State board approves early graduation pilot

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

It appears that a new pilot program that could allow students to receive high school diplomas as sophomores will become a reality.
The Mississippi Board of Education unanimously approved the pilot program Friday.
The Tupelo and Corinth school districts are among seven in the state that the Mississippi Department of Education has invited to participate. School boards in both districts already have approved their district’s participation.
The program would be optional for high school freshmen, who would take two years of courses in English, science, social studies, math and a fine art. After two years, those students would take a board exam that is aligned with international norms.
Students who pass the board exam would have four options:
– Enroll in an upper division of the program with university preparatory classes.
– Graduate and enroll in a community college.
– Graduate and move to the work force.
– Remain in the program to further sharpen skills.
Students also would have the option to stay in the traditional four-year high school classes or to return to those classes at any time.
“I am extremely excited about it,” said state board member Claude Hartley of Tupelo. “All of the board members were excited about the possibilities it has for raising student achievement and reducing the dropout rate. It gives students more options.”
Tupelo Superintendent Randy Shaver and Corinth Superintendent Lee Childress each said they would begin the program this fall, likely with 32-35 freshmen.
“I think Tupelo is fortunate to be one of the schools to pilot,” Hartley said. “The board was forward looking in agreeing to pilot this.”
The MDE will need to adjust its school accountability model for students enrolled in the program. It also will host a meeting soon for other school districts interested in participating.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.