After two school years dealing with COVID-19, Homewood school administrators were pleasantly surprised when STAR test scores showed students met or exceeded growth numbers in math and English/Language Arts.
STAR, a nationally recognized test, gives the district a method of recording student gains and the numbers are used for internal assessments. The district is still obligated to give students state-required tests.
“The most important thing (about STAR) is that it gives us student growth. It’s about the learning; you take them from where they start and you need to see how they grow,” said Kathy Schaeflein, curriculum director.
In math, the STAR growth jumped from 29.6% to 36.3%. “This is the greatest growth we’ve seen in five years,” she said. In 2017-18, the math score was 33.2% but then dropped off to 29.7% in 2018-19; 28.8% in 2019-20; 29.6% in 2020-21.
The STAR English/Language Arts number was up nearly 10 points from the previous year. The 2021-22 number jumped from 33.4% to 41.2%. In 2017-18, it was 35.1%; 2018-19, it was 33%; 2019-20 it was 34.7%; and 2020-21, it was 32.4%.
“These results are an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison in that the growth reflected compares a student to all other students who scored at the same level in the fall — not against all students who took the test,” said Superintendent Scott McAlister.
“For example, if Student A scored a 65% in the fall, STAR then takes all students who scored a 65% in the fall and watches how much they grow over the next few months. Those who grow faster than others are classified as high growth” and are represented in these statistics. McAlister said.
“It’s five years worth of data, all growth data, based on expected growth,” she said. The numbers are for district assessment, and allow for a district comparison to national data.
“We’re looking at the trends over years, and even looking at the kids coming in after COVID, they made greater growth than ever,” she said.
“I think this so impressive, and I think our teachers should be so proud of themselves,” Schaeflein said. “They’ve worked really hard.”
STAR testing is District 153’s growth measurement for math and E/LA and is given three times a year to record how students are learning. Schaeflein said the tests are 35 minutes each. The STAR tests are administered to all 1,872 students in the district. Even kindergarteners and first graders take a test, she said.
“The most important thing is that it gives us student growth. It’s about the learning; taking them from where they start, and you need to see how they grow. They can predict the student growth compared to other students starting scores at the same place,” she added.
The district started using STAR to track student growth because mandated state test data wasn’t available to the district for months – too late for teachers to make any adjustments to classroom learning, resources or getting students special assistance to bring them up to speed, Schaeflein said.
However, it’s the mandated state tests that are used on the state report card. Students took the mandated state tests in April. Those tests are given over five days on computer and broken into three sections of English/Language Arts and two sections for math. Each section takes 75 to 90 minutes.