TAMPA — The FCAT — state-wide standardized testing exams that have teachers and students preparing for them in August while the exams don’t even take place until April — can be a harrowing experience for some young minds.
At Citrus Park Elementary School, the goal is to remove the pressure on the children for outstanding test scores — even though that is the ultimate goal — by letting them have fun.
Ask any of the kids who went to the Citrus Park pep rally last week and saw the teachers dancing around in their yellow costumes on “Keep Calm and Get Your Happy On” day. The teachers danced, so did the kids, and, when the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests rolled around, the students were upbeat and excited instead of nervous and scared.
“It was a chance to get the anxiety out of the kids and just be silly with them,” said Assistant Principal Marisa Brody. “We know it can be tough so we wanted to turn it into something fun.”
There can be a lot of pressure on students taking the FCAT exams, so it meant a lot when the kids walked into the auditorium on April 14 to see their teachers ready to put on a show. Some of them were pretty good dancers, said the children, and some weren’t — but everybody had a good time.
“We just thought it was a lot of fun and it took some of the pressure off,” said fourth-grader Olivia Cox. “It was fun to see the teachers and everybody dancing and it was really cool to see them. All of the teachers at this school are really awesome.”
The tests take about 70 minutes over a four-day period and emphasize math and writing. The tests are taken by fourth- and fifth-graders, and it can be a tough week, so Brody said it was important to make sure the children didn’t feel the stress.
“It all depends on the atmosphere when it comes to the tests,” Brody said.
Fourth-grader Tanner Jones had an idea that something was up when the assembly was called, but he had no idea he would see his teachers dancing.
“I knew something was going on, but it was fun to see them doing that for us,” Tanner said. “Our teachers are really cool.”
The kids won’t know the results of the FCATs until this summer. They know what’s at stake, but, at least for one day in April, they had a welcome chance to kick back and relax — and get their happy on.