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Bemidji Area Schools: Testing begins this week

The time for state-mandated testing started Tuesday for Bemidji Area Schools.

"There's a lot of testing going on," Bemidji School District director of curriculum Kathy Palm said. "We've got grades 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and11 all testing."

This week, tenth-graders are taking a reading test required to receive a diploma. 11th-graders are testing in math, also required for graduation. Ninth-graders are next in line, soon to be taking a one-day writing test. Grades 3-8 are testing for both reading and math this week and next week.

For students who miss a day of testing, they must make up the test another day. According to Palm, the district needs to have 95 percent of all students take the required tests.

Palm spends most of her year planning, preparing and collecting information from the spring testing season. It's a big job for one person, but she doesn't do it alone.

"Right now I'm mostly there to answer questions," she said. "Materials were ordered and I made sure everybody got what they needed."

Palm said the testing materials required for schools can be very specific. For example, special education students may require testing materials to be read to them, so the testing facilitator will need a script. Some students may need to listen to a CD with the test read to them, or read large print or Braille.

Prior to test weeks, training seminars are given to school testing coordinators, Palm said.

"They have a script that tells kids specifically what to do," she said. "Test monitors are not allowed to look at the questions. It is very secure."

During the weeks leading up to testing week, teachers and school staff encourage students to prepare for tests ahead of time, relax and do their best. Some schools give awards to kids who do well.

"The Bemidji Middle School sent out a phone message to all parents reminding them to make sure their kids are well-rested and eat a good breakfast for testing," Palm said.

When all testing is done, Palm makes sure the answer booklets are delivered to the right location and question sheets are accounted for.

Starting April 26, grades 5, 8 and 10 will be taking an online science test, required by the state, but not counted in Annual Yearly Progress. Around the same time, the district also gives the online Measures of Academic Progress test, used to measure the growth of students' abilities in math, reading and language usage.

"There's lots of testing," Palm said.

For Palm, testing doesn't stop when school gets out. In fact, it is really only the beginning.

In July, once the testing results come back, she and other administrators start compiling information that will be used at a data retreat in August.