LEAP Into Testing

Yes, parents and kids, it is that time once again.  As a former teacher I used to indulge in decorating my boards to influence happiness and encourage learning. The kids would drag their book bags, and I would just smile and welcome them to the door. After January, it is hard to keep children on task with the work you are on.

 I have taught all disciplines and all grades except pre-K and Kindergarten. I felt I wouldn’t connect with the children. However when it gets close to March 1, the children truly understood the phrase “Beware the Ides of March!” It is at this time I am normally closing my unit on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This referred to the warning from the Soothsayer to Julius Caesar of Caesar’s impending death on the Ides of March. Under the reigns of Catholic religion, there was an Ides in every month. For March, May, July and October – it is these months that share the 15th.

The Ides for the children began thereafter; that is when the Louisiana Department of Education sent over massive stacks of books. The children could see the teacher’s wearing down. Teacher not on duty, no longer came out for a breath of fresh air. These teachers were in their rooms becoming one-teacher test banks.

I spent most of my time creating the most answered questions for parents. These tests are given every year, neither parents, nor do the students rarely understand their duties. So I thought I would go ahead and answer a few of the most asked questions, as to get everyone ready, and too “Beware the Ides of March!”

Is there a place where teachers, families and students can use to help support students throughout the school year? The answer is yes. There is a Testing Resource Center located on the Louisiana Department of Education website that invites grades of all ages to access interactive web-based tools. There is a hotline that opens during high times (March 14 – April 8) to assist in answering questions from the sample booklet posted on the web.

There are lessons for all ages to apply their skills. There are five levels of achievement – Advanced, Mastery, Basic, Approaching Basic, and Unsatisfactory. The 4th- and 8th grade students must demonstrate basic or above skills in English or Math, and approaching basic in Science, and Social Studies. Students in 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th take a version of the test known as the iLeap, which assesses where they are in the testing for the upcoming years, but does not hinder them moving forward grade-wise.  

 Parents wondering, “Is this just unnecessary paperwork, or does it really have anything to do with the school?” The truth is yes. Your school district is held accountability to your child’s learning while at school. Doing the best they can, there are things out of their control, so they must do their very best to improve the districts’ score, in effect, the school will be able to qualify for grants, and equipment that will assist your child in learning with the best of textbooks, the best in computer technology and the best of supplies teachers can use to teach your children.

There are many things out of a teacher’s assist your child in getting them ready. They can complete extra drills and worksheets on testing data. They can encourage children to be on time and eat breakfast. They can encourage children to get a good night’s sleep. They can explain the change in scheduling earlier, so the children aren’t alarmed when the schedule changes. They can even practice it, so the children are comfortable. Make the children comfortable with you being in the room, as a teacher can be present, but is not allowed to answer any questions. I remember one year, I lost my voice the week of LEAP. We were considering tape recording my voice for instructions, as they have to be repeated so much. However, I had another system worked out to where I could get their attention without talking. As long as I was quiet for 15 minute intervals, I could speak slightly above a whisper, or write it on the board.

We made it through the week, because the kids did their job and the parents did theirs. So remember to “Beware the Ides of March,” as you never know what will befall you. Parents, make sure the kids get plenty of rest and are up early so they don’t feel rushed. Teachers love children and want them to excel. We will do our part, but we need you every day to ask about the test. Encourage them to do their best. Tell them about your worst subject. Find out all you can, so you can are prepared. Most of all, when the scores come in, praise the child for his/her effort. Let that child know, that he’s the best. He’s our best. That means more to him than any grade, and then, let him play. He’s only a kid once.

        Published February 2, 2012, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

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