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Nineteen students outread Sequoyah Middle principal

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

How do you say "outperformed" in Chinese?

Judging by the requests Sequoyah Middle School Principal Stephanie Johnson got from a handful of pupils on Friday, she may be buying Chinese food next week for nearly 20 students, who bested her in a two-month reading challenge at the school.

In January, Johnson announced to students that she would buy lunch -- using her own money -- for any student who racked up more Accelerated Reader points than she did in February and March. The type of meal would be chosen by the students.

Well, the competition ended on April 1, and when the dust settled, 19 had accumulated more AR points than their principal over the two-month period. Although she will have to dig deep into her pocket to buy 19 lunches, Johnson said she has no regrets about issuing the challenge.

"Anytime you can get them [students] pumped up for something positive, I don't think you're wasting your time," the principal said.

Johnson said the reading challenge was about more than her buying lunch for nearly two dozen students, though. The purpose, she said, was to encourage more students at the school to read books. In that regard, she said she found some success.

"Our circulation numbers went up," Johnson said. "The children really started to read a lot. It [the challenge] prompted them to take the initiative to check out the books, and to read them. The average number of books being checked out per student, per month, went from an average of 1.2 books in January, to 3.1 books in February and March."

The AR tests are short exams students take on a computer after they have finished reading a book. The tests are designed to see how well the students comprehend the reading material. If the test taker gets a score of at least 70 on the test, he or she earns AR points for reading the book. The amount of points awarded are based on the length, and reading level of the book, Johnson said.

The principal added that the tests were harder than she expected, because she did not realize how specific the questions were. "You can't just wing it," she said. "It's very detailed."

School Media Specialist Rebecca Stewart said, "The tests are specially written, so that you have to have recently read the book to know the answers to the questions."

Johnson earned 54 AR points over the two-month period, according to Stewart.

According to Johnson, the students who outperformed her are: Nur Awad (280.8 points); Sokou Gagnon (251.4 points); Celine Avoudikpon (185.3 points); Mikel McClain (167.9 points); Ambrea Gorham (148.8 points); Trendarius Sillmon (147.4 points); Luis Delarosa (126.7 points); Eldred Eady (105.2 points); Tiffany Long (86.8 points); Keyarah Middlebrooks (83.9 points); Zahdia Battick (81.7 points); Jordan Johnson (76.6 points); Safiyyah Jefferson (74.5 points); James Duckett (72.6 points); Adriana Benitez (65.7 points); Kyaira Dawson (60.5 points); Brian Jones (57.2 points); Aaliyah Andrews (56.5 points), and Tuvi Do (55.3 points).

"I thought she [Johnson] was going to read 10 books in one day, and get a whole bunch of points right away," said eighth-grader James Duckett, 13. "So, I decided to jump up on my game, and start reading as much as possible."

"I did not like to read, but I had found books I liked, so I just started to read when the contest started, and then, the competition just kinda brought it out even more," said Kyaira Dawson.