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CMT Preparations: What’s Your School Doing?

Dawn Darche (second from right), Sterling Education Association president, and Vince Agostine, principal, with eighth grade students from Sterling Community School. Red wrist bands were given to students and staff members who committed to being Rested, Relaxed and Ready! at a pep rally held Monday, February 22.

Teachers are focusing on much more than academics as they prepare to administer tests.  They’re tending to their students’ nutrition, enthusiasm, confidence, and desire to excel in countless ways. That’s what CEA has heard from members in recent days.

And we’d like to hear from you about what you have been doing in your school. You too probably lead activities similar to the ones mentioned below. Join your colleagues in celebrating each other’s work because you’re certainly giving your all!

Rigorous academic preparation
During vacation week some schools held CMT boot camps.  One school is holding a TechWeek this week for CMT prep awareness.  Every student in grades six through eight is able to use a technology-based learning environment each day.

The four grade level teachers become experts in one kind of “technology” and the students rotate through.  For example: day 1 – TI84 Navigator quiz and review, day 2 – SMARTBoard Jeopardy, day 3 – web-based tutorials, day 4 – blogging about your learning.  All of the classes are geared toward specific strands on the CMT.   Students had previously discussed their own learning needs with their teachers and are able to pick websites that are targeted to those needs.

Involving parents
Schools involve parents in test preparation whenever possible.  Some schools host parent nights that give an opportunity for parents to ask questions and for teachers to go over the CMT schedule.  Many send letters home to parents asking them to limit absences and make sure their children get a good night’s sleep and proper nutrition.

Pep rallies
Many schools around Connecticut are holding pep rallies and assemblies this week in preparation for the CMT.  Here are some of the activities that schools include in their pep rallies:

  • Awards are given to students who did well last year – both for high scores and improved scores.
  • T-shirts are thrown to the students.
  • Teachers perform a CMT rap.
  • Students learn about being Rested, Relaxed, and Ready!
  • Students view video clips about test preparation.
  • If students commit to taking specific actions, homeroom teachers give them a red wrist band to serve as a daily reminder.
  • Student council and some teachers put on a brief, humorous skit that focuses on being Rested, Relaxed, and Ready and nutritious eating during CMT testing.
  • Lower grade students write letters of support for third and fourth graders.
  • CMTs are renamed “Celebrate My Talents.”
  • A dance routine created by a reading specialist is performed by some third and fourth graders.
  • Students sing a CMT song written by the school’s music teacher.
  • A poetry contest is held ahead of time for third and fourth graders – they have to include encouragement for the CMTs in their poems.  Prizes include gift certificates to an upcoming book fair, and winners read their poems during the assembly.
  • Students view a slide show of third and fourth graders working on various aspects of CMT skills.
  • The entire student body participates in a CMT cheer.
  • On stage the principal presents each third and fourth grader with a special memento to remind them to do their best on the test.
  • Students sing the  school song and other songs adapted with new lyrics about reading, math, and test taking.
  • A silly skit is preformed that gives advice on how to be successful on the test.
  • Students perform the school cheer and special math and writing cheers.
  • Well wishes made up by each teacher are read to the student body.

During test days
Schools also have lots of special activities to encourage students during test days.  These include:

  • Organizing a breakfast for all students on days when they take mastery tests. The Board of Education pays for the food and various organizations and individuals pitch in.  There is no breakfast program at the school normally.
  • One school will have “fairy godmothers” spreading “fairy dust” in the form of reading strategies.
  • On test days students will receive small prizes when they are on time and in their seats for the start of the test.
  • Captain Writing (assistant principal on roller blades) will make an appearance in each third and fourth grade room.  Each student will be given a magical writing pencil and pencil sharpener.
  • Kids are given raffle tickets if they meet certain requirements and a daily winner is chosen.  After the CMT is complete, each school has a celebration.
  • Each test day students receive an encouraging note (written by a different teacher each day) with a little gift, such as a new pencil, pack of Smarties, or eraser.
  • Incentives are offered to the groups with the best attendance and those who use all the time available to answer questions and check them over.   A school wide goal is to increase the percent of attendance from last year (the school found that students in attendance the day of the test do better than those who take make-up tests).

What has your school been doing to prepare for the CMT or CAPT?  Share in the comments.

11 Comments
  1. Cindy Brooker #

    I love these ideas. I am considering holding a Farewell-to-the-CMTs Celebration for the first Friday that the tests are over. Our class will see a movie, eat popcorn, drink Hawaiian Punch Slushies, wear pjs and slippers, read and play math games. Does anyone else have any great ideas I can use? Thanks for your help!

    March 10, 2011
  2. Laura #

    I’m reading this information a bit late, but loved the tips shared! I too hope that one day our state (and country as a whole) will find a new way to assess our students. Until then, teachers and students can both be motivated to do our best during the exhausting first two weeks in March.
    A reading teacher in our middle school drew eyes on each of her students’ writing hands to help remind them that she was watching them and to remember the good strategies and tips they’ve practiced all year long.
    Also, I can still remember taking the CMTs when I was in middle school and the entire school was encouraged to “dress for success”. Because we were dressed in more than jeans and a t-shirts, we took ourselves and the test more seriously

    April 7, 2010
  3. patricia degemmis #

    I teach in the city and I truly believe my students can achieve. I believe they are ready, but most of all I believe that they need movitation and confidence. One girl, after our pep rally, came to me and with tears in her eyes and said “I dont’t think I am ready for the CMTs. I told her she was more than ready,, she was smart,, and she needed to beleive that!!!!!!! Motivation is the most important component of this whole thing. I told her I believed in her so she needs to beleive in herself.

    February 28, 2010
  4. Kris Carnevale #

    Thank you CEA for posting this! I love the idea of pep rallies and addressing CMTs as a school spirit activity. The name “Celebrate My Talents” also gives a positive spin on the testing. This type of positive school atmosphere is a great way to encourage students (and teachers!).

    My students are able to earn 2 “tickets” for trying their best and not giving up during each test. The tickets are then redeemable for a special prize. This gives them a small incentive to work to their potential for the duration of each test.

    Fun activities, encouragement, and incentives keep students alert and on their toes, ready to their best, when they would otherwise just be taking another “boring test”. I am all for this thinking outside of the box approach. Thanks again for the great ideas!

    February 27, 2010
  5. Andrew Snyder #

    Before my 5 years of teaching elementary in CT, I taught for 6 years in Oregon where the state tests are almost all online (except for DAW). Students had THREE chances to pass the test. We would test in the fall and if the student exceeded, they were finished for the year. Plus all the data you need was already collected, and the students had immediate results. It took so much stress out of the process for everyone, was a fraction of the cost, and gave the teachers better information. There will never be a perfect test, so delivering them online made them far less of a monumental event, turning them into a formative vs. evaluative assessment. There were no written responses in reading or math, but it is well worth the sacrifice. This should be a reality here in CT, and would change everything about the culture around state tests.

    February 27, 2010
  6. MaryBeth Gallo #

    We are celebrating our 4th Annual CMT Pep Rally this week at Swift Middle School. The theme changes each year. Last year, for example, was “Slam Dunk the CMT” as we related it to March Madness. The student body participated in relays and volleyball games against each other as well as staff. The culmination was a special guest who slammed, dunked the basketball. The kids were thrilled.
    This year is an Olympic theme as we “Go for the Goal-d” at Swift. Sewing classes made flags representing each of the tested areas on the CMT for the students to carry into the “Olympic Stadium”. We even have a torch runner who will light the bowl prior to the games. Every year the whole school sings our “CMT Song” which is to the tune of the YMCA song by the Village People. Olympic events will take place with the students competing against one another and staff. The culmination is a gymnast doing a remarkable routine. All this helps to get the kids psyched up for the CMT.

    February 27, 2010
  7. Ray Lapinski #

    I know what everybody else is doing, but are you all insane? Is this what it’s come to? Rewards for the kids doing what they’re supposed to do? Pep rally? Wrist bands? Lunches? Breakfast on test days?
    Thank God I’m only 3 years from retirement.

    February 26, 2010
  8. Margaret Magdon #

    I try every day to engage my students to analyze, examine and conclude why people react as they do to events in their lives, otherwise known as history. That is what is important! Knowing why we are where we are today takes an understanding of the past and it’s consequences. Sacrificing this to teach to a test does our students a great disservice, they will be fine if they are taught to think , question and understand that their actions as a citizen of their community and the world have an impact. College or work bound, all of us leave a footprint on the planet. I know there are failing schools( a term I detest) but the onus should not be entirely on the education system. Yes we are probably the most influential institution, but there are variables that we have no control over, poverty being the most pervasive. With this variable comes a number of problems , a litany that I will not list here, nor that I can solve in the classroom. Considering the funds that are allocated (or not ,unfunded mandates)to this testing endeavor across the nation might we not be better served to address the issue of accountability in all sectors, public and private. The responsibility must be shared. It is a burden that cannot be assigned to one group.

    February 26, 2010
  9. @Paul – I know many teachers feel the same way you do, and certainly we can hope that in the future more meaningful, dynamic assessments will be developed. These tests are the present reality however, and teachers work hard to prepare their students, so we celebrate that commitment and effort.

    February 26, 2010
  10. Paul E. Doniger #

    Rather than discuss what I’ve been doing to prepare m students for the CAPT, I’d like to recommend that the tests be abandoned so we can spend more time actally teaching. Every year, we lose a good two weeks of instruction time to CAPT prep and the actual testing. Surely, the state of Connecticut Dept. of Education is smart enough to find a more meaningful, dynamic way to assess student growth and achievement without interrupting instruction.

    February 26, 2010
  11. Anita deMercado #

    StudyIsland.com is where we registered 15 students to practice on the computer from January through the end of February.
    We shall see if this helps our students next week and the week after!

    February 26, 2010

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