A friendly, helpful contest|Adults volunteer to help students prepare for achievement tests

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:12 PM

Len Riemersma did not mind losing Thursday night as long as the youngsters won.

Thursday night's main event at Willard Middle School was titled "Are You Smarter than a Middle School Student?"

But, the goal was not to determine whether Riemersma and other adult volunteers have more intelligence than Willard Middle School students. The goal was to use a fun method to help the students prepare for the upcoming Ohio Achievement Tests.

"It's a lot more fun" than simply doing practice tests, seventh-grader Nick Nossaman said.

Thursday's event was based on the television program "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?," in which adults test their knowledge in academic subjects against fifth-graders.

Similar to the television program, adult volunteers had several lifelines available: They could phone a friend, copy from the students' answers or poll the audience. The questions came from questions students will likely see on the tests, set to begin April 21. The subjects included reading, writing, math, science and social studies, depending on the students' respective grade.

Seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher Kyle von Kamp came up with the idea after attending a conference about the social studies Ohio Achievement Test.

Last year marked the first time Ohio students were tested in that subject and the scores were "extremely low," von Kamp said. A Cleveland school organized a similar game show-style event to make parents aware of the types of questions on the test. That way, von Kamp said, the parents would be better able to help their children prepare for the exam.

Mark Smith, whose daughter Kaylee is an eighth-grader, said he benefited from attending Thursday's event.

"It opened my eyes up to what (students) have to do," he said. "I couldn't have answered them, not me."

As a New London third-grade teacher, Ann Carpenter already had an idea how difficult the questions are. Her daughter, Kara, is a seventh-grader at Willard.

"The questions are tough," Carpenter said. "They sort of try to trick the kids."

Apparently, the teacher played along as she watched the contest.

"I got a couple wrong," Carpenter said.

Riemersma, the pastor of Willard Christian Reformed Church, joked he was nervous before the contest.

"My intelligence is on display in the community and that's a little scary," he said.

Still, he said he didn't mind if he lost to the students.

"As a pastor, to allow the children to feel good about themselves would be a wonderful outcome," Riemersma said.

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