If you really loathe those STAR tests…

image from slavinfpo’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

I often hear Bay Area parents complain about the STAR testing required by the No Child Left Behind Act. In Berkeley, some take it a step further. They simply keep their kids from filling in the bubbles. In fact, so many Berkeley High students skipped the test last year that the school doesn’t have an API score (although maybe they didn’t need parental encouragement to boycott the test).

Parents do have the right to excuse their children from all or some of the STAR tests (Ed Code 60615). That puts schools and districts in a tough spot, though, since the federal law requires them to test 95 percent of their kids.

Berkeley, for example, is on Schwarzenegger’s new watch list because its participation rate is routinely too low.

Do schools and/or teachers inform parents of their right to opt out of the test, or is such information-sharing discouraged because of the potential ramifications? Do many parents know that opting out is an option? Should they take it, or is that only hurting their school?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sue

    When Star testing started, we opted out for our older son. Because of his autism, he tests very poorly, and the school staff made sure we knew we could opt out.

    As he’s gotten older, we’ve allowed him to take the tests – with Spec. Ed. modifications – because he’s going to have to pass the high school exit exam, and testing now gives everyone a chance to figure out how to get his best results on tests. Which test modifications will help, and which won’t make a difference?

    Last month was his first attempt at CAHSEE, and the school dropped the ball. He only got half the test forms, and did only the second day of testing, sitting out the first day. We’ve been told he’ll get to do the missing half when the juniors and seniors who haven’t yet passed have their tests.

    We’ve had exactly the opposite experiences with younger son. He tests well, and the school really, really wants his participation. So much so that last year when he was sick at school, testing anyway, it backfired. His math score was “way below basic” because of his illness. The school would have been better off if they’d called us and sent him home.

  • Ryan Barnes

    STAR testing is a waste of time. I don’t blame parents for preventing their children from taking the test.

    Since when does one test tell how smart a given student is? What if the student is sick during the test? Won’t he perform worse than if he weren’t sick? What about if teachers don’t teach the students properly, and this reflects negatively upon the students? Is that fair? NO.

    I don’t approve of STAR testing at all. I know plenty of students who purposefully bubble in whatever on the test. They basically couldn’t care less.

  • Resource Specialist

    I am a Special Educator, and YES, we are told NOT to inform the parents of accommodations, modifications or “Opting out”.

  • Sue

    Hmmm. I guess that means my family owes a debt of gratitude to the IEP team that informed us in spite of being told not to.

    But I have a question. If staff aren’t supposed to do that, why were we presented with a full-page check list of testing accomodations and/or modifications? If the district provides this check-list (every year when check off accomodations that apply to our son, the form is on OUSD letter head), why would they then tell staff not to make it known?

    Maybe it’s another example of disfunction in the district administration.

  • Disgusted with the STAR tests

    The children hate, hate, hate these tests. Many of them know, too, that the scores have no bearing on whether or not they graduate. I’ve seen kids bubble in all the C’s or just zigzag down the page just to get the stupid things over with.

    And who can blame them, especially when there are no consequences, meaningful to them, for doing poorly? Kids need stability, and the STAR tests disrupt their school routine for a whole week. We should scrap the STAR tests altogether. Give one exit exam which they MUST pass to get out of elementary school, one which they MUST pass to get out of middle school, and one which they MUST pass to graduate high school. The students will take those tests seriously! Then we can use those scores as the basis for the API or the AYP or the EIEIO or whatever the government’s using to blame the schools for all of society’s problems.

  • Trey

    Perhaps if there were some incentive for showing up and doing their very best it would turn the STAR testing around.

    I read there were Governor’s awards given for high scores.

    Offer gift certificates, something that shows that those making the extra effort are rewarded.

  • http://ibabuzz.com chris

    Things are getting worse! We are involved with a small charter school, Mountain Oaks, that has also experienced low STAR testing participation. In a sequestered momment of fear this summer (no parents around), the scool board voted to require student participation in STAR testing…or face expulsion! When we learned of this, we attended a school board meeting to seek clarification and understanding. The board was unmoved by our statements that the law allows for opting out, that their actions were ilegal and that this was not good for the kids. They simply said that they felt compelled to fiscally protect the school and that low participation might put the school at risk.

    We are continuing to argue the point, but the ramifications of no child left with a mind continue to amaze and worry me.


  • Jim Mordecai


    It is ironic that I am on the side of someone supporting a charter school. But, the opting out of NCLB testing requirement is a catch 22. There is an opportunity to opt out but such an action may not go unpunished.

    The school board that created Mountain Oaks charter school is requiring Mountain Oaks to meet the STAR testing participation rate because Federal money is at risk. I could understand if fiscal risk was due to mismanagement but saying a charter school has to take Federal money or be closed doesn’t seem fair or right.

    On the other hand, I am skeptical of concepts such as homeschooling being financed with taxpayers’ money as becoming an opportunity to dip into the taxpayers’ pocket. The fact that Mountain Oaks is hybrid homeschooling charter school is problematic and a very difficult situation to oversee without the taxpayer being abused.

    Even if all weight is placed on STAR testing, there is still the problem, I see, and that the testing is being done by the charter school and lacks security and oversight. And, that does not begin to touch on the many problems with high-stakes standardized tests including the concern of many that high-stakes testing is counterproductive replacing learning wide-ranging curriculum with narrow test-prep curriculum.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Jamal

    STAR tests are easy just do them like I am this week

  • Jamal

    STAR tests are not even stressful, I’m in high school and its a breeze, sorry but the kids your talking about zig zaging on the scantron, are just stupid, just do the f test and get it over with, schools with low participation need to make sure the students attend, its not that hard,just show up and do it.

  • Tim

    I agree with giving the STAR test to older kids, but its the little ones that suffer from stress and burnout. My 3rd grader was so uptight and stressed out about her performance that I had to calm her down, she was crying and upset and she said “I wan’t to take the test anymore”. She is an excellent student and well-behaved. I am a teacher and I have had to administer the test, and I see nothing wrong with the giving tests to my Jr. High studnets, but for God sakes, leave the little kids alone! School is supposed to be interesting, educational and FUN!

  • Lisa

    Our family began homeschooling 2010-2011 school year for our fifth grader after two private schools. Please remember home schooler’s pay taxes and are not getting a free ride. As for STAR testing it also stressed out my son and I am considering opting out this year. Many teachers in his previous school complained the students were not “trying” and did not do as well as they should. I believe the kids were bored and burned out. Every child does not test well. As for Jamal’s comment, did you learn manners in the school you attended?

  • Daylia

    I believe that STAR testing is just a waste of time. It messes up your schooling schedule for the week and it is just used to see where we are at. I am in 6th grade and have taken four of these tests each year. I am to tired to do anything afterward and exactly what are we even taking these tests for. I am home schooled and this STAR testing just disrupts a whole week of my schooling. I mean wouldn’t you just rather me be doing school that I actually learn something and that is FUN, or something that is boring makes you tired, stressed and just is review of what you have already done. STAR testing is absurd and is just a nuisance. Oh… and Jamal you have to agree that STAR testing is S.T.U.P.I.D!

  • Works at Oakland School

    Daylia, STAR tests are really easy if you have been paying attention and doing your homework. I noticed you had a lot of mistakes in your post, including missing question marks, run on sentences, ending a sentence with a preposition, missing commas, to instead of too. Maybe STAR testing is not such a bad thing. It is only given once a year so that shouldn’t be too much of a burden. If you are home schooled, then you should be happy that your teacher doesn’t spend all of her/his time on teaching to the test and actually teaches you other subjects.

    As for you Jamal, maybe you should work on your English grammar and spelling. You are in high school and don’t know the difference between its and it’s.

  • Susan

    WORKS: You should work on your forum manners! Enough said.

    The problem with STAR testing has nothing to do with how hard it is or whether or not the results accurately assess a child’s ability or intelligence (or the collective measurements of a school). It has much more to do with the fact that the entire academic curriculum is chosen, rushed and recklessly administered with the only goal being correctly filled bubbles in the spring. I am disgusted with my daughter’s education. I am insulted with the willingness of this country, California, and my district to waste my daughter’s childhood in this manner. THAT is my reason for opting out of STAR testing!

  • ReefAsh

    I’m usually against correcting people’s grammar and spelling on the Internet because quite frankly, it makes you seem as if you like wasting your time catching strangers’ flaws, which in turn makes you look stupid. However, the person above has a point. If kids don’t take the education provided to them for granted, then they would actually give a hoot and do well in school. They simply have to LIKE it to understand it. If they didnt look forward to coming home and playing xbox then school wouldn’t be such a drag. I think that the reason I do so well in school is because I LIKE information and I LIKE learning. If you trace it back further, I think it’s because I was not exposed to meaningless garbage as a young child. I was not exposed to video games, I wasn’t exposed to stupid meaningless cartoons on Disney Channel. I was however exposed to a lot of Legos, lots of picture books, lots of magazines about animals and nature, lots of cool things to play with outside, lots of traveling to cool places, etc. I understand that not most kids have these luxuries but a lot of them do, and a lot of them are being raised as little babies. They have parents that unnecessarily worry about every little aspect of their comfort.
    I am a junior in highschool, I occasionally do my homework, I have lousy attendance, yet I outscore most of my peers, simply because I give a crap. And when STAR testing comes around every year, I just take the tests and go on with my life. I don’t whine about it on forums. That means you, lazy 6th grader. And you, over-reactive moms. Call me rude or tell me that I lack forum manners, I could care less, I mean what I wrote above. (special circumstances such as learning disabilities, sorry, this is not directed towards you)

  • Devon

    Just recently my brother told me that I did not have to take the star test and it is a waste of time.
    So I look it up and find out that I can “Opt out”.
    My teachers/School did not tell my parents and I just think that is weird maybe it is just a glitch with them but I don’t know.
    My opinion about Star testing is that it is a waste of time, It is always this long test that takes a week to finish and I does not affect my grade. So why am I taking it? so that school can make money I guess. But what ever it is what it is and I can not change that. I will take it again this year but I just don’t think it is productive.