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Preparing for test season

Teachers try to help students relieve anxiety


MIAMI TWP. - Third-graders in Gretchen Soudrette's class at
Miami Heights Elementary breathe deeply and move their
arms as though showering themselves with water while soft
meditation music plays in the background.

"Celebrate the person you are, how smart you are, how hard
you work every day, all of the good gifts you have in your
life," Soudrette says. "Shower yourself with knowledge, so you
can get ready for your tests."

The students are practicing tai chi, a Chinese technique for
meditation and relaxation, in preparation for state
achievement tests, which begin a week from today.

"I'm basically looking for alternative ways to help the kids
relax during testing time, especially," Soudrette says. "We're
under a lot of stress, both the kids and I, to perform to keep
our excellent banner out there. I want to find any way I can to
help them succeed. I enjoy the relaxation of it, too."

After months of preparation, elementary and middle school
students begin taking state achievement tests March 6, while
high school sophomores will take the Ohio Graduation Test
starting March 13. Kentucky students take their state tests in
April.

With No Child Left Behind, the federal education law, schools
are under the gun to ensure that all students are proficient for
their grades by 2014 or face sanctions. That adds pressure to
students, teachers and administrators, who prepare during
the school day, before and after school and on Saturdays.

Steve Zinser, the former principal of Heritage Hill Elementary
in the Princeton City School District, recalls stress levels were
high this time of year.

"We had children crying, wetting pants, upset stomachaches,"
says Zinser, now principal at St. Vincent Ferrer School in
Kenwood. "The staff and I would try to reassure the children
to take their time, try their best and we'll make it through."

Older students feel the pressure, too, but many say it's not
the Ohio Graduation Test that stresses them out, but rather
the SAT and ACT. .

"All in all, I don't get too worried about tests until of late, I am
preparing to take the ACT, which is stressful mostly because
it is a matter of getting into college," said Chelsea Sando, 16,
an Indian Hill High School junior.

At Miami Heights Elementary, in the Three Rivers school
district in western Hamilton County, the third-graders
practice drum massage, which they do when they've been
sitting awhile.

The students stand and start by tapping or patting their heads
to "wake up their brain." Then, they move to their shoulders,
arms and legs.

Max Weiskittel, a 9-year-old third grader, gets a little
stressed when he thinks about the state tests. "I'm just like,
'Am I going to do really good or am I going to stink?' I'm really
worried about that stuff."

But, the relaxation techniques help him get over it. "It just
makes you feel really calm when you're done," he says.

E-mail ckranz@enquirer.com

STUDENTS SOUND OFF

"I make sure that I do the practice tests that the teacher gives
us. If I do that well, that could help me with the achievement
test. I feel like I'm calm and ready to do whatever they give
us."

- Miles Howell, 11, fifth grade

Reading Central Elementary

"When I took the OGT tests as a sophomore, I felt very little
stress because I knew what to expect on the tests. Personally,
I think that there was too much emphasis in our curriculum
(at her former school) on teaching kids to pass the OGT,
rather than teaching kids to reach for longer-term goals. ...

"I think a great way to reduce stress would be to study hard
up until the night before the test, and then to do something
fun and relaxing that night not related to the test material.
Getting plenty of sleep is always helpful, too."

- Hillary Tipton, 16, junior

Cincinnati Country Day

"I took the OGT last year as a sophomore. I was not extremely
stressed out before taking it because every student must pass
in order to graduate; therefore, how hard can it be? My
teachers also gave me plenty of preparation for months
leading up to the test.

"I am, however, very stressed about taking the ACT and SAT. I
am currently taking an SAT review course at my school in
preparation for the test in April. I realize that I will be able to
retake the SAT as many times as necessary, but so much
pressure is placed on scoring well that 'stressing out' is easy
to do. The best solution to alleviate stress is to be as
prepared as possible. Take review courses and study in your
free time with friends."

- Jessica Grissom, 16, junior

Loveland High School

"Taking state and standardized tests do not stress me out in
the least bit. This may be because I am in honor level classes;
however, I truly believe the teachers make these tests out to
be more stressful and challenging than they really are.

"In my opinion, taking the OGT and other state tests are
somewhat pointless. Throughout part of the ninth grade, and
the entire 10th grade year, teachers prepare students for the
OGT.

"If it takes that much time to prepare for a single test, then is
the test about what you have learned, or what your teachers
are attempting to teach you in the months leading up to the
test? Teachers have to change their curriculum in order to
accommodate the test, but the test should reflect information
that has been taught."

- Justin Hucke, 15, freshman

Colerain High School

"They don't stress me out. Sometimes, I do get worried that I
might do really bad, or blank out on some basic stuff, but I
don't think about them too much, and definitely don't lose
any sleep worrying about them.

"I prepare by doing a brief review of all the sections I've
covered in the school year. I still try to take time for subjects
that were easy for me, and if there was somewhere I struggled
on a particular subject, I take a little extra time reviewing
that."

- Doug Furia, 14, eighth grade

Ohio Virtual Academy


— Cindy Kranz - Enquirer Staff Writer
The Cincinnati Enquirer


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