By: Pauline Tsui, Contributing Writer ‘25

The prominence of New Jersey state testing remains fixed as a lowly anticipated event for hundreds of high school students. In September 2021, several grades at Indian Hills were required to take a new standardized test, known as the Start Strong Assessment. This test was implemented in replacement of the PARCC, scheduled in the spring of 2021. Students were under the impression that the Start Strong was only a one-time state test. Yet, an email from the administration sent in early September baffled many students, contradicting beliefs about Start Strong’s preconceived notions. 

Reasons as to why the Start Strong was readministered remain unclear to many students throughout Indian Hills. Charlotte Manning, a student in the class of 2025, believes that there is no “a point to the start strong, because we already have standardized testing to analyze. I get it’s to see what gaps covid left, but those will vary person to person, I don’t think it’s enough to warrant more state testing” explains Charlotte Manning, a student in the class of 2025. Despite students taking the PARCC in the spring of 2022, Start Strong was re-administered in the fall of 2022. Various students posit the reason for the second administration of the Start Strong being “a way for the state to recognize the areas for improvement that are well understood in schools in order to create a more specific curriculum to fit the needs of students and to better prepare them for the future,” elucidates Hayoung Baik, a student in the class of 2024. With a nonexistent PARCC to makeup, Indian Hills students pinpoint the administration of the Start Strong being to further track student gaps in learning. “It was most likely implemented to assess where students are at academically so the teachers can properly teach them” suggests Isabella Manias, a sophomore at Indian Hills. Yet the sudden implementation of Start Strong involved various changes than previously.

Alexa Muro, a student in the class of 2025 hypothesizes that the Start Strong “gives feedback to NJ about how us as students are doing halfway through our high school career. It just shows them what could be improved.” In the 2021 Start Strong, sophomores received an extra one to two hours of sleep. Anticipating being able to sleep in the 2022 Start Strong, the sophomores became required to take the standardized test, leaving the now juniors with another extra hour of sleep. The various changes in the Start Strong prompted numerous speculations about the sudden provision. 

Despite the year difference, students at Indian Hills encompass mixed feelings about the test content: “I definitely remember learning the majority of the math portion from middle school. Though I honestly did not remember the material,” adds Alexa Muro, a sophomore at Indian Hills. Multiple test takers of the Start Strong recall not remembering and learning the content in the math section. Parallel to the math section, various students struggled with the English section. Other students feel that “some of the tests are too easy and short to truly assess where students are,” clarifies Jia Chen, a student in the class of 2025. The Indian Hills High School community shares mixed feelings about being well-prepared or unprepared for the Start Strong. 

As students remain unsure about the reason for the Start Strong Assessment to be issued once more and whether the Start Strong accurately reflects a student’s academic performance and growth questions will continue to reemerge. Presently, speculations persist about a future Start Strong assessment being administered in the fall of 2023. How many times will this test be given to the same students? The question remains unknown until the next surprise email announcing the readministration of yet another standardized test.