By STEVEN NALLEY
On Thursday, teams of children from West Oktibbeha County Elementary School and East Oktibbeha County Elementary School met for a competition in WOCES’s gymnasium.
There were no free throws, slam dunks or rebounds, but the stakes were as high as any basketball game, because the teams were not merely competing to beat each other — they were competing to better themselves.
The Oktibbeha County School District held its second annual Elementary Academic Tournament yesterday at WOCES in Sturgis, and WOCES won a close competition by two points.
Andrea Temple, WOCES principal, said the final score was WOCES 254, EOCES 252.
“We are very elated,” Temple said. “We are proud of our students. They have worked hard all year as they’ve prepared for the Mississippi Curriculum Test. As I told our students, we competed today, but we’re one district. I’m proud of all of our students, both east and west students.”
James Covington, OCSD superintendent, said the competition is one of several ways students are preparing for the MCT2, along with a series of practice tests and other ongoing academic evaluations.
“This is another tool that we use to gauge where we are this time of year in the test prep process,” Covington said. “(It is) just a friendly competition between East and West just to see where we stand as a district again with strengths and weaknesses. We will use this as a tool to help us re-teach, re-strategize, those kinds of things.”
Covington said the idea for the competition came from Jerome Smith, who will retire at the end of the year as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment with OCSD. He said Smith implemented such a competition several years ago at the county high schools when he was an assistant superintendent over secondary schools.
“I think after he retires this year, we’re going to name this the Jerome Smith Academic Bowl,” Covington said.
Melanie Cade, a teacher at WOCES, said every question was worth one point for each team, each team received 40 questions, there were two teams from each school per grade and competitors came from third through sixth grade, giving each school a chance to earn up to 320 points. Each team consisted of five students, she said.
“They have 30 seconds to review the question — it’s their think time — and then we set a timer for two minutes,” Cade said. “Within two minutes, they discuss as a team what they think the correct answer will be. They have answer cards A, B, C and D, and they slide their chosen answer to the colored sheet of paper. Then the scorekeeper (takes) the score.”
Cade said the children enjoyed the competition, and it not only helps them prepare for the MCT but also the rest of their lives.
“Children compete in sports, they compete in all different things and we want them to know they can compete academically too,” Cade said. “The further they get in school the more they will compete against their peers for scholarships and things of that nature.”
One WOCES student, Lacy Catledge, said she competed with her future in mind.
“It might have better benefits for me later on in my life,” Catledge said. “I might get a better job or have a better chance of being what I want to be.”
Carnisha Brandy, an EOCES student, said doing well in the competition was important to her because it was important to her school as a whole.
“I want to make my school proud,” Brandy said, “and I want to represent us and make us look good.”