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Kids get ‘pepped’ for tests

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Cameron Emfinger, 10, laughs at photos of his classmates displayed on a projector during the BES pep rally Friday.

DAILY LEADER / KATIE WILLIAMSON / Cameron Emfinger, 10, laughs at photos of his classmates displayed on a projector during the BES pep rally Friday.

The cheers of children can be heard from down the street. The closer to the school auditorium, the louder the sounds of jubilation get.

The kids at Brookhaven Elementary School erupt with excitement and laughter as the custodial staff jumps on stage dressed as minions and the staff dances and lip syncs to the music video, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Smiling students clap along.

“We love the children,” says Denise Porter, custodian for BES. She says the staff worked two weeks rehearsing for the pep rally Friday morning.

The BES Parent Teacher Association, the school faculty and the staff teamed up to throw the pep rally for the students of BES in an effort to build the morale of the students, who will be taking the three day-long Mississippi Curriculum Test Second Edition, or MCT2, beginning next Tuesday.

“You don’t want a nine or 10 year old to get stressed out about a test,” says Suzanne Britt, president of the BES PTA. “This is their last fun day before they have to settle down for tests.”

During the rally, students chant positive messages, perform musical numbers that describe tips for pre-test preparation, and the Brookhaven High School band plays fight songs. Each student also wears a paper “thinking cap‚” that resembles the plastic helmet with a functioning light bulb worn by Shelley Riley, assistant principal of BES.

After earning a “D” grade in 2013 for the third year in a row in the Mississippi Department of Education’s Mississippi Public School Accountability ranking system, Brookhaven Elementary School teamed up with the PTA to get the students excited about performing well on the upcoming MCT2, which goes a long way toward determining the school’s accountability ranking. A “D” means the school is on academic watch, the students are at risk of failing and the school did not meet the expected growth in student test scores and graduation rates.

“Everybody is excited, and the whole atmosphere is positive,” says Riley. “We want our scores to go up, to prove what kind of district and school that we are. We are ready.”

The theme of the pre-exam week is based on the movie “Up,” in which an old man, a Boy Scout and talking dog are carried away by balloons attached to a house.

The theme is about going up and beyond, says Britt, adding that students can go higher than imagined to achieve their best.

The students have had ongoing events throughout the school year to encourage academic achievement. Every Friday, for the past four weeks, students who have high achievement for the week participate in various special activities such as bubble blowing and playing with gym equipment.

“This will help my child because it gets her excited about the test,” says Misty Sias Wall, BES parent and PTA member. “She’s been excited the whole week about the pep rally.”

Wall says the PTA is very involved and works hard on all the events for the school. She adds that every parent and teacher has a voice in what is being planned.

Students and teachers scream chants throughout the rally echoing the theme: “B-E-S will do their B-E-S-T!” After the cheering trails off, students filter out the auditorium doors, and the school celebration continues with a showing of “Up.”

The testing begins Tuesday and will continue through Thursday, May 22. The test covers reading, writing/grammar and math. This is the last year that students will be taking MCT2 test. Next year the school will be using the Common Core curriculum.