TPSD program focuses on struggling students

TUPELO – The Tupelo Public School District is developing a new program for sixth- to ninth-grade students who are two or more years behind their peers academically.
Students in the new high school advancement academy would be brought together in an environment where they would receive intensive instruction in language arts, math, social studies and science in order to help their transition to high school.
They also would take classes in health and physical education.
Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill said at Tuesday’s school board meeting that the academy would particularly focus on preparing students for subject area tests in biology and algebra. Those two subjects consistently hold students back.
The high school advanced academy would replace the core program at the Fillmore Center, which currently offers similarly struggling students extra instruction in core classes.
Hill said it would be beneficial to move those students out of the Fillmore Center, which also serves as the district’s alternative school for students with behavior problems.
“It needs to be a separate academy from those who are there purely for behavioral issues,” Tupelo Superintendent Randy Shaver said.
The program’s aim is to allow students who are behind to recover courses so they do not feel alienated and drop out. It is designed to help students graduate from high school within a time-frame that is in line with their peers.
“We need to take them out of the Fillmore Center because of the stigma and prepare them so they can graduate in a timely manner,” Hill said.
Students would remain in the program for at least one year and until they caught back up to grade level in all subjects. They also would receive credits before they enter high school.
However, the plan is to develop the academy into a “middle college” where students can stay in the program as they complete work toward a diploma.
“I think it is a great approach,” school board President Mike Clayborne said. “We need to be thoughtful in how we address the needs of different students.”
The goal is to begin the academy this summer. Hill said this year about 30 to 50 students would qualify for the academy.
The district is researching who will staff the program and where it will be located. The ideal is a 10-1 student-teacher ratio.

Contact Chris Kiefffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal