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If kids in the Valley seem a little jumpy this week, it might be because of the End of Grade tests they have to take.

During the final weeks of school, public schools students in grades 3-8 takes the state-required multiple-choice tests. High school students take similar tests referred to as End-of-Course tests, covering multiple required subjects. In Owen district public schools, the tests occur primarily during the weeks of May 25 and June 1.

Students face these make-or-break tests with attitudes that range from stressful to carefree.

Tests are administered as part of the statewide assessment program and include tests of math, science and reading comprehension.

Aligned to the N.C. Standard Course of Study, they are curriculum-based and include a variety of strategies to measure students' achievement.

Test scores are used to measure current levels of school performance and are combined to determine composite scores as required by the state-mandated ABCs Accountability Program. They also determine adequate yearly progress as mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Test scores are used to compare a child's performance with that of other students in the same grade at his same school, as well as with the same grade as other N.C. schools, and with the students' scores of the previous year. Test scores should be considered along with all other available information provided about your child, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction's Division of Accountability Services.

Teachers are required to conduct ongoing assessments for each student during the year. "These are a more useful tool for the teacher and parent than the EOG results," Black Mountain Elementary principal Norm Bosserts said, "because they are more detailed and more timely. Teachers can quickly determine those needing remediation, and teach accordingly."

Rebecca Schuit, a third-grade teacher at the primary school, believes that the EOG is just one way to measure a student's academic performance.

Other helpful measures include accelerated reading program progress towards goals, benchmarks and classroom assessments, all of which provide insight to the strengths and weaknesses of the child, she said. Newer on the evaluation table is the N.C. Read to Achieve program, which assesses reading growth and fluency in reading standards. Though the program puts a lot of pressure on both students and teachers, it is a necessary evaluation, Schuit said.

Teachers are measured against other schools. "It is not necessarily comparing apples to apples," Schuit said. "Some schools start with a much greater percentage of higher-achieving students, making it a somewhat unfair comparison."

The state is primarily interested in a student's growth from the previous year and trends for students from year to year. At the federal level, there is more concern regarding the percentage of passing students in comparison to the previous year. In cases where there is a decrease, support may be provided at that school such as staff development, additional resources and supplies. The elementary school benefited from such support a number of years back, and it has resulted in a much stronger and effective educational program at the school today, Bossert said.

Parents learn whether their child passed the EOG as soon as the results are published, but they do not get a detailed report right away.

The next school year, the student's EOG performance is used to set improvement goals for that student by the new teacher.

"Remind your student that testing matters," Bossert said, "but a high score does not make you smart and a low score does not mean you are a poor learner. There are many kinds of intelligences, and all children are different, endowed with different sorts of knowledge and talents.

"Trying hard to do your best is what matters most. We must never let scores on a test define who our children are."

Interested in serving as a testing proctor? Black Mountain Primary, W.D. Williams, Black Mountain Elementary, Owen Middle, WD Williams and Owen High School may still need proctors; contact the front office.

Testing tips for students and parents

  • Review key terms from the subject's curriculum, especially math and language terms
  • Get a good night's rest
  • Eat a good nutritional breakfast
  • Wear comfortable clothing
  • To help with stress and relieve tiredness, take deep breaths and use stretching positions
  • Help your child keep testing in proper perspective

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