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Santa Rosa Schools seek more student accountability in testing

Santa Rosa City Schools officials are grappling with ways to make students more accountable in a state and federal testing system that punishes schools and districts for poor scores, but imposes no repercussions for the students actually taking the exams.

Santa Rosa, Sonoma County's largest school district with approximately 15,500 students, is expected to enter the third year of program improvement sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind law because students have failed to meet academic targets on standardized tests.

Yet results from the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program test, which dictate those sanctions, do not affect the students themselves. Disclosure of how students score is deemed an infringement on students' privacy, said assistant superintendent Anastasia Zita.

Parents would have to grant permission for every student, every year, to put the information on transcripts, Zita said.

"The state has actually said to us, and me in particular, STAR is not meant to gauge the performance of any single student, but the performance of a school," Zita told trustees at Wednesday night's board meeting.

"You don't have school accountability unless you have student accountability, therein lies the rub," she said.

Printing a students' score on their transcript is against the California education code, Zita said. But some districts in the state have adopted a method of incorporating STAR scores into final grades.

Board members expressed frustration that scores dictate everything from how many minutes a day particular subjects can be taught to where parents will enroll their children. Yet, they are seen as meaningless by some students and some parents.

"I know parents, they tell you they don't like all this testing," said board member Donna Jeye. "Yet they check out the school scores and determine where they send their children based on the school scores."

Teachers union president Andy Brennan said a proposal to include STAR results in students' final grades would require teachers to return to their grade books after scores are released in July and rework dozens of final grades deep into the summer or even into the start of the new school year.


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