By Nancy Gutierrez
No. 2 pencils, scantrons, sealed booklets these are all the telltale signs of testing. As students from the Exeter Union and Exeter Union High School districts return from spring intersession they will be greeted with these familiar symbols of assessments. Standardized Testing And Reporting (STAR) assessments will begin on April 21, the first Wednesday following intersession, for EUHSD and April 26 for EUSD students.
Student performance on these mandated state-wide assessments are used to determine the school-wide Academic Performance Index (API) as well as the Academic Yearly Progress (AYP). This year 73 percent of EUHS 2004 growth API is based on the results of the STAR testing results for grades nine through 11. Superintendent of schools Renee Whitson said this means the accountability is more closely aligned to state standards.
"It is closely aligned to our curriculum rather than the nationally normed reference tests," Whitson said.
Norm referenced tests are commercially produced national tests that show how well students perform compared to others nationally. They do not demonstrate whether students have learned specific skills or parts of the curriculum.
The norm referenced test used is the California Achievement Test survey or CAT/6. The California Standards Tests (CST) are criterion referenced tests and measure what students know in relation to what they are supposed to have learned.
For second to eighth grade students 80 percent of the API is based on the results of CST assessments while 20 percent rests on the results of norm reference testing.
CST's include assessments on English language arts and math starting in second grade through a student's junior year in high school. Fourth and seventh graders are assessed on writing composition.
In eighth, 10th and 11th grade students are given assessments on history and social science and in fifth, ninth and 11th grade they are tested in science.
The CAT/6 is also given from second to 11th grade. From second to eighth grade students are tested in reading/language, spelling and math. In high school students are tested on reading/language, math and science.
"When we get results we try to desegregate the scores and look at them holistically," Whitson said. She said the district looks at each individual student's scores and what has happened from year to year. The district can also look at groups of scores by gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic capacities. From that information the district takes measures to decrease gaps between male and female students or between socioeconomic groups.
"Research shows the best way to close those gaps is to teach the standards and have a high expectation for all students," Whitson said.