Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2007

Students say rewards bring focus to assessments

March 29, 2007

Students at De Soto High School may have done better on standardized tests this year thanks to a new reward system implemented by Principal Dave Morford. Those who did better will celebrate by taking a day off.

One of the rewards given to students who performed well on the No Child Left Behind tests is an entire day off school. Students whose scores reach the "standard" level will be excused May 4.

"Everyone wants a day off school," junior Jeremy Hoffine said. "Mostly, it's pretty neat they are doing better to motivate us."

Other rewards include 10 percentage points to apply toward improving grades in at least two classes for those who improve to the "approaching standard" level. Those who exceed the "standard" level may skip two seminar classes at the end of the day and those with "exemplary" scores do not have to take the final in that class.

Junior Nikki James said the awards motivated her to work harder on the reading portion of the test.

"English has never been my strongest subject," she said. "I did a lot better than I thought I would do."

DHS students took the reading assessment in February and will take the math portion next month.

To prepare for the tests, some students participated in study sessions during school. Vi Ann Abel taught one group of students, who she said at first were not happy about the tests.

"Once they realized they had rewards coming, they felt the extra work wasn't so hard," Abel said. "Mostly, we did practice tests because you have to know how to take a test."

Junior Erik Hill said the study sessions helped a lot of students pass the test. He said the focus for the class was partially on the material and partially on test taking.

"We talked a lot about vocabulary and how to better read a question," Erik said. "I felt like I actually knew what I was looking for."

This year's reading score gave Erik 10 percentage points and Nikki will get to skip two seminar classes. But just as there are rewards, those who don't receive the desired score have consequences.

Those who were below the Standard level and did not improve their score this year will be enrolled in a "fundamentals" class until they pass the test or improve their score significantly. Nikki said the prospect of another required class was a motivator.

"It made us try a lot harder because nobody wanted to be in that class," Nikki said. "Before this, these tests didn't count for a grade or anything, so a lot of people were slacking off."

DHS has received the Standard of Excellence in Reading for the past two years. This year, to make Adequate Yearly Progress, the school's score would need to be above 75.4 percent at the Standard level. Principal Morford said this year's tests are not ready to be released, but said he is very pleased and thinks the rewards program made a difference.

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