It's important on several fronts for Merced High School freshmen to do well on upcoming state testing, and the school is conducting a program today to encourage them.
The campus is conducting California Standards Test Chats throughout the day, and 775 ninth-graders will be meeting with teachers, counselors and administrators for one-on-one discussions about the testing, Principal John Olson said.
Kimberly Conley, an English and AVID college preparation teacher at Merced High, said it's important for students to do well on California Standards Testing exams later this month.
Conley said students are placed in classes partly based on their standards test performance. She expects to talk to 15 to 20 students, many not in her classes.
"They understand we're serious," Conley said. "They really like the one-on-one; the kids come pretty pumped. (Test chats) set a nice tone, and this is the best way to get kids excited about it. The results impact their future education."
Olson said the process begins at 8:10 a.m. in the gym and runs all day. The test chats give the school staff a chance to connect with students and develop relationships, as well as to establish the importance of the standards tests.
Students' past scores, grades and charts are reviewed individually, along with goal-setting forms they received the day before in English classes. State testing of freshmen, sophomores and juniors will be conducted April 24, April 26 and May 1, Olson said.
Kurt Smoot, an academic counselor, said students are receptive to the chats, and the school's efforts were borne out by an 800 Academic Performance Index ranking on the latest state testing. He is optimistic the next round of API scores will be even better.
"We encourage and motivate," Smoot said, "and the kids are receptive to it. We have a good group of kids who are supportive and appreciate the efforts to help them. We get a lot of positive feedback and they are encouraged by it all."
Assistant Principal Nancy Edmiston said many freshmen don't stop to think about the importance of the testing for themselves and the school. During the chats, which last about five to six minutes, students and their adult mentors review performance on tests.
Conley said the goal is to get students into classes where they will get the most benefit. She said previous attempts to prepare students for the testing weren't as personal or individual as the current versions.
Olson said the test chats prime students to do their very best on every test. Students are asked about their strengths in English and mathematics, along with areas of deficiency.
Olson and Conley also encourage students to be well-rested and eat a good breakfast on test day.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.