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Time to show what you know
CRCT crunch begins today
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Forsyth County News
Local schools are encouraging students to eat breakfast, get a good night’s sleep and show up on time as the annual CRCT period gets under way today.

The exams, short for Criterion-Referenced Compet-ency Test, are the state’s standardized assessments for students in first through eighth grades.

Beth Kieffer, director of assessment for the Forsyth County school system, said each school has worked to prepare and inspire its students.

“This is a show what you know, it’s not a gotcha,” she said. “It’s where kids really should be proud of what they have learned and it’s a statement of what they don’t know that they get back in the results.”

Vickery Creek Elementary has embraced that idea by framing the test as the acronym “Celebrate Really Cool Thinking.”

Principal Ron McAllister said preparations have ranged from a poster contest to a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”

McAllister told students he crosses out the word “test” every time he sees it, replacing it with “opportunity.”

“We’re trying to create an atmosphere where students see a positive spin and there’s not so much stress and anxiety over it, and not only with the kids but with the parents and other adults,” he said.

McAllister said he reminds teachers, parents and students that the test isn’t always the whole picture.

“Sometimes the danger could be that that’s looked at as the only piece that tells the story of the school, but it is important,” he said.

“It’s that public accountability piece. It’s that piece that we’re all measured against.”

Students in first through eighth grades will be tested this week in reading, language arts and math.

Next week, third- through eighth-graders will take science and social studies assessments.

District spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said students and teachers work all year on the benchmarks of education, the base for the tests.

“We live in a culture of accountability,” she said. “The CRCTs show our parents where our students rank in relation to other students across the state and how our students and our teachers are performing in accordance to the Georgia performance standards.”

The test results show how students and schools measure up to their peers, as well as determine whether schools are meeting the goals for adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

Schools that don’t meet AYP draw sanctions, which grow more severe with each year they miss the mark.

The county doesn’t usually have any difficulty meeting those standards, Kieffer said.

“Forsyth is a premiere system. We typically have the best results in the state,” she said. “It’s really them comparing themselves, these schools, to other schools.”

The pressure of meeting AYP can be tough on some. State officials announced in February that 191 schools were being investigated for possible cheating.

No local schools were in that list, but it has caused district employees to stay on their toes.

“Everybody’s a little bit more aware of what they’re doing, and they want to make sure that they follow protocol,” Kieffer said. “We’ve always been that thorough. We’re in the clear.”

By state law, students in third, fifth and eighth grades must pass the test to move on to the next grade level.

Third- and fifth-graders can retest if they do not succeed the first time.

Previously offered in summer school, the tests will this year be held at the end of May, before summer break.

Caracciolo said the change will help the system adapt to budget constraints by reducing the number of summer school classes and staff.