Photo by Johnny Jackson
Sonya Muhammad (far left) interacts with her sixth-grade social studies class during a review in which using her “Wheel of Treasures” game as a backdrop to reinforce the subject matter.
MORROW — Sixth-grader Gabrielle Loppe sounded off the chant and the others joined in down the hallway.
“Who are we?” she barked. “Elite Scholars Academy. What do we do? Put forth our best in all we do. Why do we do it? I am the best, deserve the best, want the best and won’t settle for less.”
The slogan rings out each morning through the hallways at Elite Scholars Academy, a public charter school in Morrow.
Principal Dr. Shonda Shaw said the activity is part of the school’s week-long boot camp and review for the April 16-22 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.
“We’re preparing for warfare and we’re preparing to slay the CRCT,” Shaw said. “The paper and the pen are our weapons.”
Shaw said the sixth and seventh grade are going through a highly regimented and rigorous series of educational challenges this week to achieve a 100-percent pass rate on the tests.
Brenda Mallory is the academy’s English/language arts chair and a sixth-grade language arts teacher. She said daily challenges — “Science on the ‘Net,’ ” “Math Jeopardy,” “ELA Counter-Intelligence” and “Social Studies Global Surveillance” — were developed around the boot camp theme to incorporate activities to make the subjects relevant and interesting to students.
Each challenge is led by top brass, generals, captains and drill sergeants, said Mallory, who was in charge as a general for the week.
Seventh-graders Talib Williams and Shayla Bethea said Tuesday they were ready for the exams.
“I think I’ll make a perfect score,” said Bethea. “We’ve prepared for it all year.”
Elite Scholars serves roughly 400 students like Bethea in grades six through 11 and will serve a 12th-grade class in 2013-14.
The academy was the brainchild of Dr. Grayson Walles, who was its first principal when it opened in 2009 at the Eula Wilborn Ponds Perry Center for Learning in Jonesboro. It later moved to the old Morrow Middle School building on Maddox Road.
Shaw said the academy’s enrollment, which spans all of Clayton County, is based on a lottery and has accepted a new sixth-grade class of about 80 students each year since it opened.
She said it focuses on an honors and advanced placement curriculum.
“We’re about rigor, relevance, relationships and the bottom line is getting results,” she said.
Shaw added that Elite Scholars Academy has seen overall academic improvement each of its four years in existence and outperformed the state average last year.
Academy data revealed sixth- , seventh- and eighth-graders passed the 2012 CRCT at a rate above 90 percent. Combined, 99 percent of those students passed in reading, 99 percent in English/language arts, 93 percent in math, 91 percent in science and 97 percent in social studies.
The trend continued this year, when the academy reported that each of Jeffery Dinkins’ 75 English-language arts students passed the state’s eighth-grade writing test.
Shaw said students will be presented certificates of completion and “letters from home” at the end of boot camp.
“Parents [also] play a significant role in the educational partnership at our school,” she said. “They have written letters to their children encouraging them to do their very best on the CRCT. After a week at home [for spring break], students will return to the academy base for a weeklong deployment to the ‘CRCT Testing Zone.’ ”