Smooth Rollout for New Testing System

STAR replaces Galileo as the district-wide standardized test

By Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief

The new STAR testing has mostly received stellar reviews at the West Bend High Schools.

For the 2017-18 school year, the West Bend School District implemented a new standardized testing system, STAR 360 Assessments. Although this system is used globally, it is a product of Renaissance Learning, which was started by a parent here in Wisconsin. STAR tests students’ core reading and math skills. Ninth and tenth grade students at WBHS took the math test Sept. 21 and the reading test Sept. 26, and will take them again in January and April.

STAR replaces Galileo, the district’s previous standardized testing system that proved controversial.

“We really tried hard to keep a handle on the amount of testing that we were exposing students to,” said Donna Goetz, the district-wide school psychologist. “We’re trying to be sensitive, to not over test students.”

The old system, Galileo, tested science and social studies as well reading and math, focusing on mostly content-based questions. STAR aims to test skills and how students’ ability in math and reading are applicable to other subjects, such as science.

Teachers at East High and West High have noticed the change in the style of questions.

“It takes much less class time than before,” said Kristen Becker, West English teacher. “I also think it applies much more to what we are doing in class, as opposed to Galileo which did not necessarily have a direct application.”

Melissa Werth, East math teacher, has also noted advantages to STAR, particularly how the questions and data received from the test can be beneficial to the classroom.

“I think STAR testing is much more conducive to understanding what students know, and where their levels are so I can support them in their areas of deficiency,” Werth said. “Galileo didn’t give me that information.”

Students have responded to the new test format as well.

“I do like how when you get questions it gets harder and harder, and when you get one wrong it takes you down a level,” East ninth grader Travis Wiesner said. “It helps you be able to tell what level you are at.”

Monica Miranda, East sophomore, had a similar take.

“I like that it’s more personalized,” she said. “The more you take the test the more it customizes the questions towards you. I like that a lot better.”

“We really tried to keep a handle on the amount of testing that we were exposing students to.”
– Donna Goetz

However, some aspects of the test were not as well received. Although she approved of the overall test, East ninth grader Sabrina Blommel disliked one aspect.

“I think it has a nice layout, it just seems neat,” she said. “But I don’t like the clock and how it skips the question when you run out of time. On Galileo you could flag questions and go back to them.”

Another East ninth grader, Genevieve Frounfelker, found that she preferred Galileo over STAR.

“I like Galileo better because you know everyone is being tested on the same thing, and it is also easier to judge your growth,” Frounfelker said.

Besides the questioning and formatting, STAR differs to Galileo in terms of universal implementation. The WBSD was the only Wisconsin district that used Galileo, with only a few other schools in other states to compare to. In contrast, STAR is used internationally, with versions widely used in the U.S. and Europe.

“There are multiple other districts close by that utilize STAR, so we can talk with them about any problems,” Goetz said. “We didn’t have that with Galileo, and I think things fell apart so quickly that we knew it was not a good decision to continue with the program.”

Goetz hopes to continue to train teachers in utilizing the data from STAR, and to implement the test for years to come.

“Give it enough time, and STAR will show us how useful the data can be,” Goetz said.

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