News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 25, 2011

Boot Camp: Deming students prepare for next week's ISTEP test

It’s a team effort, says principal

TERRE HAUTE — Do you know the difference between a “hanger” and a “hangar”? Can you quickly solve 9 x 7? Can you write a well-organized essay?

Those are some tasks that faced dozens of Deming Elementary students this week as part of their ISTEP “Boot Camp.”

For the past two weeks, Deming Elementary students in grades three, four and five stayed after school to do ISTEP-related drills. Supervised by more than a half-dozen teachers, students were divided into groups to play games and do academic exercises.

“I can’t believe how many kids we’ve had show up for this,” said Angie Balitewicz, media specialist at Deming and one of about 10 teachers working during Boot Camp.

About 80 kids took partin Deming’s camp Thursday from about 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

ISTEP testing begins next week.

In one classroom, teacher Annie Gauer used flash cards to conduct a math game in which students had to solve multiplication problems in competition with each other. In another room, Balitewicz helped students learn the definition of words. And, in the library, teacher Jacob Kisor oversaw students playing math games on school computers.

“We want them to succeed probably more than they realize,” Kisor said.

In yet another classroom, three Deming teachers helped students write short essays to prepare for the ISTEP test. Those teachers also led the kids in a chant designed to build confidence and a fighting spirit for taking the annual test. Meanwhile, Donna Tidd, a reading teacher, helped students learn about words that sound the same but have different meanings, such as “tier” and “tear.”

“I can’t say enough about our teachers,” said Susan Mardis, Deming principal. “They are just outstanding.”

Deming is officially on “improvement,” based on low ISTEP scores in the past, Mardis said. Last year, however, the school, with help from the Boot Camp program, managed to earn a passing grade. This year, again with help from the Boot Camp and a week of intense focus during the test, Mardis believes the school’s scores will be even better.

“They know it. Now they’ve got to show it,” Mardis said.

Students at Deming, a school of about 328 students located at 17th Street and Eighth Avenue, have shown significant improvement in their ISTEP scores since the 2007-2008 school year, according Indiana Department of Education figures. In December, Tony Bennett, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, applauded the progress at the north-side elementary school.

“I’m really proud of our parents,” Mardis said. “They have really gotten onboard.”

Thursday was the final day for Boot Camp. At about 5:15 p.m., the students gathered in the school’s small gymnasium to receive T-shirts emblazoned with the words: “I Survived Boot Camp at Deming Elementary.” Sitting on the gym floor, the students gave loud and enthusiastic applause to their teachers standing on the school’s stage. They also sang and clapped while Kisor, the school music teacher, sang an ISTEP fight song to the tune of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. The students then boarded a single bus for their homes.

Putting together the Boot Camp requires a lot of dedicated people, Mardis said. Nancy Weaver, head of transportation for the Vigo County School Corp., the Deming cafeteria crew and others contributed to the camp’s success, she said. “It’s a team effort.”

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or

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