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Schools prepare students for the California Standards Tests in different ways

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2012 17:29 PM

The four assessments that comprise the California STAR Testing Program are designed to evaluate how well schools and their students are performing academically, according to the state’s Department of Education. Each spring, second- through eleventh-graders take the Program’s California Standards Tests (CST), which feature questions related to subjects like writing, reading, history, science and math.

As students throughout California participate in the STAR Program on an annual basis, schools have the ability to compare their scores from one year to the next. This provides educators with an opportunity to see how their pupils are improving, as well as which areas clearly require more attention in the classroom.

In the lead up to the 2012 CST season, several school districts set goals for their students and began preparing them for the Tests early.

For instance, this past March, Spreckels Elementary School hosted a Family Math Night, which featured activities based on the math portion of the CST, The Salinas Californian reported. During the fun event, more than 60 families could visit seven activity stations and enhance their knowledge of everything from addition and subtraction to statistics and probability.

Another institution that embraced a fun approach to getting students ready for the CST was Miguel Hidalgo Elementary School. According to the Imperial Valley Press, teachers helped kick off testing season with a day of wet and wild playground fun. Officials from Miguel Hidalgo told the news source that organizing a day of water-themed activities for the school community was their way of celebrating students’ accomplishments on the 2011 CST, while motivating them to do well on this year’s Tests.

Meanwhile, Mission High School has taken CST preparation to a whole other level, or at least the institution’s principal has, The San Francisco Examiner reported. If students manage to improve their scores compared to last year’s results, Head of School Eric Guthertz is willing to offer them a reward in return for their hard work.

Thanks to the principal’s incentive program, students were cooked a gourmet meal by chefs from top-rated restaurants in the area last year. Guthertz will always remember test takers’ efforts to boost their scores in 2010, as this is when he had to get Mission’s mascot tattooed onto his left arm.

"We’ve had a 97-point gain in three years," Guthertz told the news outlet. "I’m not saying the incentives are responsible for that, but they help, and they’re fun."

In an effort to inspire students to excel on this year’s CST, Burns Valley School recently held an aviation-themed awards ceremony, the Lake County Record-Bee reported. Members of the School community gathered in Burns Valley’s gymnasium, which was decorated with multicolored airplanes and jets to reflect how high pupils’ scores had risen. Learners who excelled during the last academic year were honored with medals.

"There are many fun rewards planned for students wearing their medals to school on designated days," Heather Koehler, Burns Valley’s vice principal, told the news source. "We want to honor students for their hard work last year and inspire them to soar this time around."

While Heber Elementary School does hold a CST Fair to raise awareness of the Tests, much of the preparation work is done by students at home, according to the Imperial Valley Press. For instance, pupils were advised to go over last year’s scores with their parents and set goals for themselves. Other students have been encouraged by their teachers to do their homework and spend 30 minutes reading each day.