Students at Peterson Classical Grammar Magnet School have test booklets, answer sheets to fill in and a time limit to get everything done; but it's just a practice SAT-9 exam. One of the final steps before the real thing. Tracy Williams, a school wide instructional assistant says, "a lot of people don't test well, and so when they have 40 items on a test and the teacher's like, 'okay this is going to be timed', then a lot of them freeze up."
Every summer the Alabama Department of Education releases SAT-9 scores for each school. Schools with scores too low are taken over by the state. While schools that do well throw parties for their students.
But is it fair to measure a school's success on the SAT-9 exam alone? Many educators say no. Peterson principal Linda Roberts says, "especially with a school with a disadvantaged background such as our students here. A lot of our students do not go to school at an early age, do not start out early, therefore when they come to us they're already behind and we have to catch them up so far."
The stakes are real high for Peterson. If 20 additional students can pull up their test scores during next month's exams, the school will go from caution to clear. The teachers say the kids know the material they just want students to be able to prove it in a test environment. "What we've been trying to do all year long is to show them how to eliminate answers that are not correct, just show them how to choose the best answer. And with the mock testing we hope they can use those skills now...and say, 'when I see it again in April that won't be a stumbling block for me'," says Williams.