By Johnny Jackson
NFL Linebacker Donte' Curry, of the Carolina Panthers, stirred the energetic group of pint-sized students.
"What time is it?" shouted Curry.
"Game time," they roared back.
Curry, who is also a parent at the school, was a featured motivational speaker Friday at Fairview Elementary School's annual pep rally for the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT), the state's standardized assessment for elementary and middle school students.
"I think it's important for the students to relax," said Cheryl Carter, principal at Fairview. "Our students want to do well, and several of them are nervous. Teachers are under a lot of stress, too. But, we wanted them to have a little fun."
CRCT testing begins today at schools around the state, when students will be asked to prove what they know, and what they have learned in various subjects over the course of the year.
Fairview's goal this year, according to Carter, is to have at least 85 percent of its student body meet state standards on the CRCT's math portion, and make pointed improvements in reading and English/language arts, as well.
The Georgia Department of Education reported that Fairview students met or exceeded state standards on the 2009 CRCT at a rate of 83 percent in math, and 92 percent in reading and English/language arts. Fairview's pass rates nearly matched the system-wide average for Henry County Schools, according to data from the state education department. System-wide, students in elementary and middle schools passed the 2009 CRCT at a rate of 83 percent in math and 94 percent in reading and English/language arts.
State data also revealed that McDonough Elementary School's pass rates rivaled system-wide results on the 2009 CRCT, too, at 86 percent in math and 93 percent in reading and English/language arts.
"Our goal is to increase [the pass rate] by at least 5 percentage points," said Gena Williams, principal at McDonough Elementary.
McDonough Elementary also hosted a CRCT pep rally on Friday. Williams hoped the rally would galvanize the school community and, in turn, help motivate students to do their best on this week's standardized assessments.
During the pep rally, students at McDonough Elementary were able to interact with student leaders at the neighboring Henry County High School. Those student leaders included participants in the high school's athletic program, cheerleading squad, marching band, and Navy JROTC Unit.
"This brings the community together," Williams said. "It's amazing. This is a huge joint effort for the high school and elementary school."
Williams said she believes giving the elementary school students access to the high school students helps the younger pupils make connections with where they are, and where they could be. "I want them to be leaders in their high school," she added.
Henry County High sophomore, Dalvin Tomlinson, was one of the student leaders selected to participate in the pep rally. The 16-year-old spent Friday afternoon alongside his Henry County High classmates, playing touch football with fifth-graders at McDonough Elementary.
"It feels pretty good to do things that I saw, and looked up to, when I was little," Tomlinson said. Tomlinson, an athletic, but bashful youth himself, spoke to the crowd of elementary school students about what it takes to succeed in academics.
"If you want to be successful, you have to remember to study," he said. "Always think positive, and good things will happen."
Tomlinson credits his positive attitude for his successes as an A-student, as a star defensive end on Henry County High's football team, and as the 2010 Georgia High School Association Class-AA Wrestling Champion in the 285-pound weight class.
Chelsi Grier, a fifth-grader at McDonough Elementary, said she hopes Friday's pep rally will have a positive impact on test day. "This year, I'm a little nervous," said the discerning 11-year-old. "I don't know why, but I'm just having jitters about it. I think this [pep rally] helps the other kids who are nervous, too, to get them pumped up and ready for it."