A leap above the restPublished 12:18am Thursday, September 6, 2012
VIDALIA — High-test scores and good grades have always come naturally for eighth grader Caitlin Ballard.
So a call home from Vidalia Junior High School Principal Whest Shirley over the summer came to her surprise — and initial worry.
“It was probably a month or so after school got out and Coach Shirley called my aunt,” Ballard said. “I was kind of nervous at first at why he was calling, but then I got excited when I found out.”
Shirley was calling to tell Ballard that she scored in the “advanced” category in all subjects of the Integrated Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or iLeap.
The iLeap is a state test that measures student’s progress throughout the year in third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grades.
“I’m not one that has to study a whole lot, and it just kind of comes naturally because I try to pay attention a lot in class,” Ballard said. “The iLeap takes everything you’ve learned all year and puts it in one test, so if you pay attention in class, you should get a good score.
“I wasn’t nervous to take the test, but you still have that thought in the back of your mind that you need to do well.”
And aside from learning that she had achieved a feat accomplished by only two other students in the whole school, Shirley also delivered a second bit of good news.
“He said we could come up to the school and pick up my $150,” Ballard said. “They told all the students at the beginning of the year that anyone who scored all advanced would get $150.
“I kind of forgot they said that, so it was a surprise when I heard that.”
The iLeap tests students in English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies — all subjects Ballard said she enjoys studying and learning about.
“People think I’m really weird for liking social studies so much, but I really like learning about history,” she said. “I like learning about the United States, how it was formed and how that compares to our country now.
“The writing part of the test was my least favorite.”
Learning about history, which Ballard said is all about learning dates, times and places, comes a little easier with her photographic memory.
“If I’m on a question and I get stuck, I can just think back to a study guide or something I saw to remember the answer,” Ballard said. “I use the alphabet sometimes to remember what battles and wars were fought when.
“I just try to organize everything in a way that makes sense to me.”
Even in the summer months with no teachers or study guides to complete, Ballard said she was secretly awaiting the start of the new school year.
“I missed school over the summer and missed my friends,” Ballard said. “I was just ready to be back.”
But even quicker than the short summer vacation months went the $150 prize money given to Ballard as a reward for her hard work and high-test scores.
“I bought a Kindle Fire, but I ended up giving it to my cousin for his birthday,” Ballard said. “I liked it a lot, but he’s done a lot of nice things for me, and I knew he’d like it.”
This year Ballard will be taking the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, or LEAP, which is taken by fourth and eighth graders and is a high-stakes test that requires a certain score to proceed to the next grade.
And even though she will strive to score all advanced again this year, Ballard said she’s not too thrilled about going to high school just yet.
“I can’t say I’m too anxious to get to high school because people tend to pick on the smaller students,” Ballard said. “I’m not sure that I’m ready to leave just yet.”