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A little pride, a little cheese help Natomas teens prep for tests

Ohanian Comment: A Davis junior high teacher reports that when he and his wife read this, they vomited.

Well, vomiting at home is okay, but California teachers must remember that when kids vomit on the test in school, the test must be packaged in a baggie and returned to the publisher. That's the law.

We can hope that parents of students at Natomas High will join the CalCare opt out movement.

The California Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CalCARE) has stepped up its awareness campaign asking parents (and school districts) to know their rights about opting out of the state STAR test program.

Instead of manipulating high schoolers to make phony promises on index cards, school officials should inform those students of their rights. . . and open up discussions about what's behind the tests, exposing the real purposes. What schools need is Freedom of Information in the classrooms and the faculty rooms. Now wouldn't that rock the system.

By Kim Minugh

John Eick, interim principal at Natomas High in Sacramento, hangs a banner Friday in hopes of inspiring students to try hard on upcoming STAR tests. The banner comprises index cards on which students have written the names of people they hope to do well for on the tests; many cited parents or siblings.
[Caption accompanying large photo]

For his parents and his brothers and his sisters ΓΆ€“ oh, and also his nieces and nephews and friends and teachers ΓΆ€“ Cesar is going to try.

He is going to try his best on his STAR tests.

"How cool is that?" said his interim principal, John Eick, as he looked at one of about 1,500 3-by-5 cards he had collected from Natomas High School students, vowing that they will try hard to succeed on the state standards test. "Cesar's got all these reasons to try."

That gives Eick hope that next week, when his students start two weeks of testing, they'll buck a widespread feeling of apathy among high school students when it comes to standardized testing.

These tests don't mean a whole lot for individual students. But they mean a whole lot for their schools.

So Eick fixed up a bit of a scheme to get his students hyped for the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program. He grabbed a video camera and a bunch of students and made one heck of a cheesy video with lots of hand gesturing and silly voices and corny comedy ΓΆ€“ and a poignant message.

"When pride is on the line," Eick said in the video that was broadcast to students last week, "we try."

He encouraged his students to take pride in their school, to work hard on their tests to show their Nighthawk spirit. And then he posed a question, "Who are you going to try for?"

Students each wrote the name of that special person ΓΆ€“ or people ΓΆ€“ on a 3-by-5 card. The cards were assembled into a long banner that Eick and teachers hung from the roof of a campus building Friday.

Eick recognizes that pride alone may not be enough to motivate a teenager. So he also promised that if students meet their goals, they'll get buttons and rewards and a dance that will be "off the hinges."

"What a cornball," he said of himself as he watched the video again. "But it's totally me."

Natomas High's teens, who seem to wince at Eick's cheesiness, appear to dig his sincerity.

"I give him props," said 16-year-old Joseph Booker, who's trying for his mom. "He stepped outside the box."

Elena Martinez (she's trying for her big brother) starred in the STAR video. She and her friend, Jamara Fox, pointed out a funny thing about those funny videos ΓΆ€“ they actually work.

"They actually make you want to do stuff," said Fox, 16. She's never cared about tests before, she said, because teachers didn't give her a reason. Eick did.

This year, Fox said, "I'm actually wanting to take (the tests)." She'll be trying for her family.

Charles Simms ΓΆ€“ a straight-A student, his teacher says ΓΆ€“ said that in previous years, he felt much the same as Fox. The 14-year-old bubbled in "A, B, C, A, B, C, D" on his answer sheets without a thought ΓΆ€“ until his parents explained why the tests matter. Now, he's trying for them.

Simms said there are still students who feel the way he used to ΓΆ€“ perhaps because they might think it's not cool to care.

Secretly, though, nobody likes to look bad, Simms said.

"A lot of people, they'll play they don't care," he said. "But then they won't show you their test scores."

— Kim Minugh
Sacramento Bee





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