Saturday, November 27, 2010

11/28/2010 STAR tests

I'm SOOO behind in scrapbooking. So behind that I have to pare it down to something that will mean something to them someday: So, a school book for each kid. Two pages summing up their school experience for each grade, school and class photos, projects, notable moments, outside activities, report cards and awards.

So, while tackling this project, I came across Gabriel's STAR Student Report. Starting in the 2nd grade, all schools in California spend two weeks performing standardized tests on 2nd - 8th graders, for which the scores get summed up into the ever-important "API" for the school. Scoff not! Your local school's API score has a lot to do with your real estate's value.

Then there's a Web site that shows how all California schools did on average (STAR Test Results 2010). Naturally, I had to compare.

I learned a few things. First, while our school isn't the highest-scoring in the district, it's up there. Really, no need to worry about a kid who goes to Collins. (Do worry about the parents of the kids who go to Collins, because in this demographic, the higher scores reflect a hyper-paranoid parent population, and the schools that did better have even more paranoid parents.)

Next, for some reason at our school, and comparably-scored ones (Stocklmeir, Garden Gate, Stevens Creek Elementary), the 3rd-grade mean math scores are higher than any other grade. Maybe that's because the difficulty takes a leap in 4th grade, doesn't take a big leap from 2nd to 3rd.

Then I learned that my son is in 3rd grade now and that I should be looking at the 2nd grade scores, which is what he was in when he took the test. Hel-LO! OK, so I wrote this whole thing and now have to start over.

Seems our school's 3rd-graders are among the best in Language Arts, but not the 2nd-graders, where its average of 409 out of 600 for 2nd-graders is well below those of the top schools. The big surprise here is that Gabriel's score of 491 out of 600 is above the best averages I could find at any school (460 at Garden Gate but I didn't look at all of them).

Math...well, not so much. His score was 488 out of 600 -- in the Advanced level as pretty much all kids at his school are -- but below average for many of the schools in the district. Just above average at his school, where Collins' 2nd-graders averaged 466.

Still, overall math averages were higher than Language Arts at all schools (that's with selecting for English proficiency). So what's with our digital kid doing better in the analog world? Gabriel resists writing, expresses his creativity in very digital mathematical terms (like all his electronics circuits), claims to hate language arts, and doesn't challenge himself much with reading. Yet he did better in the language than the math, and not great on either compared to what he could do.

And why with all his early promise in math isn't be blowing the math scores away, especially with all his arrogant claims of the tests being so easy?

I'm not super big on standardized tests, but it does give you a calibration point about parent demographics at the schools. I firmly believe the scores reflect the parent population far moreso than the kids or teachers. Faria parents REALLY REALLY want the high scores, they're going to push their kids to get them. McAuliffe parents embrace a "whole learning" philosophy, and many opt out of the testing. Collins parents like me are sheep and just go with it -- though if Gabriel had done very very poorly, it'd have been a flag for action, given the highly privileged circumstances he comes from.

Still, it is interesting that a toddler who had a serious language delay, hadn't said a word by age 2, and needed speech therapy, but who could calculate clock time before he was 4, would do better in language arts than math at age 8. And interesting that a kid who shows such ability in certain things tests pretty average.

I'm OK with "average," and I'm OK with "I really don't get this," but I'm not OK with not doing your best.

Now, back to scrapping the good stuff!


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