By STEPHEN HUBA
Special to the Herald-Star
NEW CUMBERLAND - In an age of standardized tests and increasingly high expectations for students, schools are doing more to make learning and preparing for those tests fun.
On Monday, hundreds of Hancock County parents gathered at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center to celebrate the academic achievement of students who did well in the Acuity Bowl, a competition held four times a year to help students prepare for the WESTEST. The latest version of the standardized test, WESTEST 2, measures the academic progress of students from third grade to 11th grade.
Acuity Bowl winners - 86 in all - received certificates and congratulations from school board President Jerry Durante and Superintendent Suzan Smith during Monday's board meeting.
"This is a wonderful evening for us. We are very proud of our students," Smith said. "We have a group of extremely intelligent young people with us."
Winning students in grades three and four were from Hancock County's five elementary schools: Allison, New Manchester, Broadview, Liberty and Weirton Heights. Winning students in grades five through eight were from Oak Glen and Weir Middle schools.
Hancock County Schools held its first Acuity Bowl in April as a way to motivate students to do well on the WESTEST. The quiz bowl covers the subjects of reading/language and math. In the spring, all West Virginia students take WESTEST exams on reading/language arts, math, writing, science and social studies.
Another competition, known as the Knowledge Master Open, also tested Hancock County students' academic abilities. Students from Oak Glen and Weir Middle schools competed on Dec. 5 against students from across the United States and in several other countries.
The Weir Middle School team, comprising students from the middle school and St. Joseph the Worker School, placed first in West Virginia and 50th overall by scoring 1,461 out of 2,000 possible points. The Oak Glen Middle School team placed fourth in the state and 397th overall by scoring 1,009 points. A total of 508 middle schools competed.
Academic coach Melanie Donofe, gifted education teacher, said she was proud to see both teams do so well in the fall competition.
"I watched some excellent scholars," Donofe said. "The competition moves very quickly. These students read and answered questions in as little as two to seven seconds."
Students participate in the Knowledge Master Open on their classroom computers, allowing them to compete in a large academic event without the expense of traveling to a central site, Donofe said.
Students answer 200 questions from a variety of subjects - current events, law, psychology, math, science, social studies and literature - and are scored based on the accuracy and speed of their answers. Results are tabulated into overall, state and enrollment-size rankings by Academic Hallmarks, a Colorado software publisher.
"Questions can be extremely difficult," Donofe said. "The scores show that both teams have some very remarkable students and they are learning at a very high level. It is a credit to their classroom teachers that they are applying what is learned in the classroom to random questions in a competition like this."
Another Knowledge Master Open competition will be held in the spring.