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April 22, 2012

Students rock out during celebratory pep rally

DUNCAN — Horace Mann students walked by with pink hair and ripped jeans, and the teachers commented on how great they looked.

Were that reaction not strange enough, in turn, when teachers donned band T-shirts and accessories reminiscent of the 1980s hair bands, the students could comment on “how cool” their instructors looked.

On Friday, the elementary school held a pep rally to wrap up two weeks of state testing for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students. To celebrate the end of testing, students and teachers dressed up in their best rock star garb to reflect that they “Rock the Test.”

Amy Benton, fourth-grade teacher, said, “I think (testing) is going very well. We ‘rocked the test.’ I think (dressing up) really gets them excited about what they’re doing.

“It shows them we’re behind them.”

During this round of end of instruction testing, the school chose to break up the examines over a two-week period, instead of cramming the tests into one week.

The scheduling change was something initially instituted last year, and the teachers and administrators saw an improvement in test scores.

The teachers chose to break up the testing period again to continue the positive trend.

The tests reflect a school’s Academic Performance Index score and reveal if students are making adequate annual progress in math and reading. Third-grade students have to be reading at grade level to progress to fourth grade or risk being held back another school year.

“It’s a big deal,” Benton said, “but we don’t want too much pressure on them.”

By establishing days for students and teachers to dress up, the stress level decreased.

Fifth-grade teachers Marinda Cook and Brooke Hyde said the teachers have been working to keep students as positive as possible, despite dealing with testing. The PTO has also helped by giving the testing students and teachers T-shirts to commemorate how they “rocked the test.”

Jennifer Kinnaird, testing coordinator and Horace Mann PTO president, said a lot of collaboration between the organization and the teachers took place to help the students have a successful testing window. The PTO provided small incentives throughout the week, including a bracelet, a pencil with a guitar charm, fake tattoos, silly bands and a necklace.

She said the PTO and teachers worked well together, which made the testing period move by smoothly.

“We have a great group of teachers,” Kinnaird said.

Cook said the teachers worked to stay positive, despite tests.

“We try to keep it as fun as possible,” she noted. “When we start stressing, the kids start feeling the stress.

“We want them to have no pressure.”

A pep assembly kicked off the testing period, which wrapped Friday with another pep assembly. The teachers said the assemblies showed students a network of support.

Cook and Hyde said some parents were concerned with testing being broken up between two weeks. But they said the positive results of last year’s testing helped motivate this year’s testing schedule.

“The state said it could be broken up,” Hyde said. “So, we thought, ‘Why not?’”

Benton said the testing covers material from throughout the school year, starting with information students might have learned on the first day of school. She said time was spent reviewing information students have learned this school year.

Students were also given pre-tests, which showed them what the tests would be like and gave students an opportunity to get used to filling out “bubble sheets.”

Friday’s pep rally and related rocker clothing were just part of what created an enjoyable experience for the students.

Benton said the teachers and students were happy to be done with testing and were ready to get back to the usual routine.

“They’re just as excited as we are,” Benton said.

She said testing is a difficult time, but the incentives throughout the week — the T-shirt and the ability to dress up, etc. — gave students the motivation of getting past the testing stage, and that Friday’s pep rally gave them something to look forward to as a celebration for the testing conclusion.

“We do something like this to get them pumped up and excited,” Benton said.

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