Archive for Thursday, March 9, 2006

Test time for students

State assessments under way in Lansing schools

March 9, 2006

One of the most potentially anxiety-producing times of the year is upon students in Lansing: state assessments.

Students and teachers have prepared all year for the state tests. This year, students in third through eighth grades are being tested in reading and math; Lansing High School sophomores will be tested in reading, and LHS juniors will be tested in math.

The state determines that all the tests should be taken between March 1 and April 21. Lansing Intermediate and Middle school students started testing on Tuesday. LHS and Lansing Elementary School will give the test late this month or in early April.

The state assessment scores are used to determine which schools meet the Building Standard of Excellence, a state honor, and Adequate Yearly Progress, a federal mandate of the No Child Left Behind law.

Most students will take the assessments on the computer, eliminating the pencil-and-paper versions for all but students with special needs. In third grade, two classes will take computer assessments, and five will take the tests on paper. It's a matter of having only one computer lab to serve the whole school, Lansing Elementary School principal Tim Newton said.

Students have been preparing for theses tests all year - and throughout their school careers, Newton said.

Lansing Middle School principal Kerry Brungardt said the information students would be tested on was part of each school's curriculum.

Thus, the principals said, students haven't been departing from their regular schoolwork to study for the tests. However, students at each school have taken time out to practice how to take the tests.

Because this is the third-graders' first year for assessments, Newton said each class had practiced taking the tests both on the computer and on paper. The students also worked through tutorials to learn about the tools available on the computer tests, including rulers, calculators and highlighters, he said.

Despite the months and years of learning, there are a few other ways students can prepare for testing that can only be done during test times.

Students should come to school prepared with pencils and scratch paper, even if they are testing on the computer. Administrators at each school also asked parents not to schedule appointments that would require taking the student out of school during the testing window.

Educators at all the schools emphasized the need for students to get plenty of rest and eat a healthy breakfast during test times.

For middle-schoolers, Brungardt recommended students go to bed at 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. to get enough sleep; research indicates young teens should get eight to 10 hours of sleep, he said.

LIS counselor Marianne Walker recommended a minimum of nine to 10 hours for fourth- and fifth-graders. Getting less than that can affect students' mood, coordination and memory, she said.

The educators also emphasized the importance of eating breakfast before testing.

"They need nourishment to feel alert, and they're growing a lot at this age," Walker said. "Their bodies are doing double duty" growing and learning, she said.

LIS will provide granola bars and water for students each day they are testing. At LMS, Brungardt said every student who would be tested would have the opportunity to eat the school breakfast, which is intended to provide fuel for concentration.

"I'm guaranteed the kids are going to have the energy" to take the tests, Brungardt said.

Each school also will provide some type of motivation or incentive for the students to do well.

Newton said he won't be offering an incentive, but he will give the students a pep talk on the importance of doing their best and using they tools they've learned.

Brungardt also said he would provide pep talks to the students, but his school is offering what might be the biggest incentive: grade levels that do well on the tests will receive a day off.

Last year, he offered the same incentive to grades that earned the Building Standard of Excellence. However, the state revised the assessments this year, and because it is a new test, the state will not be able to determine the cut scores for the standard until the fall.

"If we feel they've done well, we'll give them a day off," Brungardt said.

At the Intermediate School, Walker said that if 85 students per grade get a score of 80 percent or higher, the grade would get a movie and popcorn party. Students at the school also received pencils that read, "Do your best on the test!"

Kristie Wessel, a counselor at LHS, said a reward for achievement still was being discussed at the high school.

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