By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Students at both East and West Oktibbeha County High Schools were rewarded yesterday for performing well on the 2011 MCT2 statewide standardized tests in mathematics and language arts.
The We Believe in You initiative handed out $100 cash rewards to the seventh and eighth grade students who scored the highest and those who made the greatest gains in test scores. In total, the initiative gave out $1,600 in rewards.
“It helps us get the kids motivated. Any time a community can lend us a hand in motivating our students, it’s a win-win situation,” Superintendent James Covington said.
The program was started by Melvin Ray, Markeeta Outlaw, Orlando Trainer and Vernon West at EOCHS in 2008 and, after the program was deemed a success, expanded to WOCHS in 2009. The program aims to motivate students to do well on the standardized tests by offering cash incentives.
“The underlying factor was that we wanted to do something to encourage the middle school children to do well on their tests,” Trainer said. “We wanted to reward those students that are doing well on the tests but also the ones that are really making improvements in their scores as well.”
Students had the chance to win up to $400 if they made the greatest point gain and scored the highest in their grade on each subject. At EOCHS, student Jabari Bush won the highest score categories for both mathematics and language arts in the eighth grade and took home $200. At WOCHS, student Leah Hurst won the highest score in both mathematics and language arts in seventh grade, earning $200, while Donterrius Cunningham made the greatest gains in mathematics and tied for the greatest gains in language arts with another student, earning $150.
School administrators said the program encourages the students to work harder to improve their test scores.
“They are extremely motivated. Our students like to compete. I find that they do more studying and they pay attention more; they embrace teaching and learning more. They realize that near Christmastime somebody — and they always hope that it’s them — will be receiving some money for testing,” EOCHS Principal Helen Kennard said. “It’s a great incentive. It’s something tangible that they can see. It’s not way out there, so far away that they can’t touch it. It’s money — something that they can and do something with.”
Other winners include Mariah Costa, Jasline Love, Burtanica Roby, Samaria Johnson, Moesha McCarter, Ryan Hughes, Travanna Brown, Shymia Drake, Lederricka Bell, Cornelius Hickman, Jody Logan, Curtis Randle and Darius Boyd.
“It’s important because the success or failure of the school — the whole district — is based on those scores. We try to let the children know that the incentives are out there,” Trainer said. “We’ve seen enough positive results that we want to continue it and maybe expand it in the future.”