- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - For three hours Saturday, while many people were just getting out of bed or pursuing other weekend activities, a small group of adults and high school students were at Vicksburg High School getting an education.

For the students, it was extra study time and help from teachers before they begin retesting to pass sections of the state’s standardized tests they missed on the first attempt. The adults learned about a process called the “Praxis Program” that would enable them to become teachers.

The tutoring was done in the school library, where five teachers worked with about 20 students on the subjects of Algebra I, English II, history and biology, using computers, scientific calculators and pen and paper. All the teachers volunteered to spend Saturday morning to work with the students, assistant principal Tameka Henderson said. The students participating, she said, were seniors.

“I’m glad to see the students who came,” she said. “It means they care; they’re self-motivated. This helps the students, because they’re free of distractions. When they’re in school, they’re thinking about their other classes. Here, they can focus and get extra attention.”

“This is my fourth time to work with the students on a Saturday,” math teacher Granerette Ivory said. “We used to do this a lot, but it stopped a few years ago. I’m glad to see it coming back and I hope we do it some more.”

Rhondilyn Nix, who teaches English II at Vicksburg High, said the study program included a review of the skills the students will be tested for. Each student working on the English II program was given a mock test to take on the computer to help strengthen their weak areas.

“This is my first time to do this on a Saturday,” Nix said. “I usually work with the students during my free period. This is better, because I can give them more one-on-one time to help them.”

In a separate room in the library, Kristen Williams, who usually teaches science and history at Vicksburg High, worked with Leon Miles on math problems.

“I’ve finished my (required) math,” Miles said. “I’m just trying to get ready for the retest (in Algebra II).”

Williams, who said she has a strong background math, came to VHS this year from Vicksburg Intermediate School.

“We’re very happy the teachers decided to volunteer,” Henderson said. “This is the last time these students will be able to take the retests, which start Monday. We’ll get the results just in time for graduation.”

While the students worked upstairs, Henderson discussed the Praxis program in the cafeteria to help adults with college degrees get their certification without having to return to college. School officials hope the program will provide a source of teachers for the school system.

The program involves training and a series of tests to prepare the people to receive their certification. It is split into two parts - Praxis I, which focuses on the basics of math, reading and writing, and Praxis II, which addresses the subject area a person wants to teach.

She said the school will host a Praxis “boot camp” beginning April 9 to prepare those interested in getting certification for the Praxis I tests. The boot camp involves three days of work, with covering nine hours each for math and reading, and seven hours study for writing.

“We recommend the people take the test for that subject as soon as they finish that part of the boot camp,” Henderson said.

“There will always be a need for teachers,” she said. “Administrations may be good or bad, but the magic happens in the classroom.”

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Information from: The Vicksburg Post, https://www.vicksburgpost.com

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