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Mississippi Schools Facing Sweeping Changes This New School Year

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 06 Aug 2013 05:51am | comments

Thousands of Mississippi students are heading back to school this week. However, they are going back to a public school system undergoing big changes.

 Four thousand teachers and staff in the state's largest school district, Jackson Public Schools, gathered in the capital city yesterday before the start of the school year and many teachers say they are paying close attention to the shifting school landscape.

 Mississippi's public school system is facing new changes approved by state lawmakers during the most recent legislative session.

 Including allowing charter schools and an increased focus on third grade reading.

 Cedrick Livingston, a teacher at G.N. Smith elementary says public schools do not need to fear charter schools, as long as their do their job.

 "That's always going to be an issue. As long as certain districts are under performing, than you open that door wide open. If everythig comes together like it should, everyone being committed, than what you will find is that won't even be an issue," Livingston said.

 Yesterday, Governor Phil Bryant announced his three appointments to the board that will approve charter school applicants, which moves the state closer to seeing a charter school open.

 The state is also putting more emphasis on third grade reading, and promising to hold back students that can't read on level.

 That's a good thing according to third grade teacher Vickie Latham.

 "We are going to have to dream dreams that they don't have already. Address the motivation and set the standard and just tell them, 'you can do this but it is going to take work'. And we are excited to bring it too them," Latham said.

 But that program may be having early problems, the Mississippi Department of Education was only able to find 24 of the 75 reading coaches it attempted to hire this year.

 Natasha May, an elementary school librarian, also worries about the impact of holding kids back a grade.

 "I think it needs to be a more intensive form of remediation throughout the school year. The teachers and intervention to try and reach those children before it gets to the end of the year for their hearts to be broken and find out they cannot to the next grade because they cannot ready, however they still have the grades to show that they have been promoted," May said

 There are nearly 500,000 students in Mississippi's 152 public school districts.





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