Carson City joins effort to change test times

Nevada students may be taking the TerraNova exam later in the school year -- a move Carson City school officials argue would result in increased confidence and higher test scores.

Members of the Carson City School Board voted Tuesday to join seven other Nevada school districts in calling on the State Department of Education to change the test date from the beginning of the school year to the end.

The TerraNova is a national exam designed to measure student and teacher proficiency and is given in Nevada each fall.

Washoe County School District officials originated a petition to change the administration to the spring and sent a memorandum to the Carson City School Board requesting support.

"We think it's a pretty good idea for our kids, too," Carson City Superintendent Mary Pierczynski said. "It's very frustrating for these kids looking at question after question they've never heard of before."

The TerraNova is a test given to fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders throughout the nation. To establish the benchmark for the test, the testing agency selects a group of around 172,000 students from various locations and backgrounds to take the exam.

For the next seven years, students' scores are ranked against the core group and placed in the appropriate percentile. For example, if a student scores a 56 in reading, it is not a percentage of questions answered correctly but indicates the student scored better than approximately 55 percent of the original test takers.

Nineteen states use the test to determine the quality of education provided in their schools and as a measure of the amount of money to be designated to each school.

Of the 19 states, 17 of them administer the test in the spring near the end of the school year. Nevada and Indiana give the tests at the beginning of the year. However, Indiana tests students on material from the previous grade.

Although Nevada's students are compared against a group who also took the test in the fall, Pierczynski believes it would boost students' confidence if they could learn the material before being tested on it.

"From the standpoint of the students, I think they would feel more successful if they knew more of the material on the test," she said. "I'd really like to see them give this thing in the fall."


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