JAY SOWERS/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — McLaurin Elementary School students Wendy Owens, right, and Omarion Owens smile toward a crowd of fellow students after performing with the MCT2 Singers.
JAY SOWERS/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — McLaurin Elementary School students Wendy Owens, right, and Omarion Owens smile toward a crowd of fellow students after performing with the MCT2 Singers.

Fun activities help students de-stress before testing

Published 12:07am Sunday, May 12, 2013

The last thing on Gavin Jackson’s mind as he juked out a McLaurin Elementary School teacher and drained a three-point basket was the MCT2 test.

And that was exactly what McLaurin and Natchez-Adams School District administrators had planned.

Days before Jackson and other third- through eighth-grade students in the NASD take the state-mandated tests, schools were planning fun activities to get the students psyched for testing.

McLaurin Elementary School fifth-grade math teacher Nedra Hackett, left, embraces student Carleigh Sprolles after the two tumbled to the ground during a basketball game as part of a pep rally on Thursday morning ahead of the upcoming MCT2 testing.
McLaurin Elementary School fifth-grade math teacher Nedra Hackett, left, embraces student Carleigh Sprolles after the two tumbled to the ground during a basketball game as part of a pep rally on Thursday morning ahead of the upcoming MCT2 testing.

The Mississippi Curriculum Test 2, or MCT2, is an assessment the state uses to put a label on respective schools and help students’ future teachers pinpoint their weaknesses and strengths before the following school year begins.

Pep rallies, dress up days and other classroom activities are just as important as the test preparation the students’ have been doing all year, Superintendent Frederick Hill said.

“Providing these kinds of activities gives the students that extra push they need,” Hill said. “It helps take their minds off testing for a day and rewards them for all the hard work they’ve been doing getting ready for the tests.”

McLaurin teachers and administrative staff surprised students Thursday as they came to school dressed in fluorescent colored shirts, tutus, wigs and a variety of other garments to show they were “Wilding out for MCT2.”

But the wilding out didn’t stop with the clothes.

Students were treated to a pep rally featuring a student vs. teacher basketball game, a performance by the McLaurin Steppers and some school-wide dance time.

Before any events started, Nikki Tyson’s MCT2 singers shared some valuable tips with the students gathered in the gym for the assembly.

“Do your best when you take that test,” the first-grade students sang.

After a round of applause for the singers, the students began stomping on the bleachers furiously in preparation for the tip off of the main event — the student vs. teacher basketball game.

A few traveling violations and intentional hugging fouls from the teachers later, Jackson found himself charging down the court. Two teachers, Hayes Harris and Jamal McCullen, soon blocked his wide-open lane. But that didn’t prevent Jackson from stopping himself mid stride behind the three-point line and firing off a shot.

“That shot felt good right when I got it off,” Jackson said, surrounded by his teammates after the game. “It was fun playing against all the teachers.”

Jackson’s shot, along with his teammates’ points, led to a 22-18 student win.

But as long as the students are having fun and getting to let out some test-related stress, fourth-grade teacher Shelia Sewell said she’d let the students win every game.

McLaurin Elementary School student Emmanuel Hill, left, dribbles past teacher Jamal McCullen during a basketball game as part of the pep rally.
McLaurin Elementary School student Emmanuel Hill, left, dribbles past teacher Jamal McCullen during a basketball game as part of the pep rally.

“They’ve been so busy getting ready for the test the past few weeks that they really need something like this,” said Sewell, who helps organize the event every year. “They also never get to see their teachers do stuff like this,so I think they like that, too.”

For fourth-grade student Zuri Brown, the assembly was the perfect way to blow off some steam before the tests.

“This was my favorite thing all year,” Brown said. “I’m not nervous at all now.”

Morgantown Middle School and West Elementary School also hosted pep rallies for their students to kick off the week of testing, which begins Monday and lasts all week.

Morgantown Principal Roberta Phipps said the activities give the students a bit of relaxation before entering the week-long testing process.

“Sometimes we get so hung up with the idea of taking tests and the fact that the weigh so heavily on the school’s report card that we’re not relaxed when we go in to testing,” Phipps said. “We want the kids to understand it is important, but they can do a lot better if they go in with the right attitude to do their very best.”

The MCT2 tests the skills of third- through eighth-grade students skills in language arts and math

Students are scored as minimal, basic, proficient or advanced.

The results are compiled with other data from the district into a quality of distribution index rating, which reflects the academic achievement of all students in the district.

A QDI score is represented on a scale of zero to 300, with higher numbers showing a better rating.

The NASD received a 124 QDI rating for last year’s test scores, and Hill said he is setting a goal of reaching a 166 QDI rating for this year.

A jump that high would take the district from the low preforming or “F” rating it received last year to a high performing school district or “B” rating.

“We have done everything we can to prepare our students for these tests,” Hill said. “Now, parents need to make sure their kids are getting to bed at a decent hour, eating a good breakfast and just encourage them to do their best.”