To view the MSF Update in its original format click here.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NOTES
Quick update of MSF over the past month

Wow! This year seems to be flying by at the Mississippi First office. In May, we continued our work in making Mississippi first in education!

PreK Campaign: It is official! We are in the middle of our preK campaign. Help us reach our goal of $10,000 in three weeks! Remember, Mississippi First is a nonprofit, so your gift is completely tax deductible. All proceeds raised will impact our research and advocacy in preK. Stay updated on our progress via Facebook.

MSF on charter schools:What a huge month for charter schools in Mississippi! The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board approved the first charter school, Reimagine Prep, which will serve grades 5-8 in Jackson, MS. Angela also had a great op ed,Charter Schools: A Choice to Integrate?, that was released in the Clarksdale Press-Register and the Clarion-Ledger.

MSF Summer Intern and TFA Fellows: We love summer at MSF because it means we have even more hands on deck. This summer, we are hosting an Ole Miss Intern, Kaitlyn Barton (the president of our Ole Miss College Chapter); April Wang, a doctoral student from the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and two Teach For America Fellows Mehreen Butt and Amelia Huckins. Kaitlyn will be spending her time working on upcoming Common Core programming  and developing additional college chapters around the state. April will be researching ways to improve our state’s early childhood governance structure. Mehreen will be developing materials for our work with CHART. Amelia is technically the intern of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, but we are happily providing her office space this summer. Welcome, ladies!

Thank you for your continued support,
Rachel Canter
Executive Director

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CHARTER SCHOOLS
Implementing the new Charter Schools Act of 2013

May was a historic month for charter schools in Mississippi. Following the review of applications and a 90-minute capacity interview taking place in May, the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board approved the first charter school in Mississippi on June 2. Reimagine Prep, the approved school, is a public charter school to be located in Jackson. The Authorizer Board reviewed 3 final applicants using an evaluator tool. Once they announced their decision, the Board encouraged applicants to reach out to them in order to receive comments and feedback on their applications. We, at Mississippi First, are excited about this huge gain for public school choice in Mississippi. We will continue to provide updates, feedback, and information to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board and the public on the state of charter schools as charter schools become a part of the educational landscape in Mississippi.

Also, the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board released the Executive Director job description on their new website, charterschoolboard.ms.gov. If you are interested in the position, you can review the job description here. The deadline for applications is June 16, 2014. The Board also posted the Fall 2014 Request for Proposals to their website for public comment. They will be accepting comments until June 16, 2014.

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CHART INITIATIVE
Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens

Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens (CHART)

In the past month, Josh and Sanford travelled to North Carolina and Washington, D.C. to continue our work with CHART. While in North Carolina, they attended the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina’s (APPCNC) conference, where they met with sex ed advocates to discuss some of the great work they are doing in NC and how we could replicate some of that work in MS. At the beginning of June, Advocates for Youth held their annual State Summit in D.C. The Mississippi team presented on our current work with CHART, and Sanford and Josh had time to meet with our congressional representatives about our work with sex education and CHART.

Our intrepid Director of Communications, MacKenzie Stroh, has dedicated May and June to telling the story of CHART on film. In early July, we will be releasing a 15-minute video that reviews the history of sex education in Mississippi, discusses the importance of high-quality sex education in Mississippi, and explains CHART and how districts can get involved. Stay tuned, CHART: The Movie is coming to a district near you!

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SCHOOL TURNAROUND
Focus on Common Core State Standards

Common Core

Common Core has been under the microscope across the nation during the 2014 legislative cycle. Over the past month, two more states withdrew from Common Core (Oklahoma and South Carolina). Common Core has also recently become a topic during the primary elections. Mississippi First is dedicated to educating the public about the importance of the Common Core State Standards in Mississippi. Make sure to continue to visitCommonCoreMS! We will be updating even more regularly over the next few months in order to help provide additional resources and information about implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mississippi schools.

This month, the Mississippi Department of Education approved $8.4 million to be used for the new state assessments that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. MDE also heard back from the US Department of Education; they approved a one-year waiver to freeze school letter grades for the 2013-2014 school year as Mississippi transitions to college- and career-ready standards and aligned assessments.

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COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

For the past 8 months, Mississippi First has been working to organize young professionals (ages 20-40) who are interested in improving education in Mississippi. We have discussed our policy work with young professionals in Cleveland, Starkville, and the Gulf Coast. Through our partnership with Leadership for Educational Equity, we are also identifying important education issues through one-on-one conversations and house meetings. Our aim for this organizing effort is to give young parents, those involved in education professionally, and concerned citizens an opportunity to influence education policy on the local and state level.

The people we have met with have raised dozens of issues raised about the need for better education in Mississippi. These issues have covered the gamut from school and district leadership to nutrition and early childhood education. As we continue to connect with more people in more communities, we expect to hear new issues and priorities. By the start of Fall 2014, we want to reach 20 communities through our organizing efforts. By early October 2014, we will call on our participants to help us narrow down our broad list of issues into 1-2 specific policy goals.

If you’re interested in learning more or taking part in our organizing effort, please contact Sanford Johnson at sanford@mississippifirst.org.

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