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Students will get a breather during CRCT tests
First-grader Ivette Ibarra writes down answers during a CRCT practice session with her class at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School on Thursday. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan

Hall County and Gainesville students will get a one-day break between the high-stakes parts of the state’s basic-skills tests they’ll take later this month.

The school systems have decided to try the new approach to give students a rest between parts of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests but also a day for teachers to review material and give make-up tests as needed.

"The reason for the change was that many principals, primarily at the elementary schools, felt that students got very tired of testing by the end of two- hours-a-day testing for five consecutive days," said Drew Rogers, assessment coordinator for Hall County schools.

Both school systems will start the CRCT on April 16, or two days after students return from a weeklong spring break.

Both will start with reading and give a one-day break for the subsequent English/language arts and math portions. Gainesville will give a one-day break before giving the science and social studies portions on consecutive days.

The exams are given to students in first through eighth grades, with
third-graders having to pass the reading/language arts portion and fifth- and eighth-graders having to pass the reading/language arts and math portions for a clear promotion to the next grade.

graders having to pass the reading/language arts portion and fifth- and eighth-graders having to pass the reading/language arts and math portions for a clear promotion to the next grade.

Under the old system, both school systems had scheduled for the exams to start April 21 and run on consecutive days.

Hall County decided in the fall to make the change. Gainesville made the change last month after principals had discussed the matter, said Merrianne Dyer, principal at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School.

One factor in that discussion was the 2008 Tour de Georgia, a 600-mile, seven-day bicycle race, rolling through Gainesville April 23.

The city school system plans to release students early that day to avert any possible traffic conflicts.

But the principals "went back to what would be the best thing from the kids’ point of view," she said. "And (the students) get tired. Toward the end of the week, when we (test in) science and social studies, they just begin to disengage. ... We think they’ll be fresher."

Dyer added, "We certainly think it’s well worth the try. We don’t have anything to lose, and we all think they’ll do much better."

Chavon Payne, mother of a first-grader at Fair Street, said she supports the new schedule.

"I think it will be good for the students, (as) it will give their brains a break from taking a test day after day," she said.

As far as shortening the review time, Dyer said that students will have gotten a heavy dose of CRCT review and preparation before spring break. She likened preparation in the two days before the tests to "putting the last bit of icing on the cake."

Schools statewide put a huge emphasis on preparing students for the CRCT.

The state not only uses the scores as a promotion tool but as a gauge to determine whether schools are making "adequate yearly progress" per the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Schools commonly hold CRCT "pep rallies" and other events to get students pumped for the exams.

Janet Adams, principal at Chicopee Woods Elementary School in Southeast Hall, said that "for 30 school days prior to testing, we spend 20 minutes each day reviewing test-taking skills and academic skills needed for success on the CRCT."

"We will be doing this (today) and the Monday and Tuesday after spring break," she added.

Dyer also said she believes that starting the tests on a Wednesday is far better than on a Monday.

"It will be hugely beneficial," she said. "Monday morning ... is hard to get (students) geared because children stay up too late on the weekend."

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