‘Academic Gladiators’ prep for STAR testing

Rancho Vista Elementary's annual 'Gladiator Games' culminated last Friday with a math-based ‘Survivor’ challenge and a language arts-based ‘Amazing Race’.

Rancho Vista Elementary’s annual ‘Gladiator Games’ culminated last Friday with a math-based ‘Survivor’ challenge and a language arts-based ‘Amazing Race’.

PALMDALE – Every year, schools around the state face the challenge of preparing their students for the California Standards Test, part of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program.

The sixth grade teachers at Rancho Vista Elementary have developed a novel approach: their annual Gladiator Games.

For the last seven years, the sixth grade classes have competed in the week-long games.  The students are divided into small teams, with distinct names and student-designed t-shirts.

Each team seeks to earn points by completing a number of academic challenges throughout the week. The event culminates in two main events that were held last Friday: a math based ‘Survivor’ challenge and a language arts-based ‘Amazing Race’.

Joanne Fitzgerald, the sixth grade teacher who organizes the games, says it has been a great success. “The games gets the kids excited and gives them a fresh review of the material,” said Fitzgerald. “We have students in fourth and fifth grade who look forward to becoming a sixth grader and getting to compete.”

When asked if the games work, Fitzgerald said, “Yes! You can see it in the test scores.”

One of the reasons for the success is community involvement. Many of the stations in Friday’s main events were run by parent volunteers.

“We’re very proud of the great program our sixth grade teachers have created here,” Rancho Vista Elementary Principal Tom Morreale said. “Because of their dedication, and the hard work of our parent volunteers, our students are able to find academic success in the challenges they face [in the] classroom and during the STAR test.”

“We are very happy to have teachers and events like this at Westside,” commented Gina Rossall, Superintendent of Westside Union School District. “They are another shining example of Westside schools being unafraid to break the mold of public education.”