CERES -- Last year, kids at Carroll Fowler Elementary tucked into testing and tried hard.
They already had beaten the state goal of 800 for the school score, but this time they were looking for something else: a close shave for Principal Bruce Clifton.
The Eagles made their goal, and something more, becoming one of only two dozen schools statewide to meet its target every year and continue to make gains even after hitting 800, when targets don't officially matter.
Tuesday, the kids got what they'd waited for.
Mom Susan Davis, whose child will take state tests for the first time this year, didn't know about the bald, blue promise just that it was going to be big, she said as the rally began. "My second-grader was very excited," she said.
But Tammy Ratajczak's fourth-grade class knew what was up. "They know the principal's going to be painted blue. They're excited about that," she said just before the principal's high- volume entrance.
Clifton unicycled into a schoolyard assembly, bald, blue and roaring enthusiasm for the next round of state testing, coming up April 22 through May 3.
As if a principal made up like the "Megamind" cartoon character weren't enough to get the school's roughly 500 kids whipped up to fever frenzy, there was more.
Cookies for all were part of the celebration, along with a "Rock the Test pencil" that changes from purple to pink, a "Rock the Test key chain" for every back pack and, best of all, 830 extra seconds at recess Friday with rock music blaring, grown-ups promised.
That more than 13 minutes added to the usual 10-minute recess symbolized the 2012 school score: 830, up from 816 the year before. While admirable on its own, the school's score included targets made by Latino youth, poor kids and English learners.
The school has hit its mark for 13 years running, Ceres Unified Superintendent Scott Siegel told the students. "That's since 1999, since before all of you were born, Carroll Fowler has always met its growth target," Siegel said.
"We have that growth mind-set," shouted a beaming Clifton as he worked through the crowd. "Out of 5,205 elementary schools in the state, there's only 24 with a streak like ours."
Parents and teachers beamed back. Students could hardly sit still and bounded up to high-five and fist-bump the bald-headed, blue-bearded guy, whose goatee barely survived the blue makeover. He didn't say what this year's incentive would be.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin, or www.modbee.com/education.