GREENFIELD — It’s all about mindset.
As students across the county take the first round of ISTEP this week, their teachers, parents and community leaders are encouraging them to go into the test with a positive attitude.
On Monday morning, “We are the Champions” rang out over the sound system at Greenfield Intermediate School as students ran through a hand tunnel formed by community members who came to the school bright and early to show their support for the young test-takers, who start exams on Tuesday.
Students have spent all year preparing for the test, and they’re ready for it, Principal Jim Bever said.
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He encouraged them to do their best and not be nervous.
ISTEP is administered to students in third through eighth grade throughout the state each spring; scores are used to measure students’ progress, rate their schools and evaluate their teachers. For the past few weeks, teachers across the county have been leading students through practice questions and gearing them up for success.
Students in Grades 3 through 8 take English and math exams. Some grades also take science and social studies.
The testing period for the first round of the exam opened Monday. It requires students to respond with written answers, and schools had the choice of taking the test with paper and pencil or online. The second round, which features multiple choice questions, will be completed online in April.
Across the county, schools planned pep rallies, spirit weeks and asked parents to write encouraging letters to rev students up for testing, which is expected to be as challenging for students as last year, when the state moved to new, more rigorous education standards.
At Greenfield Intermediate, teachers performed a choreographed dance to “Eye of The Tiger” on Monday morning, and Mayor Chuck Fewell and Superintendent Harold Olin spoke with students about doing their best.
Fewell told students he and other community leaders present Monday morning will eventually retire, and the students sitting in the gymnasium will be the community’s next set of leaders.
“When you’re vibrant, we’re vibrant,” he said. “We know you are going to do your best.”
On Friday, as they do every year, staff members at J.B. Stephens Elementary School planned a pep rally as a way to prepare third-graders for the test.
J.B. Stephens social worker Christy Harpold said the pep rally helps relieve student stress as the test, which is used to measure student performance in English and math, begins. And because the entire school attends the pep rally, students look forward to third grade, when it’s their turn to be the stars of the event.
Educators hope the pep rally keeps students from being nervous, replacing anxiety with excitement for the chance to succeed.
“It shows them we’re here to support them, we’re behind them, and it’s not a scary thing,” Harpold said.
Third-grade teachers at the school have spent the past few weeks helping students prepare, running through practice tests and talking about what they’ll see on the test as they encounter it for the first time, Harpold said.
While practice tests are valuable, it’s equally important to ensure schools maintain morale during testing week, said first-grade teacher Angie Graddy, who helped plan J.B. Stephens’ pep rally.
The test is designed to be challenging, but educators don’t want students to be dismayed, she said.
“They work so hard,” she said.
And a school-wide pep rally shows third-graders the entire school is behind them, Graddy said.
The students ran through banners, took a lap around the gym and sat in the bleachers while the entire school cheered them on.
Their teachers danced for them, and third-graders ran through a hand tunnel created by their classmates.
Principal Matt Davis told the school the third-graders were the real stars of Friday’s pep rally.
“They’re the first group to show us what they know,” he said, “to show the whole state what they know.”
Most students will test for about a week, and schools can administer Round 1 between now and March 11.
Teachers are encouraging parents to help their students prepare for ISTEP this week. They offered the following tips:
- Make sure your child gets a full night of sleep by heading to bed early, especially if they’re anxious about the test, which might keep them awake.
- Make sure they eat a hearty breakfast so they’re not distracted by hunger as testing begins.
- Get them to school on time. Many schools will begin testing first thing in the morning, and students who are late will be behind.
- Provide support and understanding as they test this week, and encourage them to do their best.
ISTEP testing begins this week in Hancock County schools. Students in third through eighth grade will be tested in math and English. The first round of testing will be administered between now and March 11, and the second round begins mid April.