LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Sameria Brown does long division for a sample test problem on the board during Lauren Mullins’ fifth-grade math class Monday afternoon at Morgantown Elementary. The students will take the Mississippi Curriculum Test today, Wednesday and Thursday.

State testing starts today at three schools

Published 12:00am Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NATCHEZ — By 8 a.m. today, bathroom breaks will be had, pencils will be sharpened and young minds will hopefully be ripe for reasoning.

Students at McLaurin and Morgantown elementary schools and Robert Lewis Middle School start state testing today, the assessment the state uses to put a label on respective schools and helps students’ future teachers pinpoint their weaknesses and strengths before the following school year begins.

Parents of students taking tests should make sure their child gets a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast until Thursday, when testing ends, Morgantown Elementary School guidance counselor Mary Washington said.

“(Students) need encouragement from all angles, the teacher, parent, the community — everybody,” Washington said.

In order to prepare for the Mississippi Curriculum Test 2 in recent weeks, Morgantown students have been separated according to their strengths and weaknesses correlating to subject matter of the test, Washington said. And those whose practice tests show weakness in certain areas have undergone extra tutoring and strategy sessions.

“They’re getting a triple dose of (the weaker subjects),” Washington said.

It’s a new strategy they have tried at Morgantown and one that has been used in the past at Robert Lewis.

“Everybody’s looking for positive results,” Washington said.

The scores hold the teachers and administrators accountable for their jobs, but the students also have a lot to gain or lose based on the test results, Washington said.

One incentive for students to try their best is a chance during the following year to join an activity. Students who score proficient and above on testing portions of the MCT2 can join the band, choir strings or take art. Those who score minimally must attend tutorial sessions rather than join an activity, Washington said.

Additionally, Washington said the school is trying to help students understand that what they do in school today will be critical to their future. If students don’t have proficiency in sixth-grade subjects they won’t be able to advance in seventh grade, she said.

“A lot of (the students) want to be a certain thing, but they have no idea what it takes to get there,” Washington said. “(What students do now) makes a difference.”

In Lauren Mullins’ fifth-grade math class, students answered questions Monday as Mullins projected them on a screen from a sixth-grade sample test to prepare for the MCT2.

Mullins reminded students about mnemonic devices for measurement units and warned against ways multiple choice questions can trip them up before settling on the correct solution.

“What’s the most important day?” Mullins asked.

“Thursday,” the class responded.

Thursday is when her class takes the math portion of the test.

Washington said as much as teachers do to encourage students, fifth and sixth graders must get their motivation from within or have a big external support system at home.

“(Morgantown students) are at the age where if they’re not internally motivated, they have to have parents to back them up and push them,” Washington said.

Testing will continue until Thursday, and Friday will be reserved for make-up testing.