Huntington Middle students, teachers get pepped for testing

jmink@macon.comApril 8, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- It is the first Monday morning after spring break, a time when many students sleepily saunter down the hallways, tugging textbooks and folders from their lockers.

But at Huntington Middle School, this morning is anything but ordinary. The hallway is filled with screeches, as students leap from the gymnasium bleachers to snag a T-shirt from a local hip-hop artist. In the middle of the gym floor, a bodybuilder snaps a baseball bat with his leg, and a cluster of teachers bounces and shimmies to the “Harlem Shake.”

It isn’t an ordinary Monday but a necessary one, teachers say. It is one way educators motivate students to perform well on the upcoming statewide exams, which not only test students but also the schools they attend.

“We have to make it real for them,” Principal Gwendolyn Taylor said. “It’s important to motivate the kids. Some don’t realize the importance of doing their best every day.”

That is why Rodney Johnson, a reading specialist, has spent the past two months organizing a pre-testing pep rally for the students, who will take the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT, next week. The special education portion of the test is being administered this week in Houston County. Bibb County students begin testing Tuesday.

The CRCT measures students on a range of subjects, and those scores are then used to grade schools and school districts. The way those school districts are scored is changing, and schools already are being assessed differently than they were in the past. As Georgia moves away from standards under No Child Left Behind, the state Department of Education is enforcing a new measuring system, which looks at a wide variety of factors from graduation rates to attendance records to students’ test scores.

Therefore, many educators spend the entire academic year prepping their students.

“We study all the time. We review constantly all year long,” said Kristi Slavik, a special education teacher at Huntington Middle. Slavik rewards her students at the end of testing with a trip to the bowling alley. “It is tough to stay focused and work hard all year long.”

Others reward their students before the tests begin as a way to motivate them. Students packed the Huntington Middle gymnasium Monday, bouncing and waving their hands to the rhymes of Tex James, a hip-hop artist and Macon native.

“We’ve got to strive hard,” he told the students. “I want you all to take it all the way to the top.”

Willie Raines, known as “The Human Freight Train,” showed students the physical power of strength as he bent a frying pan, splintered a baseball bat and ripped a telephone book with his hands. He encouraged students to stay disciplined, dedicated and focused. Military officials told students to “attack the test,” as a military K-9 charged across the floor, clamping an officer’s protected arm.

The student dance team turned the “YMCA” into “CRCT,” and even teachers showed their fun side. Four teachers raced across the gym, holding signs to represent negative test-taking traits. “Mr. I’m Sleepy” curled up in the middle of the floor, snoozing. “Ms. I’m Hungry” waddled across the floor with a basketball between her legs, rubbing her stomach. “Mr. I’m Late” showed up after the race. But “Miss VIP” strutted toward the finish line, crossing the purple, polka-dot ribbon with her chin in the air.

“If we do good (on the test) we get another pep rally,” said Peyton Etheridge, 12, a seventh-grader. “And this makes us want to have another one.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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