State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s assessment of the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program (STAR) could be summed up like a student’s report card – shows improvement, but not meeting expectations.
Of the approximately 4.7 million students who participated in the 2011 STAR program 54% scored proficient and above in English-language arts and 50 percent scored at proficient or above in mathematics.
Under the STAR program, California students attain one of five levels of performance for each subject tested: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic.
Torlakson touted the 2011 figures as the highest percentage since the program’s inception in 2003.
Nine years ago California students only scored 35% proficient and above in English-language arts and mathematics — an approximate increase of 2% per year.
“I believe if we fund education properly and continue the course of focusing on strategies that are working that have made this success possible, we will get to the 60% proficiency and 70% proficiency level. And that’s our goal. So there’s much work ahead,” said Torlakson.
Even those future percentages would fall far below the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which required 100% proficiency and above.
“I believe the expectations and the framework are illogical that were set up in No Child Left Behind, and so I’m disappointed that Congress did not get bi-partisan effort and majority consensus around then new Elementary and Secondary Education Act which is desperately needed. So we need to leave No Child Left Behind, behind,” Torlakson said.
Torlakson believes No Child Left Behind focuses on failure and doesn’t honor and recognize the incremental positive success among different subgroups of students moving through the school system.
The California Department of Education says that while the STAR results show an increase in proficiency levels among all subgroups, there is “a troubling and persistent achievement gap exists for African American, Latino, English-learner, and low-income students, compared to their peers.”
“We have more work to do to make sure every student receives the world-class education he or she deserves and has the opportunity to achieve their dreams and contribute to the success of our state,” Torlakson said.
Although he is pleased at the progress the students and educators have made, Torlakson says greater improvements will require the state to return education funding to previous levels and then eventually move even higher.
“Just think what we could have accomplished if we hadn’t had $10 million a year cut out of the schools and if the state had started to return the $20 million that they’ve commandeered from education and taken away from our school budgets,” Torlakson said.
To read Torlakson’s statement and assessment, click here.