Students Sharpen No. 2 Pencils for Benchmark Exams

March 31, 2004 -- Posted at 4:12 p.m. CST

OSCEOLA -- In the old days, school meant learning the three "R's" 'reading, 'riting and 'ritmatic? Well, these days, in Arkansas, it's the three "R's" and a whole lot more... including the yearly benchmark exam, to make sure kids are up to speed.

Kids at the Osceola School System have been studying hard for this year's benchmark exams.... and this year's test has a lot riding on it. Two of the schools in the system have been identified as on 'alert status."

"On alert status means that your test scores have not met what they call adequately yearly progress for two years in a row," said Osceola Superintendent Milton Washington.

But setting the bar for the benchmark exams isn't an easy thing...

"It's a bar that moves up each year. Now if your students do not move up then they didn't meet the level of the bar, so each year a new group of students must be prepared to move the year 2013, 2014 all students in the state of Arkansas and across the nation are scheduled to be at 100%," said Washington.

Teachers and students are trying to improve student scores, using a hand's on approach.

"We have to do a lot of catch up. Many of the students who come to us, come to us already two years language delayed, and because of the home and the environment that they grow up in," said Washington.

Melissa Cato has been a teacher for five years, "I've seen some kids who won't write for me, but after they've done an activity, they're so excited that they'll write a page about it. Even if the writing is not perfect at least they are expressing themselves and that's going to help them."

"I've tried to make sure that the majority of my class is all on the same page before we move on to something differently," said 4th grade teacher Martha Thomas-Williams.

And the school is working hard to get students prepared.

"We're working real hard, and I'm hearing positive things back from students. I see students out there working and doing what they are supposed to be doing, and the teachers feel real good...and we're going to be real disappointed if the scores are not reflective," said Washington.

Administrators for the Osceola School district won't know the results for the benchmark exams until August. A
nd keeping an up beat attitude is important...
Daniel Brewer is a 4th grade teacher at Osceola and says keeping moral up can be tough.

"I think it can affect the moral of the teacher when they've tried their best and they seen the results and their students in class and they know their student's capabilities," said Brewer.

Washington said, "I have to believe that we are going to do our best. I refuse to believe any other way."

Thursday marks the last day for the benchmark exams in Osceola.