Lowndes County schools prep for changes

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Miss. (AP) — Block scheduling is among the changes being implemented in the Lowndes County schools this fall.

Assistant Superintendent Robin Ballard said with Common Core fast approaching, block scheduling will offer students and teachers more concentrated time in the classroom. Offered in the high school, students will have four main courses to focus on, Ballard said.

“You can do a seven-period traditional schedule or you can do a block schedule,” she told The Commercial Dispatch (http://bit.ly/14LQq2p ).

“They have four main core subjects a semester and a semester equals a year. So they’re able to really earn more credits and we’re able to offer more electives which appeals to a lot of the students.”

Ballard said by offering more electives, the district hopes to capture students’ attention and decrease the dropout rate.

“We hope that it is going to decrease our dropout rate because there are more course offerings that will appeal to them,” she said.

Ballard said the district made the decision to offer block scheduling in an effort to prepare students for Common Core, which will go into effect in Mississippi in the 2014-2015 school year.

“The rule of thumb with Common Core is however much reading you do is how much writing you do, and so for the teachers to really give good feedback on writing — as much writing is going be required for Common Core — they really need more time in the classroom to have a complete cycle of instruction.

“It’s to give those teachers more time to do authentic instruction for Common Core to get to the deeper level that Common Core is requiring,” Ballard said.

In addition to preparing for Common Core, Ballard said one of the issues the district has been working on is the Literacy Promotion Act. Recently approved by the Mississippi Legislature, the Literacy Promotion Act, commonly referred to as the “Third Grade Gateway,” dictates that if children are not reading on their proper reading level by third grade, they will be held behind.

“It does not go into effect this coming school year but we’re pretending like it’s going to.

“We’re going to really start monitoring our K 1 and K 2 and trying to get them up and ready for next year and grow them as much as we can so that (when) it does go into effect the next year, we’ll already have those students identified,” Ballard said.