KINGSPORT — Johnson Elementary School had a pep rally Friday, but not for sports or for the accomplishments of a select few students.
It was a push for academic testing excellence among all students, the culmination of the school’s Spirit Week celebration that Principal Lenore Kilgore said was “really a celebration of learning.”
The point is that for third- through eighth-grade students in area schools, next week is TCAP test time.
Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) tests are scheduled Monday through Thursday in Kingsport City Schools, with Friday as a makeup day.
“They’re not just preparing for a test. They’re learning to become critical thinkers and problem solvers,” Kilgore said Friday after the rally, the first-ever one held leading up to TCAPs.
For Sullivan County Schools, TCAPs are scheduled for Tuesday through Friday and Monday, April 20, with a makeup day Tuesday, April 21.
Hawkins County Schools’ TCAPs run Wednesday through Friday and April 20-22, including makeup days.
All are within a three-week window allowed by Tennessee.
Damon Cathey, KCS director of curriculum and instruction, said school and state education officials are urging students to get plenty of rest over the Easter weekend, especially a good night’s sleep Sunday night.
Kingsport schools are also urging parents to give notes of support to students throughout the week, be sure students get plenty of sleep all week, try not to be rushed in the mornings, and be sure the students have a good breakfast at home or arrive at school in time to eat breakfast.
“Different principals handle it in a different way,” Cathey said of gearing up for TCAPs.
At Kingsport’s Washington Elementary, school officials make sure all students have access to water during the testing, and students also get healthy snacks in the afternoon after the tests.
“We’re just trying to reassure the kids everything’s going to be all right,” Washington Elementary Principal Cookie Greer said of supporting the students.
However, she said scheduling presents a special problem for Washington since it has multi-age classrooms, and students not taking the tests in the lower grade levels have their schedule flipped for much of the week.
Although Friday is a makeup day, Greer said schools will go to extremes to be sure students get to take the tests.
“I have driven across town” to pick up and bring a student to school on a TCAP test day, Greer said.
Sullivan County Director of Schools Jack Barnes said teachers, administrators and parents need to do everything they can to help students be rested and relaxed before the tests, which are required by the state and federal government and measure a school system’s learning performance.
This is the last year of the “old” TCAPs, which in three of four subject areas next year will be replaced by “new” TCAPs with more emphasis on problem solving and higher thinking.
Tennessee — blasted nationally for a lack of truth in advertising for a TCAP system that designates students advanced when nationally they are just at grade level — is revamping its science, language arts and math testing next year, with social studies to follow in about six years when new textbooks are adopted.
Cathey said that is being accompanied by the Tennessee Diploma Project — new requirements beginning with the freshman class this fall that include four years of math, more challenging science courses, and a push toward making a transition to post-secondary education.
The new tests and curriculum will focus on problem solving in all areas — including science, technology, engineering and math — with programs designed to excite students about learning through hands-on experience.
As an example, Cathey said math will focus on problem solving and higher thinking skills.
“We score really well on computation, but we’re not so good on problem solving,” Cathey said.
For instance, a 2010 TCAP test might ask: If 58 people at a breakfast each will eat two eggs and a carton of eggs holds 12 eggs, how many cartons are needed?
Multiple choice answers are given, including the correct one of 10 cartons. Although that would result in 120 eggs, four more than the 116 needed, the question calls for the needed full cartons, not partial ones.
Cathey said the 2009 TCAP test might ask how many eggs are needed to feed 58 people breakfast if each person eats two eggs? The answer, simple multiplication, is 116.
Another example of a 2010 question might be if the George Washington Bridge was 75 years old in 2001, what year was it 50 years old? The 2009 version, he said, might be: If the George Washington Bridge was built in 1926, how old is the bridge today?