Saturday, June 23, 2007

Circumventing the STAR regime - some useful tips

As we all know, the accountability tests stifle real learning and creativity, and punish minority kids disproportionately. Conscientious educators will, then, no doubt, welcome a list of strategies for defeating these tests. Inspired by some solutions designed by this principal, here are some tips to add to your toolkit.

Altering the responses after the students have submitted their scantron sheets is an obvious way to go. The drawback of this approach is that you can all too easily get busted, because the scoring machines can detect erasures, and a statistical analysis of your number of wrong-to-right alterations can land you in the hall of shame. So, you will want to consider other means.

A better approach is to administer a test that enables students to succeed. Give the PreCalculus students the Algebra II test, while kids enrolled in Algebra II take the Algebra I test, and students whose transcripts will report Algebra I tackle the 7th grade standards of the General Math exam. If you delay mailing home the STAR report cards long enough everyone will forget about them. You can repeat this procedure for years without anyone noticing, and the kids will always be a year ahead of the test they're taking.

Of course, applying some thought to the selection of test takers can be very helpful. This is rendered simpler if you track your lowest performing and most disruptive students into the same class early in the year. Come STAR testing time you can temporarily dissolve this class, so that their performance will never be measured. If you feel you need a different reason to expel these students for the occasion, it should be quite easy to provoke an altercation that would merit disciplinary measures, because these are some angry kids.

A different procedure for improving your test taker pool is to utilize your Independent Studies program for diverting students who will not be good test takers. This program serves many students who have dropped out of their various high schools, for example due to pregnancy, family obligations or other issues. Everybody loves a program that assists such challenged kids in earning a high school diploma in spite of the odds. In addition, this program can absorb some kids from your regular day classes who have poor attendance and low scores, so that you can continue collecting ADA funds for them while removing them from the classrooms. A beautiful side-effect is that you can exempt all these students from STAR testing by classifying them all as seniors. A win-win situation all around, in other words.

These measures are all fairly safe, in that you can apply them for years without eliciting much questioning. What will land you in trouble are measures that are relatively inconsequential in terms of affecting student scores. Thus, handing out photocopies of earlier testing booklets will very likely provoke the wrath of the testing authorities, and this is true even though prepping from these booklets will be unlikely to make much difference for your students' scores. Since any standards driving your students' instruction throughout the year are likely different from the ones on which they will be tested, a couple of weeks of test prep by irate teachers is unlikely to earn you many points. Since this will additionally get you in trouble with the nitpickers at the CDE, taking this track is a mistake.

Hopefully both the recommendations and the warnings and caveats listed here will be helpful in shaping your strategy for STAR testing. By judicious application of these suggestions you can ensure that the scores bring your school glory while providing limited comparative data about the quality of your students' credits. This will aid you in getting underserved minority kids into college and out of the ghetto, and since we all share a commitment to this greater good, the value of this list of strategies should speak for itself.

1 comment:

jonathan said...

Kidding aside, I like testing precalculus students on algebra II material. Maybe they didn't get it when they should have, but now, after a year of application...

What's so awful about that?