Test Day = Healthy Snack Day?

March 04, 2008

by Jean Saunders, HSC School Wellness Director

This week, my son will have a healthy snack at school every day. Other parents have told me that their children will have bottled water at their desks and even a break with a few moments of physical activity in the classroom.

Why this sudden emphasis on healthy behaviors at school?

Well, this is the week when children throughout the state are taking standardized tests. And the “grown-ups” involved are reinforcing a message that we try to send throughout the year – that a healthy environment helps students achieve academically.

The No Child Left Behind act requires states to measure student achievement at a school and district level, and set targets for future achievement. In Illinois, where I live, students take the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) to measure their performance relative to official state learning standards. Each year, the test results are used to evaluate the school’s progress and determine whether the school is meeting established annual targets for improvement. Schools that do not meet the set goals for student test scores several years in a row face penalties and restrictions.

So, the stakes are high.  If students don’t do well on these tests, there are real consequences for the school. Of course, schools prepare for this week every year: students take practice tests, teachers work with students to prepare for the tests, and many schools encourage parents to work with their kids at home on practice tests.

And, many parents are asked to provide a healthy snack this week. At my son’s school, parents received this note:

In order to make sure they [students] have enough fuel to get them through, we’d like to make a healthy snack, such as fruit, muffins, granola bars, etc. available to them before the test period.  We would appreciate volunteers to bring a healthy snack for 25 students. We need one volunteer each day.

Lincoln Magnet School in Springfield, Ill. posted a note to parents with snack suggestions including individually wrapped mints, trail mix, pretzels, bottled water, fruit or granola bars.

As parents, teachers and school administrators, we recognize how important it is for kids to be well nourished. And, beyond that, we recognize how good nourishment affects their ability to concentrate and perform well at school.

It’s great to see the effort that schools and parents make to ensure that students have a healthy school environment during these tests. Wouldn’t it be great if every school day were healthy snack day?

Well nourished students make better learners. The stakes are high every day.