Metro school districts delay state standardized tests, making up for days lost to icy weather
Students across Georgia were out of school up to eight days this winter after getting pummeled with a one-two punch of snowy weather in January and February.
But most school systems have not made up all the days, leaving students and teachers playing catch-up to prepare for high stakes state standardized tests given in the spring.
It was the biggest loss of school time most districts have seen in nearly two decades, so metro school systems are trying a variety of measures to give students more test-prep time. Steps include longer school days, reduced recess periods, school on Saturdays and delaying test dates.
“I think students and teachers will feel like they’re ready,” said Amy Krause, chief academic officer for Cobb County schools. “They certainly will still feel the impact of not having those days because of the extra effort they’ve put forward … I don’t think they’re going to feel like they’re way behind.”
Dozens of school districts in Georgia have opted to delay testing a week or so, giving students and teachers more time to prepare.
The Georgia Department of Education said schools were not required to make up the missed days, since states of emergency were declared because of the severe weather and traffic conditions.
Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the state DOE, said schools were given flexibility in when to do the testing because of the weather-related closings. Some 42 districts across the state decided to delay giving the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, he said.
In response to seven missed days, Fulton County schools changed March 14 from a teacher workday to an instructional day. The district also delayed the period for elementary and middle school students to take the CRCT, to April 22-April 28.
Scott Muri, Fulton’s deputy superintendent of academics, said individual schools were tasked with developing plans to address the lost days. Some plans included school on Saturday and extended school days.
“We were reminded, however, that time does not equate to learning, thus simply adding days/hours to the regular calendar would not guarantee that our students would recover the missed learning opportunities,” said Muri in an e-mailed statement.
Michaela Moeller, who has children attending Abbots Hill Elementary school in John’s Creek, said some parents have expressed concern over how soon after spring break students would be taking the CRCT exam.
But she does feel that her children will be ready to take the exams.
“At least from talking to my kids, they’re not apprehensive about testing,” Moeller said. “They feel like they’re prepared and both of their teachers … have assignments they can do online at home” to prepare for the tests.
State law requires Georgia public school students in grades 3 through 8 to take the CRCT in reading, English/language arts, math, science and social studies. Students in grades 3, 5 and 8 must meet or exceed state standards in reading to be promoted to the next grade. Fifth- and eighth-graders must also meet or exceed state standards in math to be promoted.
High schoolers in the springtime take the state’s End of Course Tests, an assessment for core courses that serve as a student’s final exam in those courses.
In Gwinnett, where students missed seven days, the system is using three make-up days that were already built into the school calendar. The other four days are to be made up by extending the school day 30 minutes for 48 days. From March 3-May 14, schools are being dismissed a half-hour later than their regular time.
In addition, the district has moved the CRCT one week. Students will now take the test April 30-May 7.
Bonita Collins, a Gwinnett parent who has three children attending Radloff Middle school, said the district’s response to the missed school days has not been too disruptive to her children.
“I think they’ll be ready,” she said. “My kids are going through it smoothly.”
DeKalb County, which lost eight instructional days due to the snow, has also delayed the CRCT nearly a week, to April 22-May 1. In Atlanta Public Schools, which lost six days, officials decided to make the district’s professional learning day scheduled March 17 a regular instructional day instead. The CRCT was also shifted one week, with testing April 23-May 1.
Cobb officials — who have CRCT testing scheduled April 23-May 2 — told each school to develop a plan to address the lost time.
In Cobb, some schools shortened recess time, provided school on Saturday for students needing extra help, delayed noncritical training for teachers and hired tutors to provide more support to teachers in the classroom.
“Most instruction right now is leading right up to the testing period,” said Krause, Cobb’s chief academic officer.
“Fortunately, the time we did miss was early, rather than, say, right now. That would be really detrimental to the progress of students. Early in January and February, we had plenty of time to adapt.”
If you think there’s not much you can do at this point to help boost your child’s CRCT scores, think again. Experts say getting adequate sleep and eating well-balanced meals and snacks can go a long way in helping kids keep their focus during the hours-long, important exams.
Cheryl Williams, registered dietitian and wellness program specialist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, offers the following advice to help children be prepared for success.
1. Get good Zzzzz’s
Students who get enough sleep are better able to remember and recall what they’ve learned. Don’t stay up late to cram; it’s better to get your Z’s. Rule of thumb: 7-12-year-olds need 10-11 hours/day. 12-18-year-olds need 8-9 hours/day. “I know 10 to 11 hours asleep may sound like a lot but for younger kids, this is what they really need,” said Williams. “You want to make sure you get enough sleep to better retain and remember what was learned throughout the past school year.”
2. Proper Fuel:
Get their test day started with the right fuel. It’s a tall order, but try to serve at least three of the four food groups with breakfast. Include a variety of foods, like whole grains (bread, brown rice, oatmeal), protein (eggs, lean meat, tofu, nuts, beans), fresh fruits or veggies, and low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese). “When you have fiber and protein, you will maintain blood sugar levels and this will help maintain mental focus and those healthy carbs help children stay alert so they can answer those questions.”
3. Healthy Snacks
Pack your child a healthy snack. If he’ll be going longer than four hours between meals, a nutritious snack midway will help regulate blood sugar and keep energy level and mental focus high. Snack suggestions: fruit, veggies, cheese and crackers, mini bagels and cream cheese. Schools have different rules on snacks on test days but try to pack a healthy snack for your child, especially if your child will be going more than four hours between meals.
4. Drink up
Don’t forget about water. Our brains are more than 85 percent water, so they need plenty of the wet stuff to work well. Thirsty brains can experience short-term memory loss, trouble focusing and difficulty with math problems. If the teacher allows, send your child with a water bottle to keep your child energized, alert and focused. Think about your child being properly hydrated the days leading up to the tests by encouraging your child to drink plenty of liquids, including milk during meals and water with snacks.
5. Say no to sugar
Avoid giving kids simple sugars. Whether you’re sending in snacks for your own little Einstein or the whole class, nix the sugary cereals, toaster pastries, juice, cookies and candy. Sure, they provide an energy burst. But they’re followed by a crash, leaving your kid feeling tired and sluggish—not what they need on test day.
6. Take it slow — but it’s never too late to start
Ideally, you start these steps gradually such as going to bed a little earlier until you get to the 10 or 11 hours. But it’s never too late to start. Even if it’s the night before the CRCT, or while your child is taking the CRCTs, you can take steps to make sure your child has a balanced dinner and goes to bed at a reasonable time.
— Helena Oliviero
By Rose French – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Upcoming dates for metro students to take the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT)
Cobb County schools: April 23-May 2
Gwinnett County schools: April 30-May 7
Fulton County schools: April 22- April 28
Atlanta Public schools: April 23-May 1
DeKalb County schools: April 22-May 1