While it might seem logical to help students cram before a big exam, students at Chicopee Woods Elementary School spent Friday afternoon at a pep rally celebrating their hard work.
Students in grades three through eight in Hall County will be taking the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests this week. Gainesville City Schools will test next week, April 22-26.
The standardized test measures how well a student has learned the skills taught in the state curriculum and identifies any strengths and weaknesses of an individual student. The test is also used to measure the quality of education throughout the state.
Prior to this year, the CRCT was linked to a school’s Adequate Yearly Progress score. Now the state has introduced a new way to measure school success: The College & Career Ready Performance Index, a more complicated version of scoring schools that takes a total of 73 indicators of performance into account. AYP measured only seven indicators; the CRCT used one.
Under the new index, student achievement makes up 70 percent of the overall score, 40 percent of which comes from test scores like the CRCT.
To progress to the next grade level, third-grade students must meet the requirements for their grade level in reading. Fifth- and eighth-grade students must be at grade level in reading and math to move up to the next grade.
Because the test is so important to both schools and students, many teachers and school administrators are hoping to relieve student tension by making the test as fun as possible, or at the very least, less stressful.
Kelley Trippe, assistant principal at Chicopee Woods, said the school holds a pep rally every year before the test to give students a chance to celebrate all they’ve accomplished and encourage them to do their best.
“That’s what we try to stress, that this is your chance to show off everything you’ve learned all year long,” Trippe said. “We stress the importance to them but we try not to make it a stressful experience for them.”
Trippe said teachers try to make the test-taking experience as positive as they possibly can.
“We say, ‘This is your chance to show us what you’ve learned all year,’” Trippe said. “This is a positive experience. We don’t believe in stressing them out about it because it’s pretty stressful in itself but we don’t need to add stress to it.”
Third-grade students from Sardis Enrichment School also took time to have a little fun Friday, with a field trip to Hanson Aggregates Southeast, a quarry in Gainesville.
Amanda Ayotte, third-grade teacher at Sardis, said the field trip gave the students a much-needed break.
“We don’t want them to stress over something that we’ve prepared them for,” Ayotte said. “The third-graders have not ever done this before; they don’t know what it’ll be like. They’ve never done bubble sheets before.”
Because of budget constraints, first- and second-graders are not given the test.
But some schools are trying to keep younger students involved with test preparations by having them encourage the older students.
“We partner our K-2 classes with a third- to fifth-grade class and they’re like their cheerleaders during CRCT,” Trippe said. “They make signs, they make them treats. Because we want our K-2 students to feel involved and to realize, too, how important it is and get involved with it.”
Ayotte said she and other teachers have tried to prepare their classes for the test by making reviewing fun. Her students enjoy playing video games that test their skills and knowledge.
Other teachers have come up with creative ways of reviewing the material, like having question-and-answer egg hunts and game shows.
Kim Davis, assistant principal of Fair Street Elementary, said the goal is to keep students from being scared or unreasonably worried about the test.
Davis said the school tries to keep the test “low key” so students understand its importance but don’t waste energy worrying about it.
“We try not to make the testing seem like the most important thing we do all year,” Davis said. “It’s just a part of what we do.”