SIKESTON -- After months of preparation, Missouri Assessment Program testing begins for some Sikeston R-6 students today.
Students at Morehouse Elementary, Lee Hunter Elementary, Fifth Grade Center and Middle School began taking the tests today. Other schools will start administering the test over the next several days and weeks.
To motivate students to do their best on the state standardized test, schools offer incentives, which vary from building to building.
"We had a pep rally last week, and it really gets the kids excited," said Kristen Rapert, counselor at Morehouse Elementary.
At Morehouse Elementary, a score card monitoring two areas -- attitude and effort -- is kept for each student during testing. Students can earn points to win prizes.
"Teachers look to see if students have a good attitude and are putting forth effort, such as if they're taking time with the test and flipping back through the books and making sure they've filled in every answer," Rapert said.
Southeast Elementary begins testing April 3 and will test over the next three weeks.
"We're kicking off the testing on Friday with a MAP pep rally and a couple of skits. The Junior High cheerleaders will be here to cheer them on," said Southeast Elementary counselor Kim Maclin.
Students at Southeast can earn "test buster" coupons, which are earned by a child being on time and in attendance all day, using higher level thinking skills while testing, being neat, working hard, etc., Maclin said.
In May, students attend a MAP carnival, where they can redeem the coupons they earned while taking the MAP test.
To gear up for the test, Matthews Elementary in Sikeston is having a motivational assembly this afternoon and will begin testing Wednesday, principal Jeanne Anne Sullivan said.
Students in attendance every day for MAP testing get their names put in a jar for a chance to win a $10-cash prize and other prizes.
"We try to give them immediate gratification by letting them know we know they're working hard," Sullivan said.
A MAP celebration with a cookout and talent show is scheduled for May 4.
Kelly Bright, counselor at the Fifth Grade Center, said peppermints and water bottles will be handed out to students prior to taking the tests today; students will also receive a snack after taking the test.
Fifth Grade Center students can earn prizes -- two students per classroom -- daily.
Past incentives at the Middle School have included a MAP dance and a movie. Students earn these awards after scoring at certain levels once the test results are received in the fall. A MAP "play day" is also conducted for students toward the end of the school year and students can participate in a variety of games, she said.
Junior High will begin testing next week and in the past has used various incentives for students such as ticket giveaways and free time for scoring at certain levels, a school counselor said.
Sikeston's sophomores and juniors will test the first two weeks of April, said Joelle Mayfield, sophomore counselor and coordinator for the parent-
"Parents will be giving out bottles of water and peppermints for the students before the tests," Mayfield said.
Also the committee will make chocolate bars wrapped in labels containing the "ingredients" for success on the MAP test, Mayfield said.
Counselors and principals said parents were reminded of the MAP test last week during parent-teacher conferences. Newsletters and other reminders are also sent home prior to testing.
Parents should make sure their children receive plenty of rest and eat nutritious breakfasts the week the test is administered, Maclin said, adding it's also good for parents to give their children a pep talk.
"Students will do their best when everything else is taken care of and we tell them we want them to show what they know so it shows the school is doing their job and learning is taking place," Maclin said.
Sullivan said it's a good idea for parents to schedule any doctor's appointments after school so it won't interfere with their child's testing.
Students are also reminded throughout the school year of the importance of doing their best on the tests.
Prior to the testing, Maclin said she goes over ways to lower stress before the test by taking long, slow deep breaths, closing their eyes and thinking of something happy.
"We emphasize to the student to try to do their best and let them know we don't expect them to know everything," Maclin said.
To help with concentration, testing is broken down to no more than two class periods a day, said Julia Reynolds, counselor at the Middle School.
"I think when spring comes and it starts getting warm, it is hard for students to focus but not impossible," Reynolds said.
Most Sikeston R-6 buildings will complete their MAP testing in April, but school districts statewide have until May 4 to test their students.