certain criteria that they were looking for. In fact, almost all of our district schools were selected. They [Dept. of Ed.] approached us about it and we said yes because it’s a great opportunity for us to get a leg up on what is to come,” Vice Principal Kelly Tabis said.
With the online testing there are pros and cons to be weighted by the Dept. of Ed.
“I think there are a lot of pros, it’s computer based so it should be easier on the students being tested. Also, you wouldn’t have to worry about making sure you bring your sharpened pencil or anything like that. As for the cons, we’ll have to wait to see once we begin testing. But one thing that I worry about is that we still don’t know how we are going to get all of the students through the labs. So the only possible con that I can identify right now is scheduling,” Tabis said.
STAR Testing is evolving along with the technology of the 21st century, and students will reap the benefits of testing in a familiar environment.
“I think it’s good to test the student in a way that they’re comfortable with. I feel like you guys are so savvy with technology, that is your future, it’s your every day. My opinion is I think it’s good. I think it matches with where you guys are used to functioning you guys aren’t used to sitting down and handwriting an essay anymore, it’s just not your lives,” Tabis said.
With the new advancements to the standardized testing format, the students are likely to score better all while testing in an environment that most teenagers are comfortable with.
“To determine students’ reactions towards the test, I think we’ll really just have to wait and see but I got some feedback from the kids who took the pilot and they were like, it is so hard. What was interesting was you would have your basic vocabulary question, like ‘What is the definition of this word?’ or ‘What word best matches this word?’ and normally the way we are used to being tested you just fill in a bubble and that’s the answer. But the computer was asking you why that was your answer. So your teachers do this naturally and ask you why you answered a question the way you did during a lecture or an in class discussion, and our kids are used to hearing that kinds of question, but they’re not used to responding and that’s what I think made the test so difficult,” Tabis explained.
The administration is excited to see how Beverly will benefit from taking this new test that now has a logical and critical thinking connection. But without the results of the pilot that the Dept. of Ed. will not release, they have little to reflect on.
“I honestly don’t know what will happen with our goals and standards with the new test yet because we don’t have the results of the test and we are not going to get them, as they won’t share that information with us. It’s really a waiting game until 2015 when we launch the test for the first time, but I’m just really excited to see what happens. Having to manage all of the paper tests that we had to do this last school year, to get rid of them is going to be awesome,” Tabis said.
Along with such a large and impactful change sometimes comes conflict. Among the staff, they’ve come to the realization that along with a new online test that few students are familiar with consequently comes a busier classroom.
“I really think that what was interesting about the online stuff is that the teachers we’re proctoring are busier because the kids needed so much help, and there were so many questions about how to do the test that the teachers were very busy. Some people will like this and others aren’t going to be so fond of this,” Tabis explained.
Preparation for the tests will be very limited and large amounts of tedious review beforehand will be almost unnecessary.
“I don’t really think that the students need a lot of prep for it because they are so used to being in front of a computer. I think that if a teacher and a class were going into the year with the tests, the only advice I would give them would be to get your class to use the lab early, The reason being is that when you’re in a physics class and having a lecture, it’s much different than when you’re in the computer lab for English once a month. It different, so getting kids in the labs early and often so they’re used to it and so the teachers are used to would probably be the only advice,” Tabis stated.
STAR tests online will launch state-wide in 2015.

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