Those of us who grew up in the seventies remember those dreaded interruptions to our TV programming – such as it was in those days. For me, it always seemed that right in the middle of Gilligan’s Island, just as the castaways were about to get off that island, the show would be interrupted by a high-pitched drone and that old familiar scratchy voice would speak those iconic words, “This is a test, this is only a test…” As a kid who was more interested in Gilligan at the time, I of course, didn’t understand the importance of that particular test and the bigger system to which it was tied. Since my days as a Gilligan fan, I’ve taken many tests…probably thousands of tests within a huge range of purpose. Testing is part of life, it is a part of our walk of faith, and it is certainly a part of the educational process.
Every spring, schools across the country administer standardized tests to their students. During the upcoming week of April 4-7 CCS elementary students in K5 through 5th grades will take the annual standardized test. While the practice is common in many schools, I consider our approach to be rather unique. Let me explain.
First, it’s important to understand a few points about standardized testing. Standardized tests are designed to measure a student’s achievement on a selection of standard information at a defined snapshot of time. That measure of achievement is compared against other students at the same age/grade level within several possible norm reference groups. The results provide valuable information regarding the student’s actual progress, academic ability and possible deficiencies when compared with the expected norm. At CCS, we take the ACSI version of the TerraNova, 3rd Edition. CCS uses this particular test because it reflects an effective alignment of state and national educational standards as well as our Biblically integrated curriculum. The TerraNova3 also includes an assessment of Bible knowledge.
As with any test, the results are highly anticipated. We look forward to the results of our annual testing because of the professional, academic growth that it generates for the faculty and students. Each year, we study the results in a variety of detailed ways in order to learn more about our curriculum, our teaching success and the needs of our students. We consider areas of deficiency to determine how we can improve in those areas. Annual goals are set for each subject area, each grade level, each classroom and even for individual students. At CCS, we look to the results of our standardized tests to inform instruction and individualize student intervention. It is impactful for the student and the teacher.
We make a great deal of effort to prepare our students for the testing experience. It’s not all about the testing information however, as a huge part of the success with young students is helping them to believe that they can succeed! We believe in speaking life into their testing experience and making it something that they will walk into with confidence…and maybe even a little fun too!
Our theme for this year’s testing is “TerraNova Triumph.” Each letter of the word “triumph” provides encouragement for our students with a Biblical truth as the foundation:
T – Try your best! – Colossians 3:23
R – Reach for the stars! – Proverbs 14:23
I – Integrity! – Proverbs 10:9
U – Use your gifts! – James 1:17
M – Mighty Minds! – Proverbs 18:15
P – Praise God! – Psalm 101:1
H – Honor Him in All You Do! – Psalm 86:12
We also use our CCS Four P’s to encourage our students to do well:
Positive Attitude: “I will do my best work!”
Pure Heart: “I will be focused and diligent!”
Proper Respect: “I will not disturb others.”
Personal Acceptance: “I will use my time wisely.”
Along with these themes, we hold Math Boot Camps, an academic pep rally before testing week and a morning rally each day of testing. At the daily rally, we review our themes and have prayer before sending the students off with a daily “cheer train” of parents and staff. The students work to earn daily incentives for their cooperation and noteworthy effort during testing. After the testing week is over, we celebrate with earned treats, extra recess and a special jeans day. We believe that these external efforts will inspire our students to do their very best. If they believe that they can, or if they’re working harder to earn a desired incentive, I believe that they will dig deep into their own knowledge banks during the test and perform with a greater degree of success.
And so, similar to those tests that used to interrupt my favorite TV show in the seventies, every spring, we interrupt our regular routine to give our students an opportunity to show what they know, to show what they’ve learned. It may be “only a test”, but the outcomes show us a great deal more success than Gilligan ever had…but then, he didn’t attend CCS!
Peter S. Barnes
CCS Elementary Principal
March 31, 2017