Stress-free testing: Greeters encourage BV students to succeed

Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Arkansas State Police Trooper Chad Hipps, a member of the Berryville school board, greets Berryville Intermediate School students as they head to class on a recent standardized testing day.
Submitted photo

Standardized testing can be a stressful time for students, but the community leaders of the Berryville Bright Futures program worked to ease that anxiety this year.

Mindy Hicks, district testing coordinator and Bright Futures coordinator, said the Bright Futures team worked to organize community leaders and parents to greet students at Berryville Elementary and Intermediate schools each morning of testing.

“Not all students tested every day during that time, but our focus was to just make the child’s day a little brighter,” Hicks said. “We wanted them to hear a friendly voice or a kind word.”

She said many students come to school in the morning without having talked to their parent because their parent is already at work or worked all night and is in bed.

“Some of our students get themselves ready and to school on the bus, so they may not have had any interactions that morning,” Hicks said. “Mornings are tough, and it’s tough getting families and kids ready.”

She continued, “So we wanted our students to have a positive interaction with the greeters before they began testing. We wanted them to feel important as they came into the school building and to feel like today was going to be a good day. One of our students looked at someone and said ‘Wow, we must be really special.’ That’s the goal.”

For Berryville Middle School, she said they arranged for community leaders to come in each morning and give a word of encouragement or share a story to inspire the students to do well.

“One day, the speaker talked about if your coach asks you to run one more lap, it may hurt and might not be something you want to do,” Hicks said, “But, if you push through it, it’s going to make you stronger and more successful. They related it to testing. You may not feel like finishing the test, but you will be better off if you do.”

She said members of the community also wrote cards o encouragement to the students.

“With so many electronic devices and communication devices, the art of a handwritten note is kind of lost, so this was something unique for the kids,” Hicks said. “They were excited to get them. We just wanted to let them know they matter, and their success is important to them, their teachers, the schools and the community because these kids will be adults in the community some day.”

Berryville students loved the support they received from the community during the testing period.

“The cards were so awesome because I was kind of surprised that we got one,” said first-grader Addison Teigen. “When we got them, I was like ‘Who gave me this?’ And I want to say ‘thank you’ to her.”

“They were very supportive,” said fourth-grader McKenna Chaney.

“The cards made me feel happy because on tests I’m kind of nervous sometimes,” said first-grader Taylor Ward. “So it made me feel kind of not nervous.”

Second-grade teacher Nancy Martin said some of her students were planning on keeping their cards forever because it made them feel so good to receive the notes of encouragement.

“Smiles were all over the room the day that my class came in and read the cards that had been placed on their desks,” Martin said. “They could not believe people would do that for them. The best part is that they still bring those cards out and read them during the day.”

She continued, “I love the way the community came together to make testing this year so very special. Your kindness touched the hearts of my students in a way I don’t think they will ever forget. I know I won’t.”

Hicks said the testing period lasts about one week for elementary school and high school and two weeks for intermediate and middle school.

“Basically, the whole month of April is all testing,” she said. “We have some sort of testing almost every day of April. Part of that is because not everyone can test at the same time because we have to consider our bandwidth and the number of devices and computers available.”

Hicks concluded, “We really appreciate our community’s investment in our students. We want not only the kids but also their parents to know the community cares about their students.”

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