By Nancy Gutierrez

No. 2 pencils, scantrons, sealed booklets, these are all the telltale signs of testing.

As students from the Lindsay Unified School District return from spring break they will be greeted with these familiar symbols of assessments. Standardized Testing And Reporting (STAR) assessments will begin in mid-April.

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 the district's 2004 growth API is based on the results of the STAR testing results for grades 9 through 11. This means student accountability is more closely aligned to state standards rather than the nationally normed reference tests.

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 students in second through eighth grade 80 percent of the API is based on the results of STAR testing while 20 percent rests on the results of norm reference testing. CST 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.

The tests are not only used to record student progress but to target areas of improvement.

Many districts look at each individual student score and study what has happened from year to year. Districts 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.

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