With state testing kicking off at many Tempe Elementary schools, it can be a nerve-wracking time for students. Taking place on the last day before testing week was to begin, the entire student body at Aguilar Elementary attended an Arizona’s Measurement of Educational Readiness to Inform Teaching, or AzMERIT, pep assembly to put to rest any possible negative feelings about the process.
AzMERIT is Arizona’s statewide achievement assessment for English language arts and mathematics. Its testing window occurs through most of April, including make-up exams if needed. The purpose of the assembly, organized by Aguilar instructional staff, is to remind students how much the teachers support and believe in them during this time.
“I believe it is important for students and families to understand that AzMERIT is just one way that we demonstrate all that has been learned,” said Principal Jessica Larsen. “I want students to see this as a positive opportunity, not something that should stress them out.”
Posters using an acronym for hints to remember during the testing season were designed to remind students to R.E.L.A.X. during testing week—not to stress out and to simply show off what they have learned all year.
Each Student Council member told the audience what his/her letter represented:
R– Read the question carefully and then reread the passage or problem to find the right answer.
E– Examine every answer choice before you choose an answer.
L– Label your answer choice before you choose an answer.
A– Always check your work.
X – X-out answers that cannot possibly be correct.
The theme for this year’s pep session was based on the popular movie The Incredibles. Aguilar staff handed out superhero bracelets, stamps, whistles and the iconic Incredibles face mask during the event. Teachers and staff also created a fun pep rally video in their Incredibles outfits and outlined the importance of the advice to R.E.L.A.X.
“We chose The Incredibles as our theme this year because we thought, ‘Our students are so incredible that the theme is totally fitting,’” said Larsen. “Every student brings with them something unique, just as each character does in the movie.”
An additional purpose was to reiterate how important goal-setting is for students and to encourage them to always push themselves to grow. The event also served to help students make a connection to learning that is happening now and how that prepares them for high school, college and beyond.
Second-grader Hazel Reid has made it her mission to work hard and be focused during the testing season, she says, because it has been something she has been working on all year.
“I think I am going to do good on my tests this year because I am ready for them,” said Hazel.
This year’s rally welcomed special guests from Arizona State University. Sun Devil Mascot Sparky as well as members from the marching band came to play lively music setting spirits high. Gililland Middle School also donated two bikes for Aguilar Elementary to raffle off for students who had perfect attendance during testing.
“I think that this pep rally makes our students feel more comfortable about taking the test,” said third-grade teacher Jordan Lee.
“I’ve noticed it really dials down that anxiety or fear they may have.”
The main goal of the event was to ensure that students know just how much the Aguilar faculty cares about and believes in them. There is a lot of pressure when it comes to testing, they say, but the staff ultimately wanted to leave students with the message to come in each day with confidence and with the knowledge that they have many people in their corner to support them.
With the help of the ASU band and Sparky, coupled with Principal Larsen’s lead, the end of the assembly had the students chanting: “Aguilar, Aguilar we’re the best…. we’re gonna rock it on this test!”
“My hope is that students walked away understanding how to be best prepared and to be confident in themselves.”
Gabrielle Dunton is coordinator of Tempe Elementary’s strategic communications initiative.