Students prepare for state tests

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Portales teachers and students have been preparing for state academic proficiency testing, which begins this week.

The standardized tests given in third through eighth grade and 11th grade determine whether the schools meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards.

“I have high expectations for what our students will do on the standardized test,” Portales superintendent Randy Fowler said.

Students will score better than in the past and show they and the teachers have been working hard, he predicted.

Testing at most schools will be split between this week and the week after spring break. Portales High School students will finish testing this week.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools must have a specified percentage of students in the overall population and in all of a number of subgroups scoring as proficient on the tests. The percentage increases every year and is different for different schools.

If a school doesn’t make AYP, it is subject to a number of requirements, including increased government oversight.

Fowler said none of the district’s schools met AYP standards last year, mainly because certain subgroups of students didn’t show the required number of proficient scores.

“Overall, our students have done fine,” he said.

Principal Michael Terry said faculty members have been helping the fourth- and fifth- grade students with test-taking skills so they could do their best and not freeze up because of nervousness.

“We feel students are prepared,” he said. “We just need them to perform at their level.”

Over the school year, Terry said teachers have focused on reading because they believe every subject is dependent on it.

“So if they can read and understand, they can be successful in all their test levels,” he said.

For Portales Junior High Students, Principal Steve Harris said teachers had been preparing students all year, but in February had begun reviewing concepts and going over test-taking strategies. The faculty has also worked intensely with students in the subgroups that didn’t make AYP last year.

At Portales High School, juniors have learned to use a writing technique adapted from the Schaffer Method to respond to questions requiring short answers and those needing more detailed answers, Principal Melvin Nusser said. English, math, science and social studies classes have all incorporated the writing technique into their curriculums.

Also, Nusser said teachers had received professional development through the language arts department, and students had been practicing on standardized test materials from Texas.

Students took tests in September and December to project how they would do on the state exams. Nusser said teachers then adjusted curriculum as scores indicated was necessary.

A big part of succeeding with AYP is convincing students to do their best, he said.

“It doesn’t affect their graduation one way or the other,” Nusser said. “But we emphasize how important it is for our schools.”

Portales High also has incentives in place to motivate students.

“We’ve been working hard all year long,” Nusser said. “I mean, you don’t wait until a week before the test to prepare.”

Tips for successful testing

Parents should:

• make sure students get a good night’s rest.

• get children up on time in the morning to avoid the stress of rushing.

• not be overly anxious about the test, but encourage students to do their best.

• make sure the students are relaxed and comfortable for the test.

• make sure children eat breakfast. Schools are to serve breakfast in the classrooms.

Source: Randy Fowler and Michael Terry