(Staff photo by Lecia Forester)
To kick off the testing, the Kennett Public Schools will be hosting an assembly featuring the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Drummers, captained by Chris Watson, a 1992 graduate of Kennett High School. This year's theme is, "Drumming Up Success."
The Thunder Drummers are cheerleader drummers who do halftime performances, timeout performances and are well-known by the children at South Elementary because of Kevin Durant, one of the NBA players.
According to Jennifer Nigut, counselor at South Elementary, the students are really looking forward to seeing their performance. The time of the assembly has not been decided upon but Nigut said it would be sometime in April.
Every year around MAP testing time, the school hosts themed assemblies to inspire students to do their best on the testing. Last year's theme was "Can't stop, won't stop, going up." At that assembly the school hosted the earthquake simulator.
"Last year our pep assembly was about earthquakes, moving [and] shaking," Nigut said.
Jaded, the local Kennett band has also been included in the school's assembly. Other local artists that have played for the children have been Limmie Pulliam, Trent Tomlinson, Noll Billings as well as David Nail.
Regarding the assemblies, Nigut said, "We try to incorporate it with our learning experience as well. Our whole theme with the drums and the drum cafe coming earlier in the year is the fact if you put your mind to it, you can do anything you want. You can make music on anything. You can achieve whatever you want. If you're interested in something like that you need to set goals and do it. It helps to encourage the whole testing and doing your best."
Nigut said that they are planning also to talk to some of the local drummers in the area such as the Kennett High School band and see if they could send some drummers over to play for the students at recess.
"They just thought that was the best thing when the drums came earlier in the year and everybody got to play and everybody got to experience it," she said.
According to Nigut , the T-shirts for this year's theme have already been ordered and should arrive at the school next week. She said that when they arrive, T-shirts will be worn every Thursday to promote unity among the students.
"Wearing the shirts, they like doing it. They get bonus points for doing it. We do all this prep work for the MAP and if they make above an 80 percent, they get a star on a chart and if you get so many points, there are different rewards along the way," Nigut said.
Nigut added that she has noticed that the themed assemblies and the prep work done ahead of time for MAP has made a difference in the scoring of the students.
"We asked the teachers. We're not in school improvement anymore. Do we need to continue to do this [and] they said they can't imagine it being any other way," she said. She added that after students return from spring break, students will begin dancing before lessons begin.
Students go into the gym and Malinda Harris teaches the children in the new popular dances.
"It's just like exercise. It gets their brains going and as soon as they get back to the classroom then we start our MAP prep activities." Nigut added that it's the school's way of telling the students that 'We're having fun, [and] we believe in you.'
Snacks such as veggies and fruit are also provided to the children at this time.
"There is so much that we've learned that has worked. It's like 'Don't fix what's not broke."
All of the teachers are in agreement that the T-shirts and the themed assemblies seem to work for getting the children excited about MAP.
The idea for the assemblies started in 2009, according to Nigut. At the time, the school was still in school improvement.
Nigut explained that the school was part of a grant called the "Professional Learning Communities and one of the criteria of that grant was to promote your school in a positive climate and let the students have some ownership in the school as well as having pride in their school.
"We just brainstormed on ways we could improve our school climate and culture and we came up with ways to reward them, [and] motivate them. An assembly was one of them," she said. With the assemblies and rewards, teachers and staff have tried to instill pride in the children as well as to motivate them and encourage them to always do their best.
After MAP testing, those students that have done well, had good behavior and have participated and put forth their best effort will be treated to a day at the Remix in Blytheville, Ark., a facility that is operated by a church that has recreational facilities for the children to enjoy.