It's a big week for local students as third- through eighth-graders are scheduled to take Illinois Standard Achievement Tests.
In schools, teachers have prepared them by carefully going over curriculum and spending extra time with students.
But those who support the students outside the classroom want to make sure they're not distracted by rumbling tummies or low blood sugar, by making sure students start their day with nutritious food.
At Wiley Elementary in Urbana, the school's PTA President Katrina Wefel said the group is working with local businesses to make sure students have a healthy morning snack before taking the standardized tests.
"We know if kids eat a nutritious breakfast, they have a better attention span, they have better concentration and improved behavior," Wefel said.
Plus, some kids don't always get breakfast before coming to school, and some probably eat so early that it might be hours between their first meal and when they're taking the tests at school.
Snacks at Wiley will include a fruit or vegetable — think carrot sticks and apples — along with a small carb, like dried cereal, a blueberry muffin or even cheese sticks. Urbana's Piato Cafe and Meijer have donated to the PTA for the snacks, she said.
Each morning, parents will come in and arrange trays for each classroom, allowing for food allergies and sensitivities. The trays will go to each classroom, where the teachers will distribute the snacks.
"We just want them to show their absolute best abilities," Wefel said
At Kenwood Elementary in Champaign, Principal Lisa Geren said the school will buy 56 dozen eggs in order to provide breakfast for its students taking tests, as well as their teachers.
"We're feeding a lot of people," she said, adding that the breakfasts will also be delivered to classrooms.
"The kids really do enjoy it," Geren said. "It's special and made just for them."
The school will also provide a high-protein snack for the break between tests, she said.
Younger students who aren't taking tests are also offering encouragement to their older schoolmates — each class being tested is paired with one that isn't, Geren said.
"Each day, the little ones take some piece of encouragement to their buddies," she said.
And as students enter the building, they'll hear Mozart Effect music playing in the halls, which has a calming effect, Geren said.
The school has also been preparing by sticking close to its curriculum, Geren said, and by hosting Camp Kenwood on the Saturdays in February.
The camp was for second- through fifth-graders that helped them "review their skills in a very non-school atmosphere," Geren said.
"They were required to laugh, giggle, have fun and talk. Those were part of the rules," she said. "We had frequent brain breaks and lots of hands-on activities," and the setting was so informal that many students participated in their stocking feet. "It was like family time," Geren said.
And while the school focuses on making sure students do their best on the standardized tests, Geren said, it also tried to keep things in perspective.
"We've made it very clear to our students that the test does not define who they are nor does it define us as a school or a district. It is simply a test," Geren said. "The big picture is their growth over the year. We want to make sure the kids understand their value is not in a test score. They're much more valued than that."