"Do your best on the test!" chanted teachers waving pom poms and leaping in the air like high school cheerleaders.
South Prairie School held a pep rally Monday afternoon to try to impress upon students the importance of doing well on the North Dakota State Assessment.
Amy Larson, the rural Minot K-8 school's reading coach, said South Prairie School students failed to make "adequate yearly progress" on the standardized tests and the school district is now on the state's program improvement list. Under the No Child Left Behind law requirements, that means the district has to set aside a portion of its Title I funding for additional professional development for teachers and the district has invested in some new reading materials. If the school keeps failing to make AYP in future years, Larson said stricter measures might be required, such as incorporating a longer school day.
"All we're asking is for them to do their best," said Larson, but said the pressure to do well on the test has teachers under some stress.
Students have been shown their test scores from last year and heard how much the school needs to improve to get off the "needs improvement" list. In another skit, teachers talked about the importance of taking the test seriously and not coloring in patterns at random in the little dots on the test page.
They were warned that a longer school day could mean the end to after school sports and less free time. That sort of remedial measure would be a few years in the future and would happen only if the school test scores show no improvement but it's the sort of scare tactic that might make kids realize how important the tests are and how much the school district's budget is impacted, said Larson.
Children will begin taking the state assessment tests today.
Under the law, more and more schools will eventually fail to make adequate yearly progess under the law and will be identified as having failed to make AYP. The law requires continued improvement on the cut-off score on the standardized tests from year to year and keeps raising the bar higher.
Schools can fail because the entire student population has not made enough progress from year to year on the tests or because specific target groups such as children with disabilities, minority students, or children from low-income families have failed to make enough progress in one subject or all. Failure to have a high enough attendance or enough improvement in high school graduation numbers also can mean failure to make AYP. Schools that fail to make AYP for two years in a row are placed on the program improvement list and are subject to penalties such as having to set aside a portion of their federal Title I dollars for professional development for teachers. Federal Title I dollars are awarded to school districts with a certain percentage of students receiving free and reduced price lunches based on income levels. Schools that do not receive Title I dollars are not subject to the penalties if students don't make enough improvements on the test.
This year, area schools in "program improvement" are Burlington-Des Lacs Elementary; Dunseith Elementary and Dunseith High School; Eight Mile Elementary and Eight Mile High School; Four Winds High School; Killdeer Elementary, Mandaree Elementary and Mandaree High School, Minnewaukan Elementary; Nedrose Elementary; New Rockford-Sheyenne Elementary; Parshall Elementary; Erik Ramstad Middle School, Jim Hill Middle School, Roosevelt Elementary, Sunnyside Elementary, all of Minot; St. John High School, South Prairie Elementary; Surrey Elementary, Turtle Mountain Elementary, Turtle Mountain Middle School and Turtle Mountain High School of Belcourt, Twin Buttes Elementary, Warwick Elementary and Warwick High School; White Shield Elementary and White Shield High School. Area districts identified for program improvement this school year include Belcourt, Bottineau, Dunseith, Eight Mile, Fort Totten, Killdeer, Mandaree, Minnewaukan, Minot, Nedrose, New Town, Parshall, Sawyer, South Prairie, St. John, Warwick and White Shield.