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Students advised to rest, relax before taking test

COVINGTON - This weekend, some Newton County students - and their parents - should be preparing for one of the first standardized tests of the school year.

Starting Monday and ending Friday, fourth-, sixth- and eighth-grade students in the Newton County School System will take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills during the school day at their respective schools.

Overall, students should expect the test to take more than five hours over the period of a week.

The annual norm-referenced battery of tests includes sections on reading, language arts, math, science and social studies.

Sheila Thomas, director of testing for NCSS, said in a press release that students shouldn't study or "cram" for the test. The ITBS requires students to read various types of passages and answer questions regarding them, solve math problems and answer questions in vocabulary, language, social studies and science.

Thomas said parents should make sure their students get a nutritious breakfast each morning of the test and make sure they come to school prepared to take the tests; she gave an example that students who wear glasses should bring those to school each day.

"Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep each night before the test," Thomas added. "Being in attendance and on time each day is very important."

This year, NCSS is administering the test to different grade levels than in the past. In previous years, students in second through fifth grades, as well as eighth-graders, took the test.

"This year, the (Georgia Department of Education) decided to remove the grade requirement and instead, they gave each school district the latitude to select which grade in middle school would take the test.

"The DOE's only requirement is that at least one grade in elementary and one grade in middle school take the test," said Adria Griffin, middle school curriculum director at NCSS, in an e-mail from the public relations department.

She said when NCSS officials presented the new state requirements to the middle school principals, they decided to offer the test to both sixth- and eighth-graders.

"They felt like this test is a very accurate measure of students' achievement since it is a nationally normed test," Griffin said. "When the ITBS is graded, the results sent back to the school on each student show how the student compares to other students in the same grade and age range all across the nation. Since we are working hard to prepare our students to be competitive with others globally, it is vital that we have a good measure of where each student stands in comparison to his or her peers across the country."

Ken Proctor, director of elementary curriculum for NCSS, said because of the state emphasis on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in grades three and five, which those students are required to pass for promotion to the next grade level, elementary principals decided to give fourth-grade students the ITBS only after the state requirements and funding changed this year.

Second-grade students will take the Cognitive Abilities Test, or CogAT, at the same time students are taking the ITBS. The CogAT tests students' abilities on reasoning and problem solving.

Proctor said in the future, elementary principals have expressed interest in giving the ITBS to second- and fourth-grade students and giving the CogAT to fourth-graders.

Parents or guardians who have questions or concerns regarding the testing periods should contact their students' teacher or a school administrator.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.