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Schools prepare for ILEARN

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

State-mandated tests are starting to open up this month, and school officials in the county say their students are prepped and ready to go.

The window for part one of the spring ISTEP test for sophomores opened up across the state on Feb. 25 and will remain open until March 22. Part two will remain open from April 8 until May 3. The testing window for the biology portion of ILEARN for freshmen will be open from April 22 until May 14, and ILEARN for elementary schools will be open from April 22 until May 17.

Eastbrook High School Principal Pat McLaughlin said he hopes his students improve from last year’s scores since they were down a little bit in all three areas. He is anxious to see what the biology portion will entail, since it is the first year students are taking that section.

Students who failed to pass the ISTEP as sophomores already took their required retake test a few weeks ago.

Eastbrook sophomores started part one of the math portion of ISTEP on Tuesday and will take the English and language arts portion next week. They begin part two of the test on April 15 with the second portion of English and will continue on April 22 with the last part of the math portion. The biology section will begin on May 6.

McLaughlin said the english portion of ISTEP is the easiest to get students prepared for, because when they take it they’re in a 10th grade level English class, so it’s essentially an end-of-course assessment. The math portion, however, is primarily based on algebra, and students in the 10th grade are typically beyond algebra.

He said math teachers are intentional about taking time out to review algebra concepts with the students to keep them sharp on algebra skills.

Allen Elementary School Principal Anthony Williams said they have yet to set a test date, but he said it will probably take place in the last few weeks of April.

To prepare, the school uses an ILEARN blueprint that outlines critical standards for teachers to cover, and Williams said the teachers constantly work on preparing students for technology and literacy, which is what the test focuses on.

The main difference from last year’s state-mandated test is that the students will have to manipulate the test’s format by doing by doing things like clicking and dragging items.

The school has created assessments that mirror what the test looks like so that kids feel comfortable on test day.

Williams said the teachers have put their hearts and souls into what they do everyday, and he assured that the lessons have been planned thoroughly.

He said they appreciate the families for the support they provide, and he’s confident the students will make them proud.

“We’re in the business of making lifelong learners,” he said.

Northview Elementary hasn’t set a test date yet either, but Principal Stephanie Lockwood said the usually test during the first week of May. They will be testing for IREAD-3 from March 18-20 before the students head out for spring break, however.

They also use programs to prepare each year, right from the start, to learn vocabulary that will most likely appear on the test.

Even though she said the students get pretty nervous about wanting to do well, she tries to remind them to relax and to do the best they can.

“I wanna see all of our kids do well and show growth. I don’t want any student to feel like they’ve not done the best they can do,” she said. “I want them to put the best effort they have forth every day at school and on that test.”

She said in a perfect world, everyone would get a passing score and they could move on, but the test does give a true picture of where the students are at and what they need to do to move forward and continue to grow academically.