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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Educators Call For Parents’ Aid Adult Participation Needed To Help Kids With Tougher Tests

FOR THE RECORD: 2-7-98 Grade level wrong: Spokane School District 81 students grades 7 and 10 will take new state assessment tests on a trial basis this spring. A story Friday stated an incorrect grade level.

Students aren’t the only ones who need to get up to speed on the state’s new assessment tests. Parents, line up.

You, too, grandparents. And neighbors, business workers, pretty much anyone with access to kids.

Educators, led by state schools superintendent Terry Bergeson, are calling for help in raising kids’ poor scores on the tougher tests.

“This is stressful for the kids, too. We suddenly have a test that matters,” Bergeson told about 400 parents, community leaders and educators Thursday at a breakfast organized by the nonprofit Partnership for Learning.

Adults can help by tutoring, taking sample tests themselves and asking students for details about what they’re learning in school, Bergeson said.

“It’s almost like we’re going to give homework assignments where you learn it with your kid,” she told the crowd gathered at the Ridpath Hotel.

This spring, fourth-graders will be the first to take the test for grades that go on their records. Seventh- and eighth-graders will be making practice runs.

The tests - which measure tougher, new learning standards developed by the state Commission on Student Learning - will be mandatory for all three grades by 2001.

It became clear last fall - when results came back from trial tests taken by fourth-graders - that students need plenty of help. More than half failed. Fewer than a quarter met the math standards. Spokane kids did no better.

Part of the problem for parents is that many of them know very little about the new tests or how to prepare their children.

“I was telling students in my room they’re also the teachers … They need to show their parents what we’re doing,” said Mary Jo Ormsby, who teaches fourth grade at Lidgerwood Elementary.

Parents can find out a lot on their own, too, educators said.

They can initiate meetings with teachers, request lists of what their children will be expected to know, even ask schools for sample tests.

“Take it yourself. It’s very enlightening,” said Glenus Cooper, whose children attend Central Valley schools.

The tests are different from most assessments because they ask children to explain how they arrived at solutions. No more simply checking answer boxes.

When parents are checking over kids’ homework, Bergeson said they can help by asking, “How did you get that answer?” Explaining it verbally is great practice for explaining it in writing, she added.

Two men in the audience expressed concern for kids who may not get much help at home. If the tests are tough for kids with attentive parents, what about the others?

That’s where the whole community comes in, said Cooper, a classroom volunteer.

“Find out where there are needs in children besides your own,” Cooper said. “We’re there to help all the children because all the children are the future.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo Graphic: Are 4th graders measuring up?

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