| By Rita Howell
More than 900 students at South Panola High School are preparing this month to take four tests that must be passed in order for them to graduate from high school.
The state’s Subject Area Testing Program tests will be administered April 25-28, and in the days leading up to those tests, the school has been buzzing after hours as students take advantage of tutoring sessions to improve their odds on test day.
The four state tests, and the test dates are: English II, April 25; Biology I, April 26; U.S. History, April 27, and Algebra I, April 28.
Principal Dr. Gearl Loden said this week that students and teachers are taking the preparation seriously.
Not only does each student’s prospect for graduation depend on passing the tests, but also the school’s accredition "grade" is determined from the test scores.
Loden had all the test-takers participate in preliminary practice tests a few weeks ago, and teachers are using the results to focus on weaknesses that showed up.
Strategies include using old-fashioned flash cards so that students can study together and review each other.
And some faculty members are being called on to perform double duty, lending expertise in areas they don’t normally teach.
"Col. (Orville) Robertson, who heads our ROTC, is also pretty good in American history," Loden explained. "So we’ve had him helping some of the students who’ll be taking the U.S. History test."
In addition, there have been added incentives, like computer game give-aways for students who have been consistent in their test preparation efforts. Next week, names will be drawn for cash prizes.
The test scores will not be reported until sometime in the summer, Loden said, meaning students will have to wait until the fall semester to enjoy the rewards they’ve been promised for good performance.
For those who earn "proficient" scores, there will be field trips. For students whose scores place them in the "advanced" level, a "movie day" will be declared and they’ll be bused to a theater in Oxford.
And if anyone gets a perfect score, he or she will get $100 from Loden’s pocket.
He’s asking for help from businesses in the community who employ students in after school jobs.
"About half of our students have parttime jobs," Loden said. "We’re asking employers, as they make out their time schedules for the next week, to consider the test dates, and not put someone on a late shift if he has to take a test the next day that will determine if he graduates or not."