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Some Schools Take Special Measures to Prep Students for ISAT

Ohanian Comment: I would say to the educator who claims, "It couldn't hurt," Yes, it could.

And we also get TestU'sindividualized review plans and lessons for students, a euphemism for kill drill. Putting workbook drills online doesn't make them any better.

The reporter calls all this "getting creative." I call it failing to live up to professional standards.

HAZELTON -- Schools around the Magic Valley are getting creative when it comes to preparation for the Idaho Standards Achievement Test.

The test now counts as a graduation requirement for this year's sophomores, and the scores for students in grades 3, 4, 7, 8 and 10 count toward each school meeting requirements for student progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Valley High School experimented with using its 20-minute home room period for ISAT review. The school started it in January and discontinued it right before ISAT testing started.

Principal Rod Malone said the sessions were useful.

"It couldn't hurt us," he said.

Sophomore Elizabeth Phillips said most students didn't put forth much effort because they weren't being graded on it.

Superintendent Laural Nelson said the home room review sessions did have some benefit.

"The kids may not have thought they were learning much," Nelson said, but their scores indicate that they are improving.

The school also uses the online TestU program, which provides individualized review plans and lessons for students.

Lindsy Wood, a Valley sophomore, said her English class has been doing the online practice questions to review for the ISAT. Nelson said the TestU program will be effective in helping students review.

"It takes them from where they're at and builds," Nelson said.

She also found that individualizing instruction for students based on their test scores is having unexpected positive consequences.

"I really think that its helped in our upper students," Nelson said. "If you know where they're at, you can take them beyond."

In Kimberly, Kathleen Noh, the district's curriculum and testing coordinator, said teachers haven't made any particular last-minute preparations for the testing.

"It's got to be good teaching all year," Noh said.

Noh said her district's 10th-graders did well on the ISAT last year, but the test changes each year.

Kimberly Elementary School's economically disadvantaged subgroup didn't make enough progress to meet federal standards last time, so the school spent more time on math and computation. The high school also has a 10th-grade ISAT preparation class.

Concern in every class

In Castleford, students were doing a little review in each class, regardless of the subject, said Principal Andy Wiseman. He said it is paying off in higher scores.

For the last month before the ISAT, the school had theme weeks based around the three ISAT sections. In the math week, for instance, students did a few problems in every class, even their electives, in order to brush up their skills. Wiseman said the review drives home the importance of the test to the students when they see it in every class.

Wiseman said teachers accommodate students with limited English by reading the math ISAT to them in their first language. He said it's good to test them with those scores only counting toward participation.

"I think those kids want to know, 'How am I doing?'" Wiseman said.

Rick Abel, principal at Hansen Junior-Senior High School, said his school didn't do any special preparation for the ISAT, other than having a new part-time Title I teacher this year. Abel said he does not like high-stakes tests because they can't measure everything and testing is not always accurate.

"(We) just have too many kids who are not strong test takers," Abel said.

Times-News writer Karin Kowalski can be reached at 733-0931, Ext. 231, or kkowalski@magicvalley.com.

— Karin Kowalski


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