East Arkansas students face literacy tests

WEST MEMPHIS (Evening Times) - It's something that the teachers and students at West Memphis High School work toward from the beginning of the school year - getting prepared for the 11th grade literacy exam.

All WMHS juniors will take the standardized test Wednesday and Thursday, which measures individual reading comprehension and writing proficiency. Failure to meet certain benchmark scores called Annual Measurable Objectives can result in a school landing on the state's Academic Distress list.

A school's standardized math and literacy scores, along with other factors including graduation rates and average daily attendance levels, are used to determine what level of School Improvement Plan guidelines a school must follow. To that end, students and teachers alike spent the month of February engaged in a structured review initiative, writing essays based on sample prompts, going over frameworks and taking "target" tests, all aimed at improving test day readiness.

Last Friday, all of that preparation culminated in an all-day test prep blitz in which all of the students who will be testing went through a series of sessions led by WMHS English Department staff.

"We want to get them ready in a way that will prepare them but also be fun and keep them engaged," said teacher and WMHS Literacy Coach Shelly Hardin. Review sessions included interactive sessions using EduWare software, trivia competitions, and even "basketball" games where easy questions were considered free-throws and the hardest questions were three-pointers.

The test itself will challenge students with multiple-choice questions based on reading passages, writing prompts that will give students a chance to showcase their ability to synthesize and analyze information, and essay topics that will measure each students to formulate an open response to a given subject.

Students were encouraged to take the test very seriously, get a good night's sleep and eat a good breakfast on testing days.

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