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Time To Scrap The STAR Program
March 23, 2005
by Tony Zizza

When it comes to public education, perhaps the old maxim, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions", rings louder than anything known to the human ear.

Keep this in mind while we talk about the STAR program. This program is offered at the Douglas County Comprehensive High School, and who knows at how many other schools here in Georgia. More than likely, the STAR program operates in similar forms even at private schools.

So what's the problem with the STAR program? Isn't it something that will make students who are "behind" - shine a little brighter? Give additional points of light to educational darkness and dimming or dimmed academic potential?

The two letters which form the following word should sum it up nicely for you: NO.

Or, as David Spade puts it in his hysterical Capitol One television commercials, "Nunca!"

STAR is an acronym for "Student Teacher Academic Referral." The STAR form I have in front of me, explains the STAR program as one "designed to provide opportunities for students to improve classroom performance and increased learning by receiving extra help from teachers outside of the regular school day." Furthermore, the STAR program is "designed to help students achieve specific short term learning objectives."

Okay. Let's wrap our minds around this. Once you get past a serving of enabler buzzwords like "objectives", "extra help" and "opportunities", you should be able to see this Teacher or Student referral spells trouble with a capital T. It really does.

Here's why. The grading system under the STAR program smacks of a skydive into mediocrity and coddling both students and society cannot afford. I think parents who sign on to the STAR program make a big mistake. Perhaps not so much if they sign on just for the minimum of two 50 minute sessions, and terminate it there.

Yet, when the referral is allowed to last from the date of a progress report or report card to the end of a semester, what is really accomplished? This represents a student being under the STAR program grading system for at least seven weeks, and this may include up to two of their four classes in any given semester.

Under the STAR program, the grading system allows for the following:

  • averaged in as an extra grade
  • replace grades for assignments given previously for objectives
  • add _ points to the nine weeks/semester grade
  • other

It's beyond pathetic to subjectively give students an arbitrary number of points by virtue of being in a program. But what do you really expect from a school system that also allows giving a number of points to, mind you, high school students who do not utilize all their bathroom passes for a given semester?

From what I understand, the "other" under the STAR program grading system can also mean replacing 0's a high school student has "earned" from not completing homework assignments with the daily value. Essentially, 70 points. Why the 70 free points? This is moronic. Senseless. Do we now have to really wonder why so many students know more about the lives of celebrities, than they do of what basic social security reform or the flat tax offers their soon to be future? Do they know they even have one? That is, a future?

To be fair, we can't sit here and objetively say since our tax dollars pay for our children's public education, they had better emerge from high school firmly educated, whether they ever wanted to be or not. There is only so much public or private teachers can do. After all, there are students who year after year are convinced to a tee that the only thing that matters is how they look. Their depth perception is only willing to go so far.

On the other hand, there are a good number of public high school students who obtain a tutor to better their B point grade average to an A grade point average, in order to find placement in the best colleges and universities.

Thankfully, we know the answer to a student reaching their academic potential isn't through labels or ADHD drugs. You wouldn't know this if you read any free Parent magazine in most big cities. Full page glossy ads selling alleged learning diseases and drugs abound. We do know full well no matter how much we deny it, the two people most responsible for ensuring an enduring education are: the parent and the child.

So there you have it. Let's go ahead and scrap the STAR program, along with all other enabler programs. No one can afford any further watering down of having to "earn" good grades. The STAR program sends the wrong message: if you as a parent don't want to study with your child, or your child won't find a classmate to study with, we'll replace 0's and add points. Average everything in. Just because we can. And you signed on to it. Probably without even really reading the referral form and understanding what it means.

A free and civil society ceases to exist once we give the government things to do we as parents (and children) must do ourselves. Or am I way off base here?

Zizza is a freelance writer who writes frequently about children and education. He serves as Vice President for the State of Georgia for the organization, Parents For Label and Drug Free Education.

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