By Curt Yeomans
Brown Elementary School Second-grade Teacher Katrina Wade told parents they need to make sure their children do the little things -- like get a lot of rest and eat a healthy breakfast -- before taking the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs), because the mind matters on test day.
"When they are sitting in this classroom taking the test, it is them, and their brain, and that is it," Wade said.
Brown Elementary held a CRCT-themed evening activity at the school, on Thursday, to raise awareness among parents of the importance of the CRCTs.
Elementary and middle school students will be taking the CRCTs April 14 and 15, the week after schools are on spring break, according to the school system's testing calendar. The reading and language-arts portions of the exam will be administered first. Testing will resume April 20-22, with sections focusing on mathematics, science and social studies.
The CRCTs are a measure of how well students are mastering the Georgia Performance Standards, which are created by the Georgia
Department of Education. The department uses the CRCTs as the academic qualifier to determine whether a school makes Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Although schools hold academic activities such as curriculum nights throughout the school year, to focus on specified areas of instruction, things shift gears around March as the test elementary and middle schools spend all year preparing for approaches.
"We've been doing these kinds of activities all year long, to highlight specific content areas, but this is the last little push before the CRCTs to make sure parents know what the test is like," said Brown Elementary School Principal Jocelyn Wright. She later added, "We've been doing the CRCTs for a while, and yet parents are still not as savvy as they need to be about this test."
Some of the tips teachers at Brown Elementary School gave parents and their students included:
* Get plenty of rest the night before the test.
* Make sure students understand there can be no stray marks on the answer sheet.
* Read passages on the reading section twice before answering the questions.
* Go with the first guess as an answer, unless the child is absolutely convinced their initial guess is wrong.
* Have two No. 2 pencils on the day of the test.
* Act as a cheerleader for the child as he or she is getting ready for school, so the youth will have a higher confidence level as he or she is taking the test.
Several parents, and other family members, said they were glad the school held the event because, whether their children are first-time CRCT takers, or have taken the test a few times already, the adults still learned something about the test.
"It helps me prepare my son for the test, so we know what he can expect to face," said Sally Kelsakdy, a parent of a first-grader at the school.
"They went through the test, and what types of things the children may see on it," said Jonesboro resident, Erica Warren, whose younger brothers are first-graders at the school. She attended the event on behalf of their mother, who is a teacher, and could not make it, she said.
"I learned everything about the test," Warren added. "We moved here from New York, so everything is new about the CRCT."
Kenya Valentine, who has a kindergartner, a first-grader, and a third-grader at the school, said that although this is not the first time one of her children has taken the CRCT, even she learned something new about it.
"I didn't realize some of the questions are designed to be tricky on purpose, so they can really challenge the students," she said.