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One Less Test in Westlake Middle School

Matt Simeone, a Westlake Middle School eighth grader, is grateful that there is one less test in his future.

"It definitely takes a lot of pressure off because you don't have to think about doing well on one test and not knowing what's going to be on the test," Simeone said.

This year the state eliminated the standardized eighth-grade social studies test and allowed school districts to come up with alternative assessment methods. Students in in Mount Pleasant performed part of that assessment this week.

"This [project] shows higher level of learning than a traditional test" John Messemer, a Westlake social studies teacher, said. "Now the students can show us what they have learned over the process."

Over the course of two weeks, students in Westlake's eighth-grade social studies classes must create a digital presentation that covers a 50-year period and explain how that era impacted American history. It is a project that gives the students an opportunity to critically think and use creativity.

"This project has shown more student interest and is more self-driven by the student," Messemer said. "It requires students to think more outside the box,"

Individual students are responsible for a ten year period within their groups' 50-year era. The student is required to research biographical and cultural topics that relate to their decade. Messemer says students in his class have researched topics ranging from presidents and wars to hippies and exodusters (African Americans who fled the south for Kansas after Reconstruction).

After completing necessary research, the students compile a timeline and digital presentation which includes text, audio, video and photographs. Students can make presentations on platforms such as Animoto or Windows Movie Maker.

Instead of a standardized fill-in-the-oval test, the teachers grade each student on a standardized rubric with seven components.

Not only has the new method of assessment eliminated stress, Matt Simeone said, it is a lot more enjoyable.

"It's much easier this way," he said.

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