SOL testing begins next week

Published 10:47 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Public schools in Suffolk are bustling the last few weeks as teachers get in last-minute reviews to prepare their students for the culmination of their studies throughout the years — the Standards of Learning tests.

After a year of preparation, Suffolk high schools will start the tests May 16, with middle schools following on May 19 and elementary schools beginning on May 23.

Aside from classroom reviews, teachers, guidance counselors, administrators and other school officials suggested home reviews, plenty of rest and good nutrition to help students succeed on the tests.

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In the days leading up to the test, students should map their schedule by marking test days on a calendar, said Katrina Cary, the lead teacher for middle school English and social studies.

“This will help students plan and pace study time,” she said.

Students should not cram for the test the night before, Cary said. Instead, they should study a little bit at a time, which helps them retain and understand content better.

Lisa Brooks, the lead teacher for high school English and social studies, suggested finding a well-lit, comfortable, quiet and distraction-free place to study. However, Brooks said, it is best to avoid using your bed to fight the temptation to take a nap.

Brooks said the high schools also have content-review books in several SOL subjects for students and parents. Each student has a copy to use at school and at home, she said.

To help with studying, the Suffolk Public Schools website provides various review tools. Students and parents can reach STAR, Suffolk Teaching Activities and Resources, which has activities for each subject divided into grade levels.

They can also find previously-released SOL tests at the Virginia Department of Education’s website.

Cary said parents can contact their children’s teachers to learn about more resources that will help studying.

Gwendolyn Best, the lead teacher for elementary school math, said parents should make sure to review anything their students bring home.

“Any review materials that are sent home by teachers, they should definitely take a look at if they have time,” she said.

Creekside Elementary testing coordinator Draya Burden said planning for testing week is essential.

She said parents should reschedule any appointments that might make students late to school or take them out early and address any medical issues that might hinder testing.

Students should always get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast on testing days.

“Hunger is a distraction,” Cary said. “A student should not take SOL tests on an empty stomach.”

Brooks said eating before the test will give students energy and help them focus. However, students should avoid heavy, fatty and high-sugar foods.

Above all, the school officials advise students to stay positive and relax on test days.

Burden said parents can help by giving words of encouragement and praise, especially because home is the last place they will be before they sit down for testing.

“Kids will often internalize others’ attitudes about things,” Cary said. “A positive attitude from parents will help foster a positive attitude in the student.”

Best said even though the tests are important, the students should not feel overwhelmed.

“It’s a high priority, but it should be a low-stress situation,” she said.

Schools are also trying to encourage their students and promote confidence.

Principals at John F. Kennedy Middle School and Nansemond River High School are including messages of encouragement in their morning announcements.

Oakland and Creekside elementary schools are taking the cheers to the next level by holding pep rallies the Friday before testing.

At Oakland, grade-level teams will answer SOL questions and compete in Wii challenges based on the television show “Minute to Win It.”

“We will be celebrating the coming tests and how well we will do,” said Oakland physical education teacher Anne McCoy said.

Burden said the SOL pep rally is something Creekside has done since it opened to get students excited. Teachers from every grade level will perform skits to remind the students of test-taking tips they learned throughout the year.

“We let the students know it’s just a test,” she said. “If you know the strategies, it doesn’t matter what type of test it is.”

For more information, parents can contact their child’s school or visit Suffolk Public Schools’ website at Resources for SOL prep are available through the parents tab.