The name of the class at Covenant Day School is AP English Literature and Composition, but its students have an eye on history.
They’re not satisfied that they routinely outperform other area schools in the WordWright challenge, a national reading and comprehension competition for high school students. They’re aiming higher, despite tying for fourth place among 596 schools in first-quarter competition. But perhaps what they want most of all is to make history for the school by finishing higher than all of the students who came before.
“I’m pumped,” said Cameron Church of Matthews, one of two CDS students – and just 32 in the country from among 16,562 seniors – to earn perfect scores by answering all 11 questions correctly in the school year’s first challenge.
“When I first heard about this, I didn’t know much about it. I knew that friends I had from previous classes had done very well. … I’m thinking, ‘Wow, we really have a shot to beat the other grades.’ I want to beat the other grades and kind of say to some of my friends who have gone on to bigger things in college that ‘Hey, we can compete with you guys.’ ”
Cameron was among 11 CDS students who contributed to the high national ranking, along with Katie Fowler, Charlie Bedell, Grace Foltz, Allison Kaika, Annie Pearson, Samantha Choi, Anne Fuller, Emily Jarrett, Jessica Sharp and Caroline Fields. Katie also had a perfect score; Charlie, Grace, Allison and Annie finished with high honors, meaning they were in the 99th percentile (and above) nationally. They take a multiple-choice test that challenges their ability to analyze and interpret works of fiction and nonfiction.
Class teacher Kari Cope, who tabulates the results and sends the top finishers’ scores to the national WordWright headquarters, says this is the seventh year the school has competed in the challenge. Its highest quarterly or yearly national finish is fourth place. She admits to using some motivational psychology on her students.
“I play that up a little bit,” she said with a laugh, “especially the part about beating previous classes. I let them know that, just to kind of fuel the fire a little bit.”
Katie, of Charlotte, achieved her perfect score during her first participation in the challenge. “Our teacher told us we were one point out of third place,” she said.
CDS’ score of 98 tied with West High from Iowa City, Iowa. Brookwood High of Snellville, Ga., was first with 104 points, followed by Charter School of Wilmington, Del., with 103 and Hanover Park Regional High of East Hanover, N.J., at 99. (The class has taken the test for the second quarter, but it’s not known yet how it fared relative to all other schools in the country.)
Very little class time is used for the challenge, and it’s not possible to study much for it. However, each quarter, WordWright releases a list of terms and vocabulary that will appear both in questions and in the passages.
“In many ways, class itself is preparation,” Cope said. “What we focus on is close reading. So there is the memorization of specific terminology, but there’s also the skill of being able to read real critically and analytically.”
“It’s really good preparation for classes we’ll have in colleges, getting us to think more deeply about what we’re reading,” Katie said.
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