Posted Date: 04/02/2019
Testing at Royster Middle School began April 1, but even with all the preparation and planning the students were not ready for all the hoopla and excitement.
Local law enforcement and firefighters lined the steps at 400 W. Main, voicing encouragement and handing out high-fives to students arriving for school and the first day of state assessments.
Sixth through eighth graders will take tests in reading and math, Monday through Thursday mornings, this week. In the afternoons they’ll attend the regular classes they’re missing on alternate days. The eighth graders will also take assessments in science on April 5.
This schedule is a shift from spreading the testing out over several weeks in April.
Principal Don Epps said they purposefully squeezed the math and reading testing into one week to create an event they are calling Testapalooza.
“We want the kids to take this seriously,” he said. “We’re giving it a game mentality. We all have to do our part.”
All year the students have been in class, working hard, learning and practicing their skills. Now it’s time for the big game. Just as March Madness is “the big dance,” Testapalooza is the big test where students put forth their best effort and skill.
Teachers and staff have been building awareness for several weeks, handing out information to parents at conferences, encouraging students to get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast. Teacher teams boosted anticipation for Testapalooza with their creative countdown videos leading up to testing week. They even held a practice day to see if all the students could come to school with their Chrome book charged and ready to test the first hour of class.
Incentives are in place to reward students individually and as a Rocket Time class for meeting specific goals for the test dates, Epps said. The rewards are based on:
The class with the best average overall from each grade level will be rewarded, and all the individual students who meet all the goals will qualify to attend a special event, Epps said.
“The issue with any standardized testing is kids giving their full effort,” he added. “We really want to make sure kids are giving their full effort.”
Besides encouragement from greeters each morning, the students and staff will prepare their brains for testing.
Physical Education teacher Terri Lund has been promoting the inclusion of minutes of activity in the classroom, based on research by Jean Blaydes Moize, founder of Action Based Learning.
“After 17 minutes of sitting our brain goes into hibernation mode,” Lund said. “We begin feeling tired and less focused. A two-minute Brain Blast activity keeps your brain primed for 22 minutes.”
Social science teacher Jeff Schoenberger verifies that a few minutes of activity helps his students refocus.
“I like to do a tabata brain blast. I pick out three exercises (jumping jacks, squats, push-ups) and they do it for 20 seconds and then get a 10 second break before the next exercise starts,” he said. “We often do cross elbow to opposite knee touches because this causes them to cross the middle of their body, which, in turn, activates both sides of the brain.”
Today, the students reported to their Rocket Time classes, set up their Chrome books, then headed to the gym. Principal Epps was waiting for them, ready to lead a 10-minute dance-a-thon with some student helpers.
“They love to dance,” Epps said, and “it gets the blood flowing so much.”
The staff is also supplying snacks and water, to keep the brains hydrated during the testing process.
This is a team effort and Royster is working to close the caring gap as much as possible.
“If kids care, teachers care and parents care, kids can be successful,” Epps said.