By Alyssa Schnugg
The Mississippi State Board of Education has approved plans for the Oxford School District to become Mississippi’s newest District of Innovation, according to an OSD press release.
District of Innovation designation gives school districts additional flexibility in several areas governed by the Mississippi Department of Education. School districts that create programs to better engage students in learning through innovative structures that are limited by state statute are encouraged to work with the Mississippi Department of Education to create an innovative plan.
The OSD submitted its application in December 2018.
Districts offering innovative programs have the flexibility to create nontraditional learning environments, employ creative funding strategies, and expand curriculum choices.
OSD’s plan includes a middle college program, career academy, modified district calendar, personalized education pathway counseling program and a comprehensive professional development program for teachers.
“This new paradigm provides even better opportunities for our students and teachers,” said Superintendent Brian Harvey in a statement released by OSD this morning. “We are in the beginning stages of investigating these programs and logistics. Any changes will be methodical and carefully mapped out over the next five years, with input from staff and stakeholders.”
Any policy changes will still need to be approved by the board and that the initiatives are some ideas the district can now consider.
Middle College is a dual credit/dual enrollment program run by a school district and a partnering college that offers high school students a large choice of dual credit and dual enrollment classes. Upperclassmen are encouraged to take as many classes in a liberal-arts, pre-IHL program or a career-oriented program of study as possible. These students are supported by a high school/transitional counselor and are monitored closely to ensure that they are meeting college academic expectations.
A Career Academy is a small learning community, comprising a group of students within the larger high school who take classes together for at least two years, taught by a team of teachers from different disciplines focused on a career pathway—for example, engineering. The academy delivers a college-preparatory curriculum with a career theme, enabling students to see relationships among academic subjects and their applications to a broad field of work.
A Modified School Calendar would divide the school year into quarters of an equal length with intersessions of similar length, which would greatly increase student retention while giving additional time to remediate students in need of academic support, OSD officials said in December.
Oxford School District is the eighth district in the state to be granted this opportunity. Mississippi’s other Districts of Innovation include Corinth, Gulfport, Vicksburg-Warren, Grenada, Baldwyn, Booneville and Hinds County.