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Rocket Cup motivates students to develop 'soft skills'

Posted Date: 09/16/2020

Rocket Cup motivates students to develop 'soft skills'

Secretary Becky Colding records a zoom meeting with students in Royster Middle School’s front entrance this week, as Principal Don Epps changes the class standings for the soon-to-be coveted Rocket Cup.

Up to now, the sixth and seventh graders were leading the overall class standings at 240 points, with the eighth graders behind by 50 points.

That was about to change.

As he recorded data on a laminated wall chart, Epps announced the new numbers for each category.

“The biggest class in the school, the biggest class in the school guys had only nine tardies!”

Being tardy, to school or class, is one of four areas the Royster classes are being measured for the Rocket Cup. Now, in addition to awards for academics, students can compete by developing their soft skills that employers want to see.

“We’re trying to measure the things all employers value” and use class competition as a motivator, Epps said.

  • Each class will be measured weekly on:
  • Attendance – employers want you there
  • Tardies – employers want you there on time
  • Character (SECD) – employers want responsible employees who are respectful
  • Discipline Referrals – employers don’t want employees who cause problems

Epps is using a model he developed when he was principal at Diamond, Mo., adding that it was time to institute it at Royster. It wouldn’t have worked his first or second year as a new principal.

“You’ve got to get the culture in the right place for the kids to value it,” he said.Epps tallies data from class performance this week

Building that culture is what Epps has been about, with his morning videos, using the mantra “Chasing Greatness” every chance he has and adding signage around the school that emphasizes what it means to be a Royster Rocket.

“Last week the eighth graders had 22 tardies. I challenged them. They got fired up” and this week they have nine tardies, he said.

“Kids at Diamond would flip out over it to a point of kids holding each other accountable,” Epps said. “And I didn’t attach any prizes to it. I want them to take pride in it. It’s something they can control.”

Students can get 100 points for 100 percent attendance. The points drop by 10 for each one percent reduction in absences, with 0 points for 90 percent attendance or lower. This week all three classes were at 96 percent and earned 60 points.

In tardies, the eighth graders earned 60 points for 9, while seventh graders got 40 points for 13-14, and sixth graders logged only 10 points for being late 20-21 times.

“Sixth graders, you’re the smallest class in the school but you can’t get to class on time,” Epps calls out.

In the final two categories, character and discipline referrals, just 10 points separated the classes.

“Coming in with 260 points the new champion (for the week) is the eighth grade class,” Epps said. In the overall standings the seventh graders are in first with 490 points, followed by sixth graders with 460 points and eighth graders with 450 points.

Make your dreams happen,” Epps said, followed by his challenge to the Class of 2025.

“Sixth grade get your tardies fixed. Be respectful and responsible and that SECD score will change.”

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Mr. Don Epps

Asst. Principal

Mr. Chris Shields



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Becky Colding

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Royster Middle School
400 W Main St
Chanute, Kansas 66720
Phone: 620.432.2520
Fax: 620.431.7841