Testing gets under way today

By Greg Gelpi

Pressure to perform on standardized tests has made some students sick to their stomachs.

Students will begin taking the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test this morning. For the first time, third-graders who do not pass the reading portion of the CRCT may not advance to the fourth grade.

"I do get a little nervous," Alicia Sivell, a River's Edge Elementary School third-grader, said. "It makes my stomach hurt."

River's Edge Instructional Technology Specialist Tracy Disario said her students use brain gyms to focus with the CRCT. The exercises "stimulate" brain activity.

"It activates different parts of the brain," Disario said.

She said that teachers have been working on students to reduce stress with relaxation and breathing techniques. Teachers are also reducing stress by preparing students for the tests, so that they have nothing to worry about.

Alicia Sivell's father Steve Sivell said it took $7,000 in medical exams to find that she suffered from test anxiety.

"They put so much stress on Alicia and all the little kids," he said. "The doctors came back and said they think it's stress-related."

Steve Sivell said that test anxiety caused his daughter "severe stomach problems and abdominal pain."

Clayton County schools are sending information to parents to help relieve the stress of the CRCT and are helping students relax while at school.

"I feel I want to do my best," Melissa Morrow, a fifth-grader at River's Edge, said.

Kelli Clemons, a fourth-grader said, said she has been reviewing in her classes, which has helped her remember the essentials for the tests.

Despite the stress, all three students said they will do well on the standardized test.

"I think I'm going to do real well and pass," Morrow said. "Sometimes I get a little nervous."

The state acknowledges the stress created by the CRCT, but one official said that the tests are necessary.

"We acknowledge that there is a lot of stress involved," Kirk Englehardt, a public information officer for the state Department of Education, said. "We don't underestimate the importance of the tests. There really isn't any other option."

Englehardt said that schools must measure their progress in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

He said the department is suggesting that parents speak with their children about the tests and show them support. Also, parents should make sure that children get plenty of sleep, eat a good breakfast and get them to school on time.

Third-graders who do not pass the reading portion of the CRCT can attend summer school and retake the test before school begins in the fall. If they pass the test, they will advance to the fourth grade. Students who do not pass, can appeal to the school system.

CRCT testing will continue into next week.