Students end week of high-stakes testing

PATTERSON, La. -- Thursday ended make-or-break week for fourth- and eighth-grade students across the state who spent four days circling bubbles and writing answers for LEAP tests that will play the primary role in deciding if they pass.

Additionally, students in second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh grade went through the same grueling four-day schedule of testing.

One of the biggest pressures Hattie Watts Elementary Principal Niki Fryou said students expressed to her was the thought that a poor performance could mean summer school.

“The biggest pressure was thinking if you are doing good or bad,” said 10-year-old Hailee Cuvillier, a Watts fourth-grader. This comment came from a girl who said she got an advance and two masteries in the iLEAP last year.

Braylin Woodard, another 10-year-old, fretted over the weekend. She said her mother offered encouraging words and assured her that she “would do great.”

Of course, Braylin’s mom had good reason to offer positive encouragement since the fourth-grader had soared through with three advance scores last year.

Both girls had unique ways to prepare for the testing this week. Hailee says she spent much of the days leading up to the week reviewing the study guides she has been saving all year long. Braylin said that her mother had her reading passages and then making quizzes on those passages which she said she passed easily.

Braylin was asked Thursday how the week went. “I thought of it as a regular school week,” said the girl with an animated smile and a giggle.

With testing over on Thursday afternoon, both girls expressed confidence in how they performed on the test.

Patterson Junior High Principal Suzanne Bergeron says that she had better than 99 percent attendance each day of testing and zero absences for the eighth-graders, which demonstrated the commitment of students and their parents to succeeding on the tests.

St Mary Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. Donald Aguillard released figures Thursday that showed attendance at all the schools averaged nearly 96 percent for the week.

With 52 test groups and 500 students tested at the junior high school, every teacher and administrator was pressed into service. Even Patterson police resource officers helped monitor the bathrooms.

Yet, Bergeron said everything ran smoothly. “It was truly a team effort,” she said.

Brandon Ramagos, an eighth-grader at PJHS, was one of the few students at his school to attend all 20 sessions of the LEAP tutoring classes that have been going on since January at the junior high. He felt the tutoring helped him, especially in math.

“I think I did pretty good,” he said this morning, regarding his overall performance.

Ramagos had some special help and encouragement from his mom, who he said changed his bedtime from 9:30 to 8 p.m. and then in the mornings prepared him a special breakfast.

Fryou, the Louisiana Principal of the Year for 2012-13, said that fourth-grade teachers at her school asked that parents send notes to the school in the form of a brief encouraging letter that their children could read before the start of tests.

Each school had one or more test monitor to ensure all the rules and procedures were followed

Karen Marin, the Watts monitor, said the days were long and tiring, not just to students but to teachers and administrators as well. She said the teachers who have gone through several years of test administrations appeared to be at ease, but newer teachers “were nervous.”

If a teacher needed relief or assistance at Watts, they were given a yellow tag to place on the outside of their door. A floating adult would enter the classroom quietly, with a smiling, reassuring face for the children.

Fryou said her school administered about 370 tests each day. Each test package had to be unlocked out of a storage room and hand-delivered to the class rooms then locked back in the room at the end of the day. During each of these cycles, every package had to be hand-counted.

Looking back over the week, both principals said that getting testing over for the students and everybody getting back to their normal schedules would be a relief.

“Everybody is happy when testing is over,” says Bergeron. “Today is going to be a relaxed day.”

Now that testing is over, all that teachers, students and parents can do now is await next month’s results.

“I just want to know my results and that I passed,” Ramagos said.

Fryou probably summed it up best for everybody across the state when she said, “It’s going to be a long wait until May 17.”

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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