Preparing for Assessment Day

Preparing for Assessment Day

Springtime means many things for high school students; the crack of a bat echoing through the baseball and softball diamonds, the promise of longer days and fun-filled spring break vacations, and the beginning of assessment season. Advanced Placement Exams, SAT tests, the Illinois State Science Assessment (ISA) and final exams seem to dominate the spring semester.  In this issue of the District 127 Blog, we will review the required state assessments, share important dates, and make suggestions about how best to prepare for standardized exams. 

Required Assessments

The State of Illinois has shifted this year from requiring all juniors to take an ACT test (as part of an assessment known as the PSAE) to instead requiring an SAT test.  Per the Illinois School Code, all juniors must take this measure of college and career readiness in order to graduate high school.  The SAT score appears on the student’s transcript unless a formal written request to remove it is sent to the school’s registrar.  This year, the state-required SAT exam will be given to all juniors on Wednesday, April 5.  Each school will mail home details of the day’s events in the coming weeks.  Due to the SAT start time requirements, this particular Wednesday will be an early release date, NOT a late start date like most Wednesdays.  While juniors are taking the SAT, all other students will attend classes as normal.  More to come on the early release schedule.   

In addition to the SAT, the State of Illinois also requires that all students take an Illinois Science Assessment once while in high school.  All students enrolled in any level of Biology will be required to take the Illinois Science Assessment.  This online assessment can be completed in about 50 minutes, so we hope to minimize the impact on other classes. The state-allowed window for ISA testing is March 1- April 28 and each high school can develop a testing schedule within that window.  Communication about about the ISA and planned examination dates is forthcoming.  

Advanced Placement exams occur during the first two weeks of May, with each subject-area test assigned its own date and time.  While these tests are optional, we strongly encourage all students enrolled in an AP course to take the associated exam(s).  For less than $100.00 per exam, students may earn up to three college credits for passing the assessment.  Illinois law requires that all public Illinois institutions of higher learning must accept a score of three or better on an AP exam for college credit.  The type of credit is up to the individual institutions. Registration for AP exams opens the first week of February.  Be on the lookout for more information.

More than a Score

With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, standardized assessments became the primary measure of student success, and by extension, school success.  What schools have known all along is that standardized tests are an incomplete measure of student achievement.  A single assessment, representative of one point in time, which attempts to gather student understanding on a“bubble”sheet, serves only as one data point.  We know that students are richer, more complex, and more creative than any one multiple-choice assessment could ever measure.  That is why high schools measure student achievement with more depth.  Grades reflect ongoing mastery of content, demonstrated in myriad ways and our new Cum Laude program recognizes students for their contributions inside and outside the classroom, including community service and extracurricular involvement.  Our students excel not just in Advanced Placement classes, but also in our art, music, theater, engineering, technology and culinary programs, to name just a few.   Our students are staying to true to the District 127 mission by vigorously pursuing their individual passions.   In short, students are more than a score.

As revealed in a recent, Daily Herald Article, superintendents from across the state, including our own Dr. Catherine Finger, have been working to gain support for a new definition of College and Career Readiness, one that is inclusive of measures other than just test scores.  We are hopeful this new approach will “Redefine Ready”. 

Doing your Best on Test Day

It is with this understanding that we hope students take their respective standardized exams.  Below is a list of suggestions for maximizing performance on test day:

  1. Relax.  This one test score does not define you.  Moreover, you can always retake the SAT or ACT on another date to try to improve your score.
  2. Get some exercise.  Research tells us that students who are physically active before taking a standardized exam outperform those who do not.
  3. Sleep tight.  Be sure to get a full night’s sleep.  You cannot “cram” for a standardized test, so there is no need to pull an all-nighter in preparation. 
  4. Eat a hearty breakfast.  Do not test on an empty stomach.  Eat a healthy breakfast, which ideally includes protein to help maintain consistent blood sugar levels during the lengthy exam.
  5. Bring a snack.  You can bring a small snack (like a granola bar) and leave it with your personal effects.  It is ok to eat during the testing break.
  6. Prepare.  Working hard in your classes is the best possible preparation.  The new SAT is intended to capture what you have learned in classes, not just how well you take a multiple-choice test. However, there are tips and tricks for tackling an SAT or ACT test.  Make use of Khan Academy free SAT prep, or take an SAT prep class. Finally, research shows us that students practiced in sitting for long exams perform better than those who have not.  Maintaining stamina for the duration of a four-hour exam takes practice.  In addition to the practice exams given at your high school, free full-length exams are available at the College Board Website

We are proud of the accomplishments of our students, not just on standardized exams, but in every goal they achieve and each passion they pursue.