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Gimme an A!

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u Three thousand students filled the high-school football stadium in Anniston, Ala., for the fall pep rally, but instead of screaming for first downs and touchdowns, they cheered:

We've got to have A's,

We might take B's,

These are the grades

To fit our needs.

C's are okay if that's the best one can do,

But D's and F's are through, through, through!

The unusual "academic pep rally" this month marked the kickoff of the third year of "Education Par Excellence," a program designed to encourage students to be educationally fit.

In addition to the standard pep-rally participants--cheerleaders and the school band--students heard Larry Blackman, the lead singer in a popular soul group called Cameo, speak on the importance of academics. Two gubernatorial candidates and other local officials also addressed the students.

"Students are wild about the program since the pep rally," said Ida Romine, a teacher at Anniston High School.

The founder of Education Par Excellence, the Rev. John S. Nettles, explained that the program has two main components: a nightly study program and afternoon tutorials.

On Sunday through Thursday from 6 P.M. to 8 P.M., he said, every student in town should be studying--no radios, no dancing, no ball-playing. To encourage participation, Mr. Nettles and other officials make spot checks. Students who are caught studying receive a gold medallion.

In addition, the program enlists the help of 25 retired teachers to tutor students.

The program works, he insisted, because students, parents, and teachers are working together.

Mr. Nettles started Education Par Excellence when he learned that 1,100 students in another Alabama city had failed their competency tests to move on to the next grade. He said parents and teachers knew two years before the test that it was coming. "I wanted to make sure that in Anniston, we were prepared," said Mr. Nettles. "And not just for competency tests, but for whatever comes after high school."

This year, the program, which operates in two counties, received $50,000 from the state, according to Mr. Nettles. The money goes for a variety of items, he said, including advertisements on local radio stations and billboards that encourage students to study and "put a little class in your night life."

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