After elementary and middle school students catch some rays during spring break, they will dive into the days of state standardized testing.
Since day one of school, teachers have been preparing first- through eighth-graders for the state's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. Some teachers even post a countdown to CRCT testing dates in their classrooms.
And of course, one of the biggest hurdles parents, teachers and kids face before the exams is spring break, which in Hall, Jackson and White counties is April 6-10.
Teachers know the state test is the yardstick by which the federal government measures academic progress under No Child Left Behind. But many parents don't know they can play a crucial role in preparing their child for the test, especially when spring break and time at home separates the students from in-school test preparation.
LeCrisha Webb, an East Hall Middle School counselor, said parents can help their children prepare for the test by helping them study CRCT workbooks or using the state Department of Education's online CRCT practice test program.
"We are trying to get parents to understand this is a way to gauge the quality of education in Hall County," Webb said. "Everybody's involved. Everyone has a role to play, even parents."
Teachers and counselors at East Hall Middle celebrated last year when the school made Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind for the first time. Students' performance on the test can affect how much funding the school receives from the federal government.
Webb said East Hall Middle has placed a strong emphasis on preparing its students for the test academically and emotionally.
On Tuesday evening, Webb said, the school is hosting a CRCT rally for students and parents. The rally will revolve around the theme of "The Amazing Race to CRCT Success," and a NASCAR driver is scheduled to pull up to the school at 6 p.m. to rev students up for the big test.
Webb said teachers will be on hand at the rally to show students and parents how they can use the state Department of Education's Online Assessment System to study for the CRCT at home.
Parents can visit www.georgiaoas.org and log into the system using their student's username and 10-digit identification number.
East Hall Middle is also one of about a dozen Hall County schools with many economically disadvantaged students who will be sent home with CRCT practice test booklets.
Since February, Webb said East Hall Middle staff has been setting aside about 30 minutes at the beginning of the school day to practice CRCT questions with students. She said the school has also offered tutoring sessions before school, after school and on Saturdays to students who receive little help with test preparation at home.
Cindy Williams, an instructional coach at White Sulphur Elementary School, said there's many ways parents can integrate the state curriculum, known as the Georgia Performance Standards, into everyday activities. Williams held several CRCT preparation meetings for parents earlier this month.
"We talk about how they can talk about the shapes of plates at dinner or use fractions while cooking," she said. "In the car you can look at speed limit signs and ask your child, ‘Is that number prime or composite? Is it divisible by two or five?'"
Williams said she often asks parents to focus on the reading, language arts and math portions of the CRCT when they are studying with their children.
She said third-graders must pass reading and fifth-graders must pass reading and math portions of the CRCT to be promoted to the next grade. Test scores for other grade levels are also a consideration when school officials determine students' grade placements.
In her CRCT meetings for parents, Williams said she often asks parents to sit down and take a portion of the test themselves.
"That's sort of an eye-opener," she said. "I don't know if they really realize how it's really difficult content. I think parents need to see that."
Karen Green, a mother of six, said she uses the state's online CRCT preparation program to help prepare her children in second and third grades. She said when she became a school volunteer, she saw how hard teachers worked to teach the state standards to students so they could pass the CRCT with flying colors.
"My heart goes out to them," Green said. "I didn't realize what hard work they have to do. ... If the parent and the teacher work together, it makes things better. Parent involvement is a must and a plus, especially when it comes to testing."
Green said she's found it beneficial to spend about 20 minutes a day using the online test prep program after school with her second-grader, who has little homework. She said it's best to review with him the questions he got wrong, and then help him to arrive at the correct answer.
"If it's a rainy day and we can't go outside, we practice," she said. "They enjoy it. They're used to it."
Williams said it's also important to prepare your child's mind and tummy on test day mornings. She said a good breakfast after a good night's sleep is a must. And knowing they're well-prepared after weeks of practice with mom or dad ensures student confidence.
"I always tell parents they are the best motivator for the child," Williams said.