IN THIS EDITION:
- Big Wins– This past spring was our most successful legislative session ever. We passed both a charter school law and a state-funded preK law. In this issue, you will find information on the current status of the implementation of those two laws.
- New Staff– Due in part to our great success, we have received several new grants that have allowed us to expand our staff. In September, we welcomed MacKenzie Stroh as our new Director of Communications. MacKenzie comes to us from the Greenville Arts Council where she was their most recent Executive Director. You can read more about MacKenzie here. We are also searching for a Deputy Director of Policy. The job description is posted here if you know anyone who may be interested. Soon, we will be advertising for a Teen Health Coordinator to support our CHART work; the Teen Health job description will be posted alongside the Deputy of Policy position.
- New Office– We are happy to announce our new office at 125 S. Congress St., Suite 1510, in downtown Jackson.
- National Education Award- Mississippi First was very honored to be chosen as the PIE Network’s 2013 Game Changer of the Year. Read about this in our press release.
- 5-Year Anniversary– Mississippi First will celebrate its fifth anniversary in October. Next month’s newsletter will take a look at how far we’ve come!
The Mississippi Charter Authorizing Board officially in place
Mississippi’s Charter Schools Act of 2013 created the Mississippi Charter Authorizing Board as a 7-member board that will select, monitor, and renew or non-renew charter schools. The Board was officially established in late August when all appointments were made. Three members were appointed by the Governor, three by the Lieutenant Governor, and one by the State Superintendent of Education. Each of these new appointees will serve at least until January 2014 when the Mississippi State Senate must confirm them. The appointments are below with the appointing authority in italics:
- Tommie Cardin, Board Chairman (Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves)
- Bonita Coleman-Potter (Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves)
- Krystal Cormack (Gov. Phil Bryant)
- Karen Elam (Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves)
- Johnny Franklin (Gov. Phil Bryant)
- Lynn House (Interim Superintendent of Education, Lynn House)
- Chris Wilson (Gov. Phil Bryant)
The Board held its first organizational meeting in mid-September and elected Tommie Cardin as Chair. The Board must meet several important milestones in the next few months. These include:
Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens
September has been a very busy month for implementation of the CHART Abstinence-Plus policy. The CHART team conducted three teacher trainings (2 middle school and 1 high school) in which we trained over 75 teachers to teach the Draw the Line/Respect the Line (Grades 6-8) and Reducing the Risk (9th Grade) curricula. MSF’s focus will now shift to parent meetings, which are required for each CHART district. Parent meetings give parents the opportunity to review the curriculum, connect with the teachers, and have their questions answered. Sanford led the first parent meeting of the fall in the West Tallahatchie School District; the CHART team will hold several more in the coming weeks.
State-funded preK implementation
Last April, the Legislature passed the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013. The new law, authored by Senator Brice Wiggins and Representative Toby Barker, is the first-ever state-funded preK program in Mississippi and was based largely on the policy framework recommended by Mississippi First in our issue brief, Leaving Last in Line. The new preK program uses collaborative delivery–a system in which all providers (whether public, private, or Head Start) can participate in service delivery as long as each provider meets state standards required by the law. These standards cover areas such as curriculum and assessment, teacher qualifications, student-teacher ratios, and parental involvement, among others. In order to qualify for funds, providers must form local collaboratives, which are councils of early education providers led by either the local school district or a local nonprofit. Providers in a collaborative will then write one, joint application to be submitted through the collaborative for how they intend to serve children in their community.
Common Core State Standards
By now, many Mississippians have already heard about Common Core. Simply put, the Common Core State Standards are a set of literacy and math standards that have been adopted by 45 states. These standards are far more rigorous than our current standards and are designed to promote greater critical thinking and college/career readiness. Yet while these standards guide “what students should know and be able to do” at the end of each year, important decisions about how the standards will be taught–curriculum and instruction–will be the work of local districts, schools, and teachers.
EDUCATION AROUND THE STATE
Additional information about Education in Mississippi
Last week, Mississippi chose former D.C. schools administrator Carey Wright as superintendent of education. Click here for the full story.