Massachusetts is in the process of adjusting their State education standards to the new National standards. This will require only a few minor changes, because Massachusetts Frameworks were used as the model for the National standards. The National standards are much more refined for each grade level and are easy to read. If you are interested, they can be found on the internet. Grades 3-5 will be taking the Reading part of the testing at the end of March. This will be done over two days for each grade. We schedule from 8:30 – 10:00 for classes to be testing. At that time, if students are not finished, they are moved to another classroom and have as much time as they need to finish. On March 22, Grade 4 will be doing one extra day, during which they write a Long Composition Essay. These are scheduled in the morning with a fifteen minute break. Most students are done by lunch at 12:00, but, as is the case with all testing, the ones who need more time can have it. In May, Grades 3-5 will be taking the Math portion of the MCAS, which is also a two day event. Grade 5 will take two additional days to take the Science and Technology sessions.
Here at FW we implement some simple ideas, which are based on research, to help your children do their best. Research shows that students who have food in the morning do better on tests. Our PTO provides a snack of cheese or pretzel goldfish to be eaten in the morning. Teachers open their shades to provide sunlight, which is shown to activate the brain, and many teachers do “Brain Gym” activities, which also activates the brain. If you are interested in knowing more about “Brain Gym”, I suggest that you Google it. It is a very interesting and simple concept.
Parents can do several simple things at home to help their child prepare for testing. However, we do ask that you refrain from giving your child test passages from the DOE website, as several of these are used in the classrooms. If your child is given an MCAS passage for homework, encourage them to read it slowly and carefully and to look back in the passage for the answers. Many times the question will tell them the specific paragraph or section that the answer can be found in. This can really narrow down the information that they need to search through. Many children don’t want to take the time to do this, and it is a very simple way to help them. Also, when your child is writing a paragraph answer, that we call an “open response” answer, encourage them to find three or more areas in the text that support their answer. They actually get more points for using words from the text in their written response. Other than homework, parents can make sure that their child is rested, in comfortable clothes, and fed a good breakfast in the morning. Finally, the simplest way to help your child is to require them to read in their free time. In my house the rule was no computers or video games until you had read for at least thirty minutes. This rule must become a year long habit. Our children go to practice for sports or music. Reading is also a skill that needs to be practiced in order to improve.
Guest post by Donna Murphy, Reading Specialist