May is test month | TahoeDailyTribune.com

May is test month

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

If children start appearing with coffee in hand this month, there’s good reason.

May is virtually consumed with tests for roughly 4,400 elementary to high school students in Lake Tahoe Unified School District, ranging from state standard tests to Advanced Placement exams.

“May has always been a significant month for testing,” said Barbara Davis, LTUSD’s assistant superintendent, “partly because we have taken a norm reference test each year and it must be given during a specific window of time in order to be valid.”

Middle and high school students began their California Achievement Test, a norm referenced test which is used to compare to other students nationwide and takes about three weeks to complete.

Barrett Burghard, a South Tahoe Middle School student, prefers his class work to the CAT, but had kind words for it.

“It’s good I guess. Some problems are really hard though,” he said. “It’s a good test.”

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But what about taking it for two weeks?

Barrett chuckled. “It’s a long time,” he said.

Elementary students begin their CAT testing this Thursday. The state-mandated test, which is a component of the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, was enacted in 1997.

In addition, the Golden State Examinations are administered this month to high school students at a teacher’s discretion. The GSE scores in math or English can be combined with the California Standards Test, which will be used for No Child Left Behind in its rankings.

Also, high school students in Advanced Placement courses take tests next week and must receive a score above two out of five so they can receive college credit.

Dondra Biller, a STHS junior, has Advanced Placement classes in U.S. history, chemistry and English.

“My life is chaos right now,” she said. “My brain is on overload. I don’t know, but I’ll get through it.”

Biller started school Thursday at 6 a.m. for a zero period. She stayed after school until 3:30 p.m. for study sessions.

The Advanced Placement tests for college credit is causing more stress for Biller than the STAR test, about which she doesn’t get as nervous but does strive to get a top score to receive a $1,000 scholarship.

STHS Associate Principal Marilyn Pawling has noticed the changed atmosphere on campus.

“It’s very mellow here,” she said. “I think they’re really taking testing seriously. Testing basically takes place during the whole month of May.”

Students once exempted from the STAR test now have to take it in a modified version. Twenty-nine special education students in the district will take the California Alternate Performance Assessment.

Luckily, the California High School Exit Examination, which can be given in May and tagged to also be used for NCLB, is given to sophomores in March and make-ups for summer school students are in July and November.

“The kids would do terrible (on the exit exam if in May) because they’re testing non-stop,” Davis said. Recommendations for successful test-taking include having a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy breakfast and getting to school on time.

— E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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