Cottage Grove Students Gear Up For Spring Testing

Posted 4/14/21

The spring season officially began in Cottage Grove, Minnesota on March 20th, 2021. Perhaps readers share the same passion for spring that The Journal possesses. After all, it is a three-month period …

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Cottage Grove Students Gear Up For Spring Testing


The spring season officially began in Cottage Grove, Minnesota on March 20th, 2021. Perhaps readers share the same passion for spring that The Journal possesses. After all, it is a three-month period of rainbows, climbing temperatures (at times), baby bunnies, and holidays. These are just a few details that any Cottage Grove resident may associate with spring. However, when a local secondary school student reflects on the season, they are reminded of major exams. Happening now, spring testing is impacting and demanding the attention of Cottage Grove’s youth. The Journal dove deeper into this concept by tuning into students’ experiences and gathering words of wisdom from teachers.

There are several distinct exams that construct “spring testing” in Cottage Grove’s public schools. The Minnesota Department of Education facilitates an entire category of them entitled, “The Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments”. Each spring, this statewide assessment program measures how one aligns with Minnesota Academic Standards. Students in grades 3-8 and 10 will take a Reading MCA this year. Meanwhile, a Mathematics MCA will be administered to children in grades 3-8 and 11. 5th graders, 8th graders, and high school biology students will participate in a Science MCA. These exams launched in Cottage Grove’s public schools during late March and they will proceed throughout April.

The ACT + Writing acts as an entrance exam for post-secondary education. Colleges and universities consider their applicants’ ACT performances to different extents. Even so, ACT scores are a common data point in which schools may compare their applicants. The Princeton Review further spells out the significance of ACT exams, “Overall, the higher you score on the ACT and/or SAT, the more options for attending and paying for college will be available to you.”

South Washington County Schools has declared April 13th, 2021 to be “Districtwide Test Day”. On this date, eleventh graders will be assessed on their math, English, reading, writing, and science skills through an ACT test.

At Park High School in Cottage Grove, both Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate® (IB) courses are offered. Most of the students who have been learning in these classes since September will take their corresponding assessments. An AP Exam is meant to score one’s knowledge on a targeted topic through a paper/desktop test or a portfolio of original pieces. IB students are assessed on whether or not they fulfilled the objectives of Diploma Programme (DP) courses. At PHS, AP and IB Exams will occur in the months of May and June.

This period of MCA, ACT, AP, and IB testing is resulting in a variety of reactions among Cottage Grove’s children. Abigail Bensen expressed her own emotions in an exchange with The Journal. She admitted, “I do get really scared…for some reason these past couple years, I’ve just gotten really bad test anxiety…once I submit a test, my heart is racing as fast as it can go!”

Bensen is a sophomore at PHS. She will participate in the World History: Modern Exam on Thursday, June 3rd. Although rigorous tests overwhelm her, she will practice breathing and positive affirmations to soothe her mind. “But, I generally, like, just try to just take deep breaths and…I tell myself constantly, like, you know this stuff, you’ve studied for hours the night before…” Bensen continued.

Perhaps Chase Hiber could relate to Bensen’s reactions to spring testing. He illustrated the MCA Reading and MCA Science assessments as “a little scary” and “intimidating”. The PHS sophomore claimed that he had not participated in an MCA since his early middle school career. Still, Hiber desires to excel in these tests this April. Performing above and beyond would bring forth confidence in his future choices. “Mostly, you know, just…making sure i can validate going into, like, hard classes like I’m going to next year. Make sure I can validate to my parents, myself, the school…” Hiber elaborated.

Beyond the reactions that Bensen and Hiber have recently undergone, are all of the narratives within Cottage Grove’s youth. Hiber provided The Journal with brief insight about how his classmates are responding, “I’d say not a lot of people are worried about the MCAs…I’d say people are a lot more laid back about MCAs…” Because significant exams are on the horizon, involved students are gearing up. One girl illustrated to The Journal that she plants herself in a tranquil area of her home to study. She reviews her textbook, notes and assignments relevant to her AP course. A second student shared that he absorbs the information that his AVID instructor feeds in order to prepare for spring testing. AVID is a program supplied by SWCS that equips its enrollees for life past secondary education. Additionally, he keeps pace with his daily responsibilities, confident that his school’s curriculum will cause him to flourish. “I’m a pretty firm believer that…the state and the school are pretty, pretty closely intertwined, so I think that if I stay on top of the work I’m getting in class,…I’m going to do pretty well,” he figured.

Spring testing sounds to be a massive load for students to carry. However, they are not enduring this season alone. SWCS has staff members who are supporting kids so that they may perform their best in exams. For instance, Maria (Frau) Tol is encouraging students to “play the game to know the game”. The AVID instructor is directing them to online practice tests and study decks. These tools expose users to charts, timers, and passages that may faze one on the real test.

Alongside equipping kids with study material and brain power, teachers are extending inspirational messages to students. Tol enlightened The Journal, “My advice for students taking tests this spring is, most of all, to breathe. All of the work they have done in their education up until today has built the skills they need – too often we can psyche ourselves out before a test and close off the pathways to access the knowledge we have. Instead, breathe. Know that you have what you need, and also remember that each test is just a snapshot in time. It is not a definition of who you are. These tests cannot and do not measure the things that make us successful and definitely do not show the amazing compassion, love and value we bring to the world. Your spirit and your heart is what people will remember.”