A complaint that elementary school students were drinking Mountain Dew before taking a high-stakes, standardized test has prompted Creel Elementary School to stop the long-standing practice.
The Melbourne school has been serving students trail mix and a small amount of Mountain Dew, about 3 tablespoons, before administering the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test each day.
But giving students a sugary drink before the test – which is used in educational decisions, from teacher evaluations to student retentions – has raised concerns.
That includes the risk of students crashing from a sugar high mid-test, and the fact that state law prevents schools from selling soda.
A grandmother contacted local media about the practice, drawing the attention of administrators from Brevard Public schools.
"Once that was brought to our attention, we eliminated that practice," Brevard Public Schools Spokeswoman Michelle Irwin said. "We've advised Creel Elementary to only provide water as a beverage."
Creel Elementary School Principal Kathryn Eward started serving students Mountain Dew and trail mix about 10 years ago, after reading about its positive impacts in an education journal, Irwin said.
"She felt that it was a professional practice and implemented it," Irwin said. "Since then, there's been new information (about what's best for students)."
Eward said that the soda was part of an overall effort to get kids excited and ready for the FCAT. That includes urging students to get a good night's sleep, wear comfortable clothes and eat a healthy breakfast.
In addition, students have a lighter homework load during testing and receive special pencils.
The Mountain Dew was served in small Dixie cups, along with the trail mix. Starting Wednesday, students will receive water and trail mix.
"We don't think we were giving them enough to really get into" negative impacts of sugar highs and lows, Eward said. "We've done it for years. The kids look forward to the treats."
However, she said she respects the concerns raised by the practice. "It's wonderful for people to be mindful of their kids, and what they're eating and drinking and doing," she said.
Irwin said schools typically serve snacks before administering the FCAT. In addition, the district provides students with bottles of water.