April is the worst month to be a student or in a school in Minnesota. Not only is the weather turning and making it hard to be inside, April is MCA month. MCA’s are the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments aka the standardized testing. What could be worse than sitting quietly at your desk for 2+ hours staring at a booklet, filling in bubbles with hopefully the right answer. Even our best students struggle with test anxiety and the patience required to sit, read, and fill, not to mention how our English Language Learners from Somalia and other countries must feel (some have only been here for a few weeks).
Their is a point to this besides getting into the politics of testing and education. This is also a time of testing for many runners. With the Boston Marathon now over and London approaching we are in spring marathon/racing season. These races are often used as tests to determine our overall fitness and how are training is going.
Some of us “test” ourselves more than others, we like to race as much as possible, others prefer to wait for the “big test” and don’t race until their goal race. I prefer to have lots of tests throughout the year. The more tests you take, hopefully the better you’ll do overall. Or you’ll at least know where you are at in your training so you’ll know what to expect on race day.
Below are some test preparation strategies from the MN Department of Education (pdf)
- Students should take courses that address Minnesota’s academic standards. Most schools also make appropriate educational opportunities available to students who are at risk for not succeeding on these tests. Make sure you train properly for test day and get proper equipment.
- Familiarize students with the test directions and format. Check out the course before the race, including type of gatorade/powerade being used and any form of nutritional supplements offered on course.
- Encourage students to answer all test questions. Plan to cross every mile and the finish line!
- Encourage students to participate in practice sessions at school and home. Make sure you train properly for the event, getting in lots of practice.
- Have students get a good night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast before taking a test. Hydrate, eat properly, and get a good night’s sleep the week leading up to the race. This also includes making sure you have all of your gear and supplies ready to go for race morning – you don’t want any surprises!
- Provide students with a study area. Everyone needs a place to stretch, do core work, hang race numbers, etc. Plan accordingly.
- Encourage students to practice good study habits. Students should set aside time every day for homework. Make sure you practice good technique, proper stretching, core work, etc into your daily routine of life. These types of homework will make test day that much more successful.
The key to success for any test is preparation. As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared.”
For 24 hours, starting at 8:00 am on November 17th, every donation made through www.GiveMN.org will be eligible to receive a portion of the $500,000 match. These funds were contributed by the Minneapolis Foundation, St. Paul Foundation and Bush Foundation. Also, generous funders are defraying donation processing fees on this site, so 100% of your gift goes straight to the organization!
In addition to the matching funds, the three nonprofits that receive the most individual donations will receive cash prizes: $5,000 for first prize, $2,500 for second, and $1,000 for third.
Over 36,000 organizations have a profile on the site. Thirty-two show up when I type “running” into the search engine though most of them aren’t running related or are too specific for my purposes. So I helped narrow it down for you.
- Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA) is my running family in Minneapolis. It is one of the largest clubs in MN and does some great work.
- Twin Cities Running Club (TC Running) they are a “rival” USATF team but it is all fun and games.
- Team USA – MN is a post-collegiate training center and group for runners to be coached and supported while they strive to fulfill their athletic goals.
- Bolder Options is a great youth mentoring program that connects youth and mentors through running (and biking) activities. I would highly recommend volunteering as a mentor with Bolder Options.
- MN Intercollegiate Athletic Conference contains 13 member colleges that support student athletes.
- YWCA provides a variety of services to pretty much every population. They focus primarily on racial justice and empowering women and girls. In Minneapolis they also operate 3 fitness facilities. We are a member of the YWCA.
- YMCA also provides a variety of services and operates a lot of fitness facilities around Minneapolis and the West Metro. Some of our friends work for the YMCA, though none of their facilities are conveniently located for us.
Below are 7 organizations that I have given to or would give to if I had more money! (in no particular order)
- Longfellow United for Youth and Family have played a huge role on my work here in MN. LUYF is a coalition of community members and churches that provide a free tutoring program and strongly support the work of the Sanford Job Corps – one of my primary responsibilites at Sanford.
- Elpis Enterprises has been another great partner for my work in MN. Elpis or Hope provides teenagers the opportunity to gain work-related skills and leadership through screen printing and other businesses. My first encouter with Elpis was with their bird feeder program. We bought kits and Paul brought out one of his employees and they helped my kids build 20 bird feeders in 1 hour!
- Achieve Minneapolis is more or less a foundation that supports programs within the Minneapolis Public Schools. They provide grants for classrooms, teacher professional development, field trips, host career fairs, and much much more.
- CommonBond Communities provides affordable housing and supportive services in the Twin Cities. I put CommonBond under youth development because I volunteered with them during the summer of my Americorps*VISTA service. I served as a program assistant in a summer program that combined fun and learning during the afternoons for children residents of the Seward Towers. They provide many more services to their residents.
- World Relief helps refugees adjust to life in Minnesota and America. This is the umbrella organization for the English literacy site that Christy and I co-coordinate. They also provide job training, initial welcoming services, housing assistance and much more to refugees as they walk off the plane and into the sometimes harsh tundra of MN.
- Minnesota Public Radio is a great news source for both local and national issues. They also have a rocking music station that plays a lot of local bands.
- Second Harvest of the Heartland is a large food bank that is helping to end hunger in MN. It is affiliated with the national Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest Network) and does some great work here in the Twin Cities.