SDUHSD Experiments with Skipping STAR Testing

Joy Ma, Contributing Writer

This article originally appeared in Torrey Pines High School’s The Falconer in September 2022. It has been lightly edited for republication.

San Diego Unified High School District has made STAR testing optional for high school students enrolled in honors or advanced placement courses. 

In the past, SDUHSD administered the standardized math and reading assessment to all 7th to 12th-grade students three times per school year. The data gathered was used by teachers to monitor the progress of students’ learning and make changes or adaptations to instruction and course structure. 

Torrey Pines High School English teacher Dawn Whalen opted not to administer the STAR test to her honors classes this year. 

“Kids with high [language proficiency] start to get the same questions on the test over and over … once you reach the top, there’s no way to go but down,” Whalen said. “I’m happy [that] both teachers and students won’t have any more busy work.”

Ava Sharghi-Moshtaghin, a tenth grader enrolled in honors English, agreed with Whalen. “It’s a rational decision, as kids in honors classes already grasp [the] subject comfortably,” Sharghi- Moshtaghin said. 

Annie Polan, a TPHS math teacher, administered the first round of STAR testing to her college preparatory classes in the first month of school. 

“I see the reasoning behind not having honors or AP take [the STAR tests] because [they] tend to excel and exceed,” Polan said. “While tracking their progress is still important, they usually don’t need as much hands-on intervention.” 

Varied opinions about STAR testing come from students in college preparatory courses. 

“I honestly don’t see the controversy [around STAR testing]. It’s not a huge part of the syllabus, and the statistics gathered would really help the teachers out,” said integrated math 2 student Luca Antonelli, a tenth grader. 

However, twelfth grader Curtis Wang, a student in college preparatory English, does not see STAR testing as a useful classroom tool. 

“Since it does not hold any value in the grade book, most of us don’t even try,” Wang said. “It’s a horrible waste of time, undermining the school’s average academic performance.” 

According to Polan, SDUHSD will observe the data and patterns from this year and will eventually decide whether or not to continue making STAR testing optional for honors and AP students. 

“[Until then,] some kids in college preparatory [classes] think it’s unfair,” Polan said. “I just wish more students took a second to recognize how it’s beneficial for teachers to be aware of where they stand in terms of meeting certain standards.”