The curtain rises today on California's STAR power. From Hollywood to Yreka, districts are holding their collective breaths, waiting for the spotlight to shine on last year's performance.
Results of the state's Standardized Testing And Reporting system have huge implications for schools and districts, teachers and administrators. Careers are on the line. Management theories and educational philosophies will be celebrated for the good and blamed for the bad.
Across Stanislaus County, 13 schools could get off the government watch list if their scores are high enough. Some 27 schools are on the edge and would go onto the list if their scores don't make the grade.
All the fuss is over results from the tests kids took last spring, that week when teachers handed out snacks and schools sent home fliers recounting the values of good sleep and steady attendance.
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Second-graders through high school juniors all take English and math tests; fifth- and eighth-graders are tested in science; writing is tested in seventh grade; and specific history and science courses are tested in high school.
"Get ready for a barrage of data. This is just the first wave," Susan Rich of the Stanislaus County Office of Education said Wednesday. She ticked off testing releases to come in the weeks ahead: the high school exit exam, school assessment numbers, state school rankings and federal measures of how schools are doing.
There is also an alphabet soup of test names, but the California Standards Tests are what everyone but some special education students and Spanish speakers take.
Rich heads the county office instructional support services, where a massive amount of testing data from the county's 26 districts is analyzed.
Districts will be mailing individual score sheets home over the next few weeks.
What should parents be looking for?
"Parents should feel good if their student is scoring at 'proficient,' " Rich said.
Proficient is the second-highest level, like a "B." The four other levels are advanced, basic, below basic and far below basic.
No matter what the numbers are, Rich said, talk with your child about the results, and see if the test was a fair assessment. Younger kids are sometimes test-stressed; older students may well blow it off as a spring ritual of adult mania.
"The truth is, kids don't always try their hardest on these tests. Educators are absolutely driven by the accountability piece, but it's a pretty long time frame before there are results," said Rich.
"Did you try your best?" and "How did it feel when you took the test?" are two conversation starters, she said, adding students have their own reasons to do well.
"There are lots of opportunities that are open to students based on their ability to pass assessments," Rich said. "Even beauticians have to pass a test."
When the results become available online this afternoon, she suggested, look at your school's numbers compared with the averages for Stanislaus County and the state, and, if you kept last year's paper, notice if your child's numbers are moving upward from one year to the next.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.