Reach for the STARs: STAR Testing at PVS
Every year Pleasant View School tests its students through math and English assessments called STAR testing. These assessments provide teachers data on their students’ academic level in these two core subjects. The English section includes material from vocabulary word questions to reading comprehension, and the math section covers a wide range of mathematical skills from word problems to calculations. The tests are taken on a device making it computer adaptive, which means that each question adjusts to the student’s progress. For example, once a student answers a question correctly, the following questions become increasingly harder, so the student receives questions from more advanced or higher grade levels. The scoring sheet gives an overall level for the student. With all of this information about their students, teachers can better decide what to focus on within the class. Principal Dr. Malley said, “For example, we might learn that a 1st Grade student has mastered phonological awareness but is still having difficulty matching letters for final consonant sounds or we might find that a middle or high school student has mastered the skill of simplifying a linear expression in Algebra but still struggles with identifying real world problems by linear inequalities.” With this information, teachers can adjust their curriculum or even find ways to give students personalized learning supplements.
STAR assessments have scientifically proven to help teachers guide their students towards a successful path. Dr. Malley said, “The STAR tests have proven extremely useful in helping us understand individual student needs as well as providing us some class level data that will guide our instruction going forward. This kind of data is especially useful in giving us insight into how to capitalize on the added ability to differentiate instruction that we have found exists in a remote teaching environment. The fact that we can get this kind of granular data while continuing to teach remotely is extremely beneficial.” Students do not need to prepare for these tests since they are solely for the school to gauge students’ levels.
Since the pandemic, STAR testing has a slightly different look, although the objective remains the same. For the past several weeks, PVS has been administering the tests on the school campus one grade level at a time. The administration of the tests has also given the school an opportunity to conduct other mostly outdoor class activities at PVS such as science lab experiments or P.E. All the activities that are conducted on campus are undertaken in full compliance with all safety procedures. Everyone is required to wear a mask and students practice social distancing during the assessments as well as during the after-assessment activities.