Article published Sep 20, 2005
For students, graduation riding on tests
Breakfast is a rare part of Carey Countryman's daily routine.
But the 16-year-old Union County High School student made an exception this morning.
Monday ushered in ISTEP+ testing and this morning Countryman joined thousands of Indiana sophomores in taking the Graduation Qualifying Exam.
Countryman knows energy and focus are important since there's plenty riding on the outcome of the test.
"The main point is," he said, "and I think every student in the state would agree with me, is everybody is nervous about it. It's graduation we're talking about."
The Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus is given to students in grades 3-9. The exam measures English, language arts and math skills.
All students -- general education, special education and Limited English Proficiency -- must pass the exam to qualify for a high school diploma.
Students who fail the test can retake it as juniors and seniors.
"The key is you've got to relax," Countryman said of the importance of the test. "If you start to get worked up, you've just got to take a deep breath and keep calm."
The Indiana Department of Education uses ISTEP+ scores to determine whether schools make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. ISTEP+ testing runs through Sept. 30.
Fourth-grade teacher Kim Morris said preparation is the key. Morris said the families of her 27 students at C.R. Richardson Elementary are well informed. Notes were sent to parents and guardians.
"We tell them it's coming," Morris said. "There are no surprises."
And neither is that student who looks a little tired or distracted. Morris keeps an eye out for students with empty bellies and wandering minds.
"If they're tired and lethargic," Morris said, "I usually get a snack for them to eat. It helps them out."
Daily tests take 30 minutes to 1½ hours.
C.R. Richardson principal Bill Doering said there's a reason testing happens in the morning.
"We trying to get the kids while they're fresh," he said.
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