Cheers for fears: Schools hold celebrations to alleviate CRCT anxieties

HOSCHTON - Third-graders stood in front of Duncan Creek Elementary School on Wednesday, cheering as Scott Pinner of Lanier National Speedway sped by in a Legends race car.

As Pinner looped around the parking lot and prepared to race past the school again, the children broke into a chant, which included the phrases "Motivated, motivated, downright educated" and "CRCT - No problem."

Principal Chris Emsley said the celebration ended a monthlong review of reading and math concepts for the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), a state exam administered to first- through eighth-graders that assesses students' knowledge of the state curriculum, the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS).

"Our slogan is, 'Cruising Right along the Championship Track,'" Emsley said.

Pinner, director of media for Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, said his organization visits schools to promote team awareness.

"In this case, the school is a team trying to pass a test," he said. "They have to get ready for the test just like we have to get ready for a race."

Upon their return from next week's spring break, Gwinnett students will take the CRCT. Emsley said she plans to show a video of Wednesday's celebration on April 13, the day before testing begins - kind of a virtual pep rally.

Some schools use celebration as a way to alleviate students' stress about the upcoming exam.

"We are looking at the CRCT as a celebration of what students have accomplished this year," said Angie Wright, principal of Craig Elementary School in Lawrenceville.

Focusing on what they know can help students pull away from the anxiety caused by the upcoming test, Wright said. A celebration of learning can be an engaging way to kick off the CRCT.

"(The CRCT is) really looking at what we've been doing all year," she said. "It's a great way to showcase our knowledge."

Craig Elementary had a vocabulary parade on Tuesday, creating a visual representation of what students have learned.

During spring break, which begins after school lets out on Friday, parents can help their children relate the classroom concepts to real-life experiences, Wright said. For example, a trip to the playground could lead to a conversation about force, energy and motion, she said.

Emsley suggests students should read and work out a few math problems while on break, but there's no reason for the children to study for hours each day. If the students have been doing their job in school, they've been preparing for this test all year.

SideBar: FAQs About The CRCT

· What is the CRCT?

The Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) assess the content standards outlined in the state curriculum, the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS). It is designed to measure how well students acquire the skills and knowledge described in the state curriculum. The assessments yield information on the academic achievement at the student, class, school, system and state levels. This information is used to diagnose individual student strengths and weaknesses as related to the instruction of the curriculum and to gauge the quality of education throughout Georgia.

· Who takes the CRCT?

Georgia law requires that all students in grades one through eight take the CRCT in the content areas of reading, English/language arts and mathematics. Students in grades three through eight are also assessed in science and social studies.

· How is the CRCT scored?

Scores are divided into three levels: Level 1 (Does Not Meet Expectations), Level 2 (Meets Expectations) and Level 3 (Exceeds Expectations). Levels 2 and 3 are considered passing scores.

· Why is the CRCT important?

In Georgia, third-grade students must pass the CRCT in reading and fifth- and eighth-grade students must pass the CRCT in math and reading to be promoted to the next grade. In addition, the results of the CRCT help determine if schools make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

· How does the CRCT differ from other tests, such as the ITBS?

Criterion-referenced tests, such as the CRCT, are designed to measure how well students acquire, learn and accomplish the knowledge and skills set forth in a specific curriculum or unit of instruction. Norm-referenced tests, such as the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, measure instructional standards commonly taught throughout the entire United States of America. Additionally, NRTs highlight differences between and among students across an achievement continuum.

Source: Georgia Department of Education