LEAP, Iowa, GEE tests start Monday

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Josh Boone needs to feel the wind in his face, smell the springtime scents and put his cares behind him this weekend from high atop the seat of his motorcycle.

It’s been a stressful week, and it’s only going to get worse, Boone said Friday afternoon while waiting on his secondary mode of transportation &045;&045; the school bus.

The Vidalia Upper Elementary fourth-grader will face something he’s heard a lot about, but never experienced, come Monday morning when his teacher passes out the high-stakes LEAP test to his class.

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&uot;I’m scared,&uot; he said. &uot;We talked about how to relax today. I’m going to ride my motorcycle. It’s just a little one.&uot;

Though Boone, who said the motorcycle is more like a motorized bike, received comforting words from the two older and wiser fifth-grade girls on his bus route, his teacher Tina Fitt said he’s not alone in his nervousness.

&uot;It’s just general stress,&uot; Fitt said. &uot;Ninety-five percent of it is just because it carries such high stakes.&uot;

In Louisiana, fourth- and eighth-grade students must pass the LEAP, Louisiana Educational Assessment Program, in order to move on to the next grade.

While fourth- and eighth-graders are taking the LEAP, kindergarten through third- and fifth- through seventh-graders will be taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Though the Iowa does measure overall student achievement and factors into school and district accountability, it does not affect a child’s grade promotion.

High school students will be taking the GEE21, a graduation exit exam. Students must pass all components of the test by their senior year in order to graduate from high school.

It was probably the experience and lack of pressure that helped VUES fifth-graders Justice Hughes and Holly Hutchins share the words of advice with Boone Friday.

&uot;If you have confidence in yourself, you’ll pass,&uot; Hutchins said. &uot;I’m not nervous, I’ve had to take (Iowa) before.&uot;

VUES will hand out stress balls to students Monday, and teachers have discussed ways to calm their nerves if they get nervous during the testing.

&uot;I’m ready to go ahead and get it over with,&uot; Hughes said.

That’s the feeling Ferriday Upper Elementary School Principal Lillian Franklin thinks her students have adopted after months of preparation.

&uot;I feel very positive about next week,&uot; Franklin said. &uot;We stress the test, but we give the children encouragement that they can do it.&uot;

Up to this point in the school year, FUES has offered in-school tutoring, after school tutoring, mock LEAP tests, parent consultations and parent nights to improve test scores. With only a weekend to go, Franklin said she’s done all she can and is confident the students will show what they’ve got.

Though she’s seen stressed children to the point of fainting and vomiting before tests in the past, Franklin said she thought today’s children were more used to the process and better able to cope.

&uot;We tell them, ‘It’s just like any other test you’ve taken. You know you are prepared and you know the information,’&uot; she said. &uot;We try to keep it low-key, but intense.&uot;

Franklin closed out the last week before testing with a sit-down talk with the school’s fourth-graders in an attempt to prepare, yet relax them.

Next door, Ferriday Junior High School was relaxing in a different way. The school held an academic pep rally featuring student performances centered on positive test experiences.

Eighth-grader LaKendrick Green admitted he was a little nervous about the test.

&uot;I have to pass in order to get to high school,&uot; he said. &uot;We’ve practiced. It will see how much you know.&uot;

Brelin Cage said he felt ready and prepared, but knew there wasn’t much time left to do anything else.

&uot;Just pray about it,&uot; Cage said.

Keashonda Newbill showed no signs of nervousness and said she knew she’d do well.

&uot;Because I work hard,&uot; she said. &uot;I study hard and I concentrate.&uot;

Eighth-grade language arts teacher Juanita Green said she hadn’t seen a lot of nerves from her students.

&uot;They are all talking about getting plenty of rest, exercising and eating healthy next week,&uot; Green said. &uot;Every teacher has drilled them. We know they can do it.&uot;

Testing will start Monday morning and continue until Friday afternoon.