PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - For four straight years, Pass Christian has been ranked the number one school district in the state of Mississippi. And the district has consistently earned a "Level 5" or "Star" rating.
What is the school district doing to boost student achievement? One secret to its academic success has to do with a motivational campaign.
At Pass Christian Middle School, you will notice that some students are sporting the same T-shirts. They had to work hard to earn this "badge of honor".
"This is sort of like a symbol, like a trophy, and definitely makes us work harder for it," said eighth grader Hannah Allen.
Only students who made A-B Honor Roll last year received the special T-shirts. They proudly wear it on "T-Shirt Tuesdays".
"It motivates me to always do my best every year and get the greatest grades I can, to keep studying and keep working hard," said eighth grader Morgan Funderburk. "When I started out here, I was shaky. But I started getting motivated, because I saw eighth graders and how well they were doing. I saw they got all these prizes."
"T-Shirt Tuesday" is part of Renaissance, an incentives program in the Pass Christian School District. Each school gets to come up with its own incentives to celebrate all sorts of student achievements. The T-shirts are for academic excellence.
"I got straight-A honor roll. We get T-shirts to help enforce better grades," said Allen. "Every week, if we bring our T-shirts, we get snacks and prizes, and we get parties."
"The students have come to expect something from us every Tuesday. They enjoy getting their treats and getting their coupons and earning rewards and it really increases their grades," said counselor Tisha Posey.
Students who get high grades, along with good behavior and attendance, can also flash a rewards card to earn other prizes and privileges.
"We sell treats at break and you can show them this and they sign it and you get a free treat," said Funderburk.
Those who make the grade on the next report card will get a T-shirt. And they'll get to join a proud group of students who've discovered that it pays to be smart.
"Everything, the card, the T-shirt, teachers congratulate you, that helps motivate me do my best," said Funderburk.
"We really want to show a collaboration, where everybody can look around and say: Hey, it's cool to be smart and hey, you should try a little bit harder so you can wear a T-shirt like us," said Posey. "The kids really enjoy it. They have something to look forward to."
Pass Christian Middle School will also hand out yard signs to students who make A-B honor roll this year, so they can proudly display their achievements at home.