The Beaufort County School District is asking students and their families to gear up for spring testing season with extra hours of preparation in the evenings and on the weekends.
Inspired by its own virtual summer school program, the district is encouraging students in grades three through eight to prepare for the state-mandated Palmetto Assessment of State Standards through a new "PASS Push" initiative.
The virtual program will give students customized assignments they can complete online using district software, said instructional services chief Sean Alford.
The software uses scores on the computerized Measures of Academic Progress tests to create curriculum customized to target each student's individual needs. It also uses games, sound and computer graphics to hold students' attention.
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Alford said assignments have been developed for students at varying skill levels, from those struggling to meet grade-level standards to those already exceeding standards.
PASS, administered to students in grades three through eight, tests five subject areas -- writing, English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The writing exam is given in March, and the rest of the tests are taken in May.
Results are used to measure school, state and federal accountability, including compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Alford said the exams also are used to determine students' eligibility for gifted and talented programs, as well as recognition programs such as S.C. Junior Scholars and the Duke University Talent Identification Program.
Alford said principals will meet this week to discuss incentives they can provide to students who participate in the free and voluntary PASS Push. He hopes parents help and encourage their children to complete assignments.
"This is an opportunity for parents to grab hold of ownership of their kids' education and achievement on these state exams," he said.
Alford said the program won't create an additional cost for the district because it already owns the software, which students also use in the classroom. He said a meeting has been planned with community organizations that provide after-school care to students to discuss ways they can make this program available to students without Internet access at home.
Parents with questions about accessing PASS Push assignments should call their child's school, Alford said.