LEAP begins in River Parishes

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 13, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / March 13, 2000

LAPLACE – Only two more days until the big test.

Starting Monday morning and ending Friday afternoon, public school students in the River Parishes and all over the state of Louisiana will take tests to see how well they have been doing and how much they have learned.

For fourth- and eighth-graders the stakes are very high. They will take themuch-discussed, much-anticipated LEAP test. The Louisiana EducationalAssessment Program will decide which students will be promoted to the fifth and ninth grades.

The days of social promotion are finished. With the state mandate of schoolaccountability, the pressure will be intense on these students.

LEAP participants will take tests from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day for fivedays.

Students in other grades don’t get out of taking tests, either.

Third-, fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders will take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and this battery of exams will also take five days to complete.

With that in mind, schools in St. John Parish have been trying to provide asrelaxed an atmosphere as they can for the students.

At LaPlace Elementary second-graders have made little LEAP packages for fourth-graders. The packages contain extra pencils, erasers, peppermintcandies and motivational notes. Second-graders presented their gifts to thefourth-graders Friday morning.

LaPlace Elementary fourth-graders, in turn, wrote motivational letters to the eighth-graders at the Glade School.

At Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School all the classes had a contest to see whocould decorate their classroom doors with inspirational messages about taking the exams. The winning class will be rewarded with a pizza party.Also around the area, letters have been sent to parents with suggestions on how to help their child relax and prepare for the tests.

Some of the suggestions are: Get a good night’s sleep each night. It is very important to be well-rested. Eat a good breakfast each morning.

Parents should make every effort to make the student feel relaxed before they go to school. Make breakfast enjoyable and don’t put any pressure onyour children.

Parents should emphasize that these are important tests and the student should give it their best effort.

Make every effort to be on time each day of the testing.

Be there for each day of the test. The state has mandated that a studentcannot make up a test unless they have a doctor’s excuse. The excuse mustbe on the doctor’s letterhead with the doctor’s original signature. If astudent misses a test they will be given a zero, and this will bring down a school’s entire score. Also, a child getting a zero may be retained in thesame grade until they pass the summer LEAP tests.

Robert Schaff, principal at the Glade School, warned, “Doing a make-up test will not do the school or the student any good.”Schaff also gave some suggestions to children taking the LEAP test. He said: Remember, the LEAP test is not a time test. Take your time with thequestions and re-check your work. “There is no penalty for guessing,” saidSchaff.

Make sure to answer every question.

For students taking the ITBS test, Schaff suggested: The Iowa test is a timed test, so budget your time wisely. Don’t spend toomuch time on one question.

Figure out how long to spend on each question. For instance, if there are60 questions and the test lasts an hour use one minute for each question.

Test coordinator and Title 1 curriculum coordinator Audrey Sylvain at Garyville/Mt.Airy Magnet School is confident in her students.”I think they are going to do pretty well,” she said.

Despite the negative aspect of so much pressure on the students, Sylvain thinks the LEAP test has done one good thing for the educational system.

“These tests have been a wake-up call for the parents,” Sylvain said. “Thetests got the parents involved in their children’s education. Now they arereally interested in what their children are learning.”While teachers and administrators wring their hands and try to remain calm, the students themselves seem rather relaxed about the whole process.

“I’m going to do OK,” said a calm Brandi Matulich, an eighth-grader at Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School. “We’ve done a lot in LEAP remediation, andlearned a lot in math. Our teacher, Miss Norseworthy, has done a great job inpreparing us.”If that isn’t enough, another eighth-grader at Garyville/Mt.Airy Magnet, SandiBrown, wrote a poem that sort of sums up the students’ attitudes: Don’t Be Afraid of LEAP Society is getting everyone worked up about LEAP But fourth- and eighth-graders, do not weep.

Take the time out to study each day, Everyone who said you couldn’t do it will pay.

The news people are putting in your mind that you’re going to fail, But they will see when the test scores arrive in the mail.

This month is the test, So, please do your best.

Pray each night, Then give that test a try with all your might.

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