Who knows the answer?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Parental guidelines encouraged for SATs

Butler County School students are preparing daily for the annual Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) battery, but according to school officials, the preparation is year-round.

Carole Teague, principal at W.O. Parmer Elementary School said her students are receiving incentives every day, making the preparation fun.

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"The incentives we use make the preparation fun for the students, and reduce the pressure felt by them," said the educator, whose school houses kindergarten, first and second grades. "Good teaching everyday will accomplish the goals of good, safe teaching."

Joseph West, principal of Greenville Elementary School, which teaches grades three, and four said the success that Butler County schools have seen is all about comprehension.

"Success in SATs is comprehension, which is accomplished throughout the year, in preparation for testing in April," West said. "There is a two-week window allowed for administering the SAT," he said, "we will be conducting it during the week of April 9 through April 13."

West pointed out that this year would be different for the elementary grades in the Greenville schools.

"Last year, W.O. Parmer and Greenville Elementary were still combined as W.O. Parmer," West said. "As one school, it was granted a 'clear' rating-this year, although we have the grades split into two schools, the goals remain the same-clear.

"We stress SAT preparation throughout the year, but this past week we have started practice tests on-the-clock, to simulate the actual tests, which will be timed," West said. "This way it is not new or shocking to the students."

He said that the battery used, although uniform throughout the state, is not an easy test. "That is why we stress the importance of it," West noted.

So, one might ask, what exactly is the Stanford Achievement Test, anyway?

"This is the teachers' and administrators' report cards," West said. "Used as a measuring tool, the SAT assesses how well we have prepared the students to achieve the goals set forth by the State Board of Education."

"This is how the system is rated," Teague said. "We are held accountable to the parents and public.

"Each school is graded as a whole for its performance-the parents then receive a school's report card."

Teague said the school system as a whole is evaluated by SAT exams, graduation exit exams, and several other factors.

"Although the kindergarten, first and second grades are not required by the State to take part in the SAT battery, we administer the test to prepare the students for grades three through 11, where it will be required," Teague said. "It also provides a report of progress to the system and community.

"Our parents are very supportive in making sure that the students are well-rested and prepared for the testing."

At the Greenville Middle School, Dr. Kathy Murphy, who serves as the school principal said it is all about good teaching.

"We do work on 'practice tests', in SAT format, so that they (students) get used to the format."

Murphy said all of the middle school grades have goals set in place.

"Our fifth-graders are striving for the fiftieth percentile; sixth is set for the fifty-second, seventh the fifty-fifth, and eighth the fifty-second percentile," she said. "These goals came about through decisions made by both teachers and students.

"All our students have signed commitment contracts to agree that they will meet the goals they have set forth," Murphy said. "All students know at the beginning of the school year what they have done in the past, and also what they need to succeed in the future."

Murphy said there are also incentives, which were chosen by the students, for achieving their set goals.

"For a Stanine (scale of one through nine) of seven through nine, any student achieving that level will win a trip to Pizza Hut, for an 'all-you-can-eat' buffet; four through six gets an 'all-you-can-eat' ice cream sundae bar, and one through three will get chips and snacks," Murphy said.

She said that as long as the school as a whole remains with a "clear" status, the "special education" testing will also count.

"If something drastic were to happen, and we fell away from the clear status, we would be evaluated strictly on our regular classes," Murphy said.

Murphy explained the three levels of status a school, and school system can achieve.

"The categories are 'clear', 'caution', and 'alert'-proudly, all Butler County Schools are on 'clear' status," she said. "Clear status means that at least 50 percent of the students achieved a Stanine of five through nine."

Murphy stressed the importance of these tests for the students and the school system.

"Parents need to realize that these tests are very important-the scores are carried from grade to grade, as a part of the student records."

Murphy said there are special preparations that should take place prior to the testing, although it would do well if the conditions were met all of the time.

"Students should get plenty of rest prior to school-at least eight hours or more of sleep; nourishment is of great importance, both before and after sleep," she said. "Statistically, there is a nine percent increase in student performance when he or she has had breakfast before school."

Murphy said that environment is also important in achieving good results.

"Students need to be in a relaxed, calm environment during the time they are going through testing," she said.

Murphy said that parents are welcome to inquire about their students' progress at any time.

"I would encourage parents to either contact a school counselor, or myself anytime they wish to review their child's progress-I can always make room in my calendar for such."

Murphy said that if a grade as a whole excels, there will be a choice of "special" activities for them to select from as a reward for their accomplishments.

"We will probably not have the results back from the State Board of Education by the end of the school term-it usually becomes available by July 1," she said. "But if we do get it before the last report cards are out, we will add it to those reports before they are mailed home."