8th graders take PSAT

By Michelle Garcia
   Okeeheelee students spend more than 5 percent of their classroom time testing, taking exams such as the Florida Standards Assessment, diagnostic tests, end-of-course exams, final exams, and now the PSAT, according to a school analysis.
That’s quite a bit more than the 2 percent President Barack Obama recently encouraged setting as a limit.
“It’s too much,” said Jeffrey Shocket, Okeeheelee’s learning team facilitator. He compiled the testing data and handles much of the school’s testing logistics.
Students already have quite a few tests to take and last month, they got another one. On Dec. 10, Okeeheelee eighth-graders took the PSAT for the first time. The PSAT for eighth- and ninth-graders is new — practice for the real SAT that every student will take junior year. The SAT tests you on reading, math, and writing and will tell you if you are college-ready.
The PSAT will help eighth-grade students know what type of testing skills they need and how close they are to being college-ready, said Dwight Stewart, assistant principal for eighth grade and the administrator who oversees testing.
While Stewart sees value in having students experience a college-oriented test, Shocket questions whether it’s really necessary or useful.
Many of the eighth-graders talking about the test thought it was hard, especially the math test, and they didn’t have time to answer all the questions.
Testing is important, but the PSAT, which was given in five parts, could have been stretched out over different days, eighth-grader Donna Jones said. Some students don’t eat or focus because they are so stressed or nervous, and because they are nervous or stressed, they do not perform as well as they should, she said.
Another eighth-grader panned testing. “I don’t think we should take so many tests,” Miguel Visbal said. “It disrupts class time, and it wastes our time.”
The president recently stated that schools should limit standardized testing to 2 percent of classroom time. President Obama said federal officials would work with states, schools and teachers to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing.
“Learning is so much more than just filling in the right bubble,” Obama said in a video released on Facebook. Students should be focused on passing their classes and reviewing notes or handouts instead of stressing about so many tests, he said.
Testing at Okeeheelee takes up more than 2 percent of the school day. According to Shocket’s calculation, the average sixth-grader will spend 50.5 hours testing — or 5.3 percent of class time. For seventh-graders, the figures are 55.2 hours (5.7 percent of time) and eighth-graders test the most of all — 57.9 hours (6 percent of time.) Students who are still learning English and receive extra minutes for testing spend more time in tests (6.3 percent of time in eighth grade.)

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