The CATS assessments will begin statewide on April 17 and run through April 28. Sample questions from all grade levels and subject areas have already been released from previous exams for students and parents to use as a study guide.
Lisa Gross, spokesperson for the Kentucky Department of Education, said parents should also check with their child's teacher to see what subjects may need more focus.
“Since the CATS assessments are based on what students learn throughout the school term, simple memorization is not likely to be very helpful,” Gross said.
While parent involvement is crucial to student achievement, that does not necessarily mean that parents should feel obligated to monitor every moment of their child's learning, she said.
“But it does mean that they should be aware of how their children are progressing in school and what needs to be done if children are struggling in one or more subjects,” Gross said.
Contact with teachers and regular discussions with children are crucial, she said, “even though it's tough sometimes to get children to open up about their lives at school.”
“Making sure that homework assignments are completed is one of the biggest responsibilities that most parents face. Having a set time after school for those assignments, setting up a place for the child to do the homework and checking periodically to make sure that assignments are completed are the best things parents can do,” Gross said.
Jeff Lunsford, guidance counselor at Harlan High School, said the school will host a dinner Monday evening to discuss testing preparations, including study tips and subjects on which students will be tested. The dinner will be at 5 p.m. in the school's cafeteria.
“We've been generally pleased in the last few years,” Lunsford said, noting that the high school received top honors in the state last year for its score on the arts/humanities portion of the exam.
Lunsford said the school is helping students prepare by taking advantage of sample questions and distributing “a series of practice tests” six weeks before the actual exam.
It's important, too, for children to get a good night's rest and a healthy breakfast before being tested, he said.
Scott Shepherd, guidance counselor at Evarts High School, said the school will announce a time and date for an open house following next week's spring break within the county school system. The open house will address CATS concerns and review the subjects for what each grade will be tested.
Shepherd said the school was also pleased with its students' performance on last year's CATS assessments. There was a 10-point increase in scores on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) and an overall 6.4-point increase on the CATS assessments for the 2004 to 2005 school year, he said.
“We commend our staff for their tremendous focus on the core content and preparation for the CATS assessment,” he said.
All ninth-graders are required to take the CTBS exam, which focuses on language arts and mathematics, Shepherd said.
While 10th-graders will be tested on reading, practical living and vocational studies, 11th-graders can expect questions that will concentrate on mathematics, science, social studies and arts/humanities. Seniors will complete an on-demand writing exam and be scored on their writing portfolios, Shepherd said.
In preparing for the CATS assessments, the Kentucky Department of Education also advises parents to:
-- Tell your child to listen carefully to the instructions and ask questions if he or she does not understand. Encourage them to be relaxed, think positive and be confident that they will do well.
-- Remind your child to carefully read the test questions and to not rush through a test. If there is time, remind them to check their answers.
-- Discuss any concerns or anxieties your child may have about the tests. If you have serious concerns or questions, call your child's teacher, principal or guidance counselor.
-- On test days, dress your child comfortably, avoid any unnecessary distractions and get them to school on time.