Elementary and most middle school students can breathe a sigh of relief now that they’ve finished taking the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
But while the pressure may be off for them, End of Course Tests loom for eighth-graders and high schoolers.
“We’re just gearing up for testing,” said Kathy Wigley, a counselor at North Forsyth High.
“Our EOCTs start on May 2 … and the EOCT is their final, so it’s a big part of their grade. During that same time, we have kids preparing for the [Advanced Placement] exams, so it’s extremely stressful, particularly for kids taking AP classes.”
Students in AP courses must pass the exam in order to receive college credit. However grade-wise, Wigley said the End of Course Tests carry more weight, since they count as a final exam.
“A lot of the time it will affect how they pass their class,” she said. “It’s a huge part of their grade.”
For students who are struggling in a subject, the test could be the difference between passing and failing. And for seniors, it can determine whether they graduate in May or retake the test in July to get their diploma.
“This time of year is stressful for a lot of kids and it’s not always just the kids that are struggling students,” Wigley said. “A lot of times our very, very bright students actually put more pressure on themselves to have the high ‘A.’
“It gets to be a very stressful time and you have to help them prioritize and help them work out a study schedule and teach them how to — when they feel themselves getting too upset — calm themselves down.”
She also noted that teachers emphasize good study habits and “preparing early and not the night before.”
All eighth-graders in the system also take an exit test in physical science. Unlike in high school, however, it’s not mandated by the state.
Instead, the eighth-grade test was something the school system decided to do on its own last year, said Piney Grove Middle School physical science teacher Katie Richelt.
“We were teaching physical science in eighth grade and they were taking physical science again in 10th grade for a high school course,” Richelt said. “The county decided to let students try to give it a shot in the eighth grade.
“Most of the students passed and got the high school credit, so they walk into high school with one credit in a physical science.”
At Piney Grove, 97 percent of eighth-graders who took the physical science test passed. Countywide, the success rate is 92 percent.
Coming on the heels of the CRCT, it’s one more test for middle school students.
“I think that there’s more individual pressure by the student because basically, the EOCT counts as 20 percent of their grade, and you have to pass the course ... in order to get credit,” Richelt said. “The kids want to do well.”
For middle school, there’s also an End of Course Test in math for advanced students, as well as one for some foreign language students. Richelt said they are a “good reminder for them that school’s not over.”
There may be no more tests for elementary students, but the school year is far from over, said Pam Pajerski, principal of Cumming Elementary. With the CRCTs out of the way, it’s time to prepare students to transition to the next grade level.
“We do preview some things for the next grade level,” she said. “And it’s actually a great time to remediate. What we’re really trying to do is propel kids forward if they have any gaps in instruction or learning.”
While some events, like the fifth-grade field trip, are held after the CRCT, for the most part Pajerski said school continues as normal, although perhaps with less pressure.
“We have a pretty defined curriculum here, so there’s still intense teaching going on,” she said. “But the biggest relief is the physical relief of teachers getting the testing done.
“We keep pushing forward like every other school does to get them ready. We’re working until the bell rings on the last day.”