Area schools prep students for upcoming FCAT

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By Angye Morrison

Gadsden County teachers and students are working overtime to prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and the efforts are taking place in and out of the classroom.

At St. John Elementary School, parents have been asked to make sure their children attend school regularly so that attendance is not a contributing factor to FCAT failure. Attendance awards are being presented in the intermediate grades to encourage the students.

Students are also actively working on FCAT Explorer to hone their skills in reading, math and science. The school will host an FCAT pep rally March 3, conducted by the primary grades.

At Gadsden Elementary Magnet School, all students in grades 3-6 have been encouraged to attend after school tutoring on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, between the hours of 3:15 and 5:15 p.m. The program will run through March 5.

In addition, the school has instituted a science club to enhance the learning of its fifth grade students. The club is under the instruction of Rose Deaton, a retired educator. During club time, students are exposed to several Sunshine State Standards via hands-on activities.

At James A. Shanks Middle School, at least one class period each day has been devoted to intensive FCAT preparation, and literacy efforts throughout the school's curriculum have been increased. Efforts in reading, writing, math and and science instruction has been redirected to include all discipline areas, including physical education, music, computer science and art. The school utilizes Friday Focus Assessments to monitor progress, pinpoint weaknesses and strengths and further differentiate instruction. The data gathered is used to guide tutorial, maintenance and enrichment activities for the following week. All math students are participating in the Acaletics Math PASS strategies initiative, a cyclic approach of two days of practice plus one day of skills instruction on content tested as part of the FCAT.

All students are given free access to the FCAT Explorer, and AmeriCorps volunteers are on hand throughout the day to provide intensive assistance with those students who need it. The school will host a special motivational assembly in March to help the students focus on FCAT success.

At Havana Elementary School, FCAT tutoring is held each Saturday, from 10 a.m. To 12:30 p.m., for students in grades 3-12. The sessions will continue through March 6, and are a cooperative effort between HES, Havana Middle and East Gadsden High schools, and facilitated by New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church's education program. The next sessions are scheduled for Feb. 21 and 28, as well as March 7. A continental breakfast is served prior to the tutorial, and parents must provide transportation to and from the school.

FCAT simulations are held each Friday in grades 3-5. The school has held motivational events, including a pep rally and administrative talk, both held earlier this month. A pep rally and motivational assembly is scheduled for March 6 at 2 p.m.

Havana Middle School held a pep rally for the eighth grade students taking the FCAT writing test last week, and the event included performances by the school's cheerleaders, a skit by the sixth and seventh grade students, and a country breakfast was served to the students taking the test. Students met to review last minute writing strategies, and they broke through a special banner created by art students at the school, on their way to run down the sixth and seventh grade hall, where underclassmen high-fived them on the way to the testing rooms.

Midway Unity Fellowship has also been providing FCAT tutoring for students. Tutoring in reading, writing and math is provided each Saturday at the Midway Fire Station, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Students are provided a nutritious breakfast and a snack before leaving, and tutors work with them on Sunshine State Standards. Tutors consist of church members, certified teachers from Havana Elementary School, and volunteers from the Midway Fire Department.

Once the test is completed, the church will host a celebration dinner to honor students for their hard work and parents for their support.

An FCAT pep rally was also held recently at Mt. Hosea Missionary Baptist Church in Quincy. Included in the events was a victory march to a local park, and the East Gadsden High School Band, the George W. Munroe JROTC and cheerleaders from area schools were on hand. There was free food and games, and the event was sponsored by the Circle of Life Outreach, Florida KidCare, the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, Gadsden County schools, Gadsden County Abstinence 2009 and the church.