Friday, April 12, 2013

Are you as smart as San Francisco fifth-graders?

Hard to believe it, but it’s April and time again for our students to take the California Standardized Testing and Reporting tests.

Teachers and education officials use the results of STAR tests to identify individual student progress, as well as trends in how well groups of students are learning the standards in order to improve educational programs.

In second through 11th grade, tests cover English-language arts. Up to seventh grade, general math is also covered. Additional tests are added at various grades, including history-social science, science, algebra, geometry, physics and chemistry.

Based on students’ test results and a few other factors, the state assigns an Academic Performance Index rating and growth target to each school and district. Ratings range from 200 to 1,000, with a goal of 800 API for all schools and districts statewide.

The San Francisco Unified School District’s API has steadily increased since STAR testing began in 2001. We now have an API of 807, an indication that we’re one of the highest-performing urban districts in the state.

With all the talk of test scores, I imagine that, unless you’re a teacher or student, you don’t know what types of questions are asked.

Take a crack at answering a few questions.

Pencils ready ...

Sample questions from the California Standards Test (

1. Fifth-grade math
Question: The measures of three interior angles in a quadrilateral are 35 degrees, 50 degrees and 125 degrees. What is the degree measure of the fourth interior angle?
A) 60 degrees
B) 90 degrees
C) 120 degrees
D) 150 degrees

2. Eighth-grade science
Question: How much time is required for a bicycle to travel a distance of 100 meters at an average speed of 2 meters per second?
A) 0.02 seconds
B) 50 seconds
C) 100 seconds
D) 200 seconds

3. 11th-Grade history
Question: What did the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine state?
A) The United States would permanently station troops in the Philippines and other Pacific islands.
B) The United States reserved the right to intervene in the affairs of Central America and the Caribbean.
C) The United States had the right and duty to expand its colonial possessions in Asia.
D) The United States would provide military aid to Europe to resist communism.
A note about ensuring that students’ answers are their answers. In light of recent news about Atlanta’s public schools, some of you may be wondering how we make sure that STAR test sheets are not tampered with. At school sites and our central office, we document a chain of custody for both the test booklets and completed tests. In addition, our central staff analyze test sheets for irregularities and conduct investigations if anything looks unusual. Once submitted to the state, the tests undergo the same scrutiny before being certified.
Quite simply, inaccurate scores are not useful to us. We rely on our students’ test scores to show us where they need support in their learning.

Answers: 1) d; 2) b; 3) b