Standardize testing kicked off on Tuesday at Carlisle Elementary and Lonoke Primary Schools as first and second grade students began the IOWA Test of Basic Skills. IOWA testing will end today at Carlisle and Friday at Lonoke Primary.

Carlisle Elementary principal Karen Norton said teachers begin preparing students from the first day of schools for annual testing as they teach from the adopted standards. She said the goal for her teachers is to insure students are educated and prepared.

"We want our students to have a well rounded education," Norton said.

Lonoke Primary principal Rebecca Reed said her teachers have also been preparing students all year and a few weeks ago began started prepping students by using practice versions of the test. She said Lonoke kicked testing week off Monday with a Test Rally that contained valuable information for the students including test taking tips such as getting a good night’s rest, eating a healthy breakfast and ways to deal with stress.

"In order to ensure that all of our students eat breakfast, our school is providing breakfast to all of our students," Reed said.

Norton gave advice on how to best prepare your student is to:

- Talk with your child about goals for this test.

- Make sure your child gets a good night’s rest.

- Have your child eat a healthy breakfast at home or at school each morning.

- Please make arriving to school on time a priority. Rushing around never makes for a calm child.

- Please make every effort to have your child in attendance all day, every day.

- Gently encourage your child to do his or her best.

"Do your very best and believe in yourself," Norton said.

Prior to testing, Reed said primary school students get moving with the brain break song and a soft peppermint. She said tests in her building are given in the morning and are broken up into sessions but students will be through with testing prior to lunch. According to Reed, students will receive an incentive after testing is complete. She said they are ending their week with a fun, hands on exhibit called "Farm To You".

Norton said her elementary school students will receive incentives each day following the test. She said there will also be a Benchmark Rally on Friday celebrating first and second grade students wrapping up the IOWA and getting third through sixth grade students pumped up for the Benchmark. Benchmark Exams for third through sixth grade Carlisle Elementary students on will be April 7-11.

Ninth-grade students at Carlisle high school also began IOWA testing this week, on Wednesday and will be followed by seventh and eighth grade students taking the Benchmark Exams on Monday, April 7-11. Geometry end of course exams for grades 10-12 will be April 22-24, Biology end of course exams will be April 29-30, and Algebra I end of course exams are scheduled for grades nine through 12 on May 13-14.

Carlisle High School principal Brad Horn said all tests are typically completed by noon, but there are circumstances when extended time will be provided and tests may carry over into the afternoon.

"All of these tests are assessments to determine the knowledge that students have retained in their education thus far and they will show if they are achieving growth from year to year," Horn said. "The tests also serve as tools which allow the school to determine the effectiveness of their instruction and make constructive changes if necessary.

"At Carlisle, we use the Benchmark exams to determine remediation that is needed by individual students in the areas of literacy and mathematics. Students are placed in remedial or enrichment classes based on their scores from these tests."

Horn said the Iowa test of basic skills is to compare the skills of individual students to other students across the nation and the End of Course (EOC) exams in Geometry, Algebra I and Biology are used to determine a student’s comprehension of the content knowledge in the given area.

In preparation for testing, Horn said teachers are provided with a curriculum containing certain standards that must be taught in the classrooms. He said they then provide this content to students using research based strategies to help them retain the information. Horn said teachers also complete professional development hours throughout the year to assist them with incorporating literacy and mathematics components into their content area.

"This year is especially difficult for teachers because the Common Core State Standards have to be implemented, but the test this year is still in the Benchmark format," Horn said. "The teachers have to cover two sets of standards. Next year the PARRC assessments will correlate with the Common Core."

According to Horn, when a test is to be given, parents can help by making sure their student:

- Gets plenty of sleep the night before

- Has breakfast on the morning of the test

- Goes to school on the day of the test and is on time

- Knows that you think he or she will do well on the test

- Knows that you understand that the test is important

"All students should ensure that they get a good night of rest, eat a balanced breakfast and try not to be stressed over the test," Horn said. "They should understand that the test is important, but they should relax and do their very best."

As an incentive for good testing scores, Horn said students in the seventh and eighth grade who are proficient or advanced in math and literacy, can earn a certificate to cash in for a free day off from school. He said their name will also go into a drawing for a $100 cash prize. Students proficient or advanced on the EOC exams (Algebra I, Geometry and Biology) also receive an academic free day and a chance to win $100, Horn said.

According to the Lonoke School District calendar, IOWA testing for grades will continue for grades kindergarten through second and ninth grade until April 11. Benchmark exams for third through eighth grade students will be April 7-11. End of course Geometry testing will be April 22-23 followed by end of course Biology April 29-30 and end of course Algebra I on May 13-14.