Snacks, gifts keep kids going during round of tests

Herald Staff Writer

With the first round of Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress testing just completed and another round of multiple-choice testing scheduled to begin in two weeks, local educators are working to keep young students’ spirits up.

For principals, spring testing time means it is important to maintain a sense of normalcy to soothe the students’ nerves while still stressing the importance of the standardized assessments.

Ferdinand Elementary School Principal Lee Begle said that March and April are even more hectic now that all third-graders in the state are required to take the Indiana Reading Evaluation And Determination exams, and those who don’t meet the state standards must attend summer remediation before taking a retest. Kindergarten, first-grade and second-grade students also are preparing for the school’s Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills exams and the third- and fourth-graders have acuity tests to take as well.

“It can be a little overwhelming, trust me,” he said.

To help the kids get through their testing days, Begle said they are each provided with a nutritious snack — whole-grain or granola bars usually — between exam sessions.

“We also provide peppermint candy for the kids to snack on, make sure they are properly hydrated and I usually give them a new pencil or two for good luck,” he said.

Down the road at Pine Ridge Elementary School, Ryan Haas hands out peppermints from 15 bags he purchases yearly for the spring testing season. He said studies have shown that chewing on gum or candy helps students concentrate, and the International Journal of Neuroscience found that a peppermint aroma can boost memory. Some students snack on Dum-Dums suckers, which Haas jokingly calls “Smart-Smarts.” They fill in the bubbles on their answer sheets with pencils reading “Do Your Best.”

Haas said that otherwise, the school faculty tries not to do anything out of the ordinary during ISTEP season.

“We try to keep it as normal as possible so their anxiety level doesn’t increase. We don’t have parties or celebrations. The cafeteria makes a healthy snack for students to enjoy prior to testing,” he said. “We know the importance of these assessments, but we also know that our students feed off of us. If we are nervous or anxious, they will not be at their best.”

At Lincoln Trail Elementary School, Principal Ben Lawalin says the staff tries to keep the mood light when testing dates approach. The PTO works with the cafeteria to make snacks for the kids. In years past, those snacks included homemade cookies with different flavors for each day of exams.
Teachers also try to lighten the typical daily workload for students when ISTEP is underway.

“We also work on an alternative schedule during testing weeks,” Lawalin said. “Many of our teachers do not give homework during the time and try to plan educational, fun games for students to play.”

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