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No Mountain Dew: Florida students face big test without caffeine

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO (Reuters) - Students in one Central Florida school this year will try to ace high-stakes standardized tests without their usual shot of Mountain Dew.

The change came after a grandmother called local media to complain about a long-standing pre-test energy snack offered to students at Creel Elementary in Melbourne consisting of a sip of soda and some trail mix.

Students instead will get water with the trail mix, according to Brevard County School District spokeswoman Michelle Irwin.

Many Florida schools provide students free snacks or meals on days when the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests are administered. Peppermints, which are believed to help with concentration, are particularly popular at many schools.

Irwin said snacks and meals can be important to some student test-takers. Third-graders must pass the reading FCAT or face the prospect of repeating the grade.

"Not all children have parents who provide them with three square meals a day and snacks," she said.

Creel Elementary School Principal Kathryn Eward did not return a call for comment. For 10 years, she had been giving her students 3 tablespoons of Mountain Dew in a cup and some trail mix.

"She had read in a journal for education that to help ensure energy levels remained stable give students Mountain Dew and some trail mix. Three tablespoons of Mountain Dew. It was based on research," Irwin said.

A 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew contains more caffeine than most soda including regular Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but less than a cup of brewed coffee, according to a study by the University of Utah.

After the complaint, the first such one in a decade, the school district asked the principal to switch to water. Irwin said the Mountain Dew violated no rules. But the elimination of soda fits better with a state policy against selling soda during lunch period at school, and the movement toward healthy eating, she said.

FCAT testing began in elementary schools on April 14.

(Editing by David Adams and David Gregorio)

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