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Schools try "boot camp" to raise scores

Clearly this rah-rah reporter doesn't know this is a disreputable technique, concentrating on the "bubble kids."

By Michelle L. Klampe

About 200 Lake Elsinore students are taking part in an academic "boot camp" to help them get ready for state standardized tests that begin next month.

Eight district administrators and teachers on special assignment are conducting the camps at five elementary and middle schools, meeting with small groups of 12 students once a week for eight weeks leading up to the tests.

The goal of the program is to help students who are very close to scoring proficient on the state tests make small changes to reach that goal, and to make sure students who just met proficiency standards don't slide back, said Alain Guevara, executive director for instructional support services for the Lake Elsinore Unified School District.

In many cases, one or two additional correct answers can mean the difference between a student scoring proficient or not, he said. Students who don't score proficient may be required to take a second math or English/language arts course instead of an elective, he said. The program also helps build the students' confidence.

Students are selected by the program based on their past scores on either math or English/language arts tests. A lot of them don't realize how close they are to passing the tests, said Lorie Reitz, director of secondary curriculum and instruction.

"They don't think that," she said. "I tell them all the time, 'You are college-going kids.' "

During the boot camp, students learn test-taking strategies using a system called "unravel" that helps them decipher test questions and determine the correct answers.

Methods include circling key words in reading passages, watching for "power" words such as summarize that can indicate how a question should be answered, and crossing out answers that are obviously incorrect.

"What're you supposed to do when you're done?" Guevara asked a student during a recent session. "Check your answers."

Jason Williams, a seventh-grader at Elsinore Middle School, said the program has helped him better understand test questions and "not rush through" when reading and answering.

Shaira Puello, another Elsinore seventh-grader, said she's enjoying the smaller group instruction and the test-taking tips.

"They really take their time with you," she said.

Guevara began holding the camps three years ago. This year the program expanded to include eight instructional support and special education administrators so more kids could participate. Four of the groups are being held at Elsinore Middle School.

The help provided during the camps would be tough to do during the school day without district administrators coming in to assist, Elsinore principal Jim Judziewiecz said.

"It's very targeted instruction," he said. "Because it's so targeted, we can really produce some positive results."

— Michelle L. Klampe
The Press-Enterprise


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