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Teacher offers hairy incentive to improve test scores

Two Harbors teacher Kyle Chalupsky volunteered to shave his beard, which he has worn for more than a decade, if the student body raises their math scores 5 percent. (Jamey Malcomb/News-Chronicle)

Two Harbors High School students are getting a enticing incentive to improve their standardized testing scores.

Last week, schools around the state began conducting the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments for students in grades 6-11. They will continue testing their reading, science and math proficiency for more than a month. While MCA tests can assist students when looking at remedial courses in postsecondary schools, they don't affect their grades or their admission to college, and focus can be a problem.

Principal Jay Belcastro and some teachers were brainstorming some small incentives to keep kids focused while taking the exams over such a long period. One idea was for industrial arts teacher Kyle Chalupsky to shave his beard at a school assembly if the student body raised their proficiency 5 percent in the math portion of the exams.

Chalupsky has sported a beard since he was discharged from the Army in 2007. These days, to describe it as "bushy" would be an understatement. Even Chalupsky's wife and kids have never seen him clean-shaven. When Belcastro approached him with the idea, Chalupsky was immediately on board – before having some second thoughts.

"I said, 'Give me the night to think about it,'" he told Belcastro.

Much of the Two Harbors teaching staff, including Chalupsky, has been brainstorming ideas for keeping kids motivated as the weather warms and thoughts start drifting toward summer vacation.

"We thought how can we get kids to take it seriously and show what they know," Chalupsky said. "I think there are a lot of really intelligent kids here, but our tests don't always show it."

After a night pondering the prospect of walking around beardless and, maybe more importantly, having to shave the beard in front of 600 middle and high school students, Chalupsky agreed despite the fact he's wanted a beard since he was a little boy.

"I remember being a kid and thinking I want a beard someday," he said. "But if it makes the kids think about the test, it's worth it. Plus, I'll just grow it back."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle in August 2015. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and previously worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. He is the beat writer for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Silver Bay City Council and high school sports in Lake County. 

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