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South Valley Journal

RISE hype: getting students excited for end-of-year testing

May 02, 2022 07:56PM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Cosmo and the BYU cheerleaders and dunk team visited local charter school Summit Academy Bluffdale to get elementary students excited about RISE testing.

The Readiness Improvement Success Empowerment assessment is a computer adaptive criterion referenced assessment system, required by federal law for students in grades three through eight. Testing measures students’ proficiency and growth in language arts, mathematics, science and writing.

“RISE is the high stakes test that everyone stresses over and worries about,” Principal Diana Brantley said. But at Summit Academy Bluffdale, they don’t stress about it, they celebrate it.

In addition to the kick-off assembly with Cosmo, students created a music video called “Rock This Test” to an energizing popular song “Light it Up” by Fallout Boy, to be played each day before testing.

Younger students hung posters in the hallways with encouraging messages of "You’ve got this!” and “We are proud of you!” for the older students who would be taking the test.

Brantley hopes that when it's their turn to take the RISE test, those younger students will remember the positive messages that they helped reinforce.

“We just try to get the whole school involved in being proud of the job well done and not worrying about the final outcome,” Brantley said. “We're going to care about learning all year long, and then we're going to take an opportunity to show what we know.”

‘Show what you know’ is the phrase the staff uses when talking about RISE testing. They encourage students to just do their best.

“That's our attitude that we take,” Brantley said. “Because we're trying to teach children, not stress them out.”

All the positive hype is to help students have a growth mindset and positive attitude about the test.

“A lot of it is the emotional support they need to take such a heavy test,” Brantley said. “It's more of a mental health focus, but I do believe it does actually help give a truer score.”

She said when a child approaches the test with a can-do attitude of doing their best and to show what they know, there’s no need for them to panic.

In the classrooms, teachers prepare their students mentally for the test.

“We do a lot of practice tests to show them that it is not as hard as they hype it up to be,” fourth-grade teacher Mariah Curtis said. “We also talk about test-taking strategies and how to calm themselves to prevent the anxiety.”

The RISE testing window is from March to May. Teachers at Summit Academy Bluffdale chose to  break up the testing into 45-60 minutes chunks, spread out over five weeks, limiting disruption to lessons and preventing what Brantley calls “brain drain.”

COVID-19 has disrupted RISE testing statewide the past two years. Testing was canceled in 2020 when schools went virtual and participation was down in 2021. USBE Associate Superintendent of Public Instruction Darin Nielsen said that overall student performance on RISE testing was notably lower in 2021 compared to 2019.

Testing scores don’t affect students’ grades but schools receive a report card based on their students’ performance. These accountability ratings were not calculated for 2021 because of the missing 2020 data.

Kim Rathke, test administration and data coordinator for the Utah State Board of Education, said the results can be a tool for teachers to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses in their instruction and in their students’ proficiency so they can prepare to best meet the needs of their students the following school year.

RISE scores show a proficiency level score, on a scale of 1-4, which represents a student’s progress toward individual growth targets. It indicates their rate of growth within a three year timeframe and their progress toward achieving or maintaining grade level proficiency. Because of the missing data from 2020, student growth percentiles were not calculated for 2021 RISE scores.

RISE scores also show how a student performed compared to their peer group within the school, district and state. Lower participation rates from last year could affect this year’s student percentile rankings, with fewer peers to make comparisons with.

Schools look for growth in the percentage of students that perform at or above grade level on RISE testing as a measure of how well their students are learning. Summit Academy in Bluffdale saw an increase—11% in language arts and 14% in math—in the percentage of students at or above grade level proficiency between 2019 and 2021.

2021 is the year that they started their campaign to hype the kids up for the RISE testing.

“You could not say that the assembly pulled off that kind of growth,” Brantley admits. “But the assembly itself supports their enthusiasm and their confidence.”

She said the kick-off assembly and positive hype is just one piece that affects students’ readiness to perform well on the test.

“The right instruction, the right teachers, the right curriculum, that is a part of it, but none of that affects the state of mind that they take that test with,” she said. “Some of them are feeling stress over it and some of them are just completely unengaged. And so getting them to engage in it, getting them to be excited about it, getting them to know that their best is phenomenal and that we're going to celebrate, that is a piece of it, too. And so the assembly takes care of that piece, and my brilliant teachers and their talented teaching take care of the other piece.”