For the third consecutive year, the Oakland Unified School District’s Department of African American Male Achievement honored students who earned perfect scores on their STAR exams, but this year’s ceremony honored both young men and women. To celebrate these students’ achievements, a boisterous crowd of parents, educators and other students attended an evening event at Frick Middle School in East Oakland on October 11.
Officials had decided that any student who answered every question correctly on any portion of the exam would be awarded with a plaque and a free desktop computer. OTX West, a computer refurbishing company located in West Oakland, provided the computers for all of the African American students who achieved perfect scores.
“It feels good to have a plaque,” said Rahsan Armstrong, Jr., a 4th grade student at Sobrante Park Elementary, after being awarded for his perfect score in the math portion of his STAR exam. He said his favorite subject is math, and although he finds fractions to be hard, that doesn’t deter him from studying the subject.
“The best part is coming here and seeing other young African Americans striving for perfection,” said the boy’s father, Rahsan Armstrong, Sr., who was standing with his wife and son while surveying the crowded lunchroom.
While the main focus of the night was on the young students’ academic success, support from the parents, families, and teachers was not overlooked. “Not only are you here tonight to celebrate and honor your child, but without you, they would not be on this stage,” said Brendan Anderson, program director for the Department of African American Male Achievement, as parents and family members snapped away, taking photos of the young students flaunting their plaques on stage. “We want to give all of the parents a big round of applause, because you’re doing something right.”
The STAR—or Standardized Testing and Reporting—exam is a statewide test given annually to public school students in grades 2 through 11 in effort to gauge educational achievement levels for the state, county and district. There are multiple sections to the exam, from basic English to advanced biology.
Oakland’s school district reported that a total of 401 students achieved perfect scores on the spring 2012 exam. Of those students, 33 identified as African American.
“Seeing the families, the joy of all the young brothers and sisters with their plaques, really, this is what dreams are made of,” said Chris Chatmon, executive director of the Department of African American Male Achievement, after an evening of exchanging hugs and handshakes with students and families. “As a father, as an educator, as a servant to the community, this is the Superbowl for me.”
“I want to be a teacher,” said Rahsan Armstrong, Jr., as he stood with his plaque in hand.
“He said he wants to be a teacher,” his father added. “We want him to be a professor at a university.”