Thanks to a new pilot program, those freshmen will have the ability to enroll in courses that could allow them to graduate as sophomores or to earn college credit while remaining on campus as juniors and seniors.
The district has been invited to participate in the high school redesign pilot program by the Mississippi Department of Education. Tupelo's school board approved the district's participation in the program with a 4-0 vote at Tuesday's regular meeting. Board member John Nail was absent.
"I think it is tremendous," Superintendent Randy Shaver said. "It is such a tool to help our kids to graduate or to graduate with college credit."
The program still must be approved by the state's Board of Education, which is expected to discuss the program in January. State board member Claude Hartley was at Tuesday's meeting and expressed his support for the program.
The Department of Education invited seven Mississippi districts, including Tupelo and Corinth, to participate in the program, which is expected to begin this fall.
Corinth Superintendent Lee Childress said Tuesday that the district's board has not yet formally approved Corinth's participation but that he expects it to.
"We are in the process of getting ready to finalize our participation," Childress said.
The program would be optional for high school freshman, who would take two years of courses in English, science, social studies, math and a fine art. After those two years, those students would take a board exam that is aligned with international norms.
Students who pass that board exam would have four options:
- Enroll in an upper division of the program with college preparatory classes
- Graduate and enroll in a community college
- Graduate and move to the workforce
- Remain in the program to further sharpen their skills.
Students also would have the option to stay in traditional four-year high school classes or to return to those classes at any time.
Shaver said the district will likely begin the program this fall with 32-35 freshmen. It will cost about $32,000, including the cost of test materials and teacher training.
The curriculum would be based on international standards and would be designed to better prepare students for success in college.
For instance, those who pass their board exams would be able to enroll in community college courses without the need for remediation.
Students who pass the board exam and enroll in the upper-division college preparatory classes would have the opportunity to earn college credit.
Tupelo High School Principal Lee Stratton and the chairs of the school's English, science, social studies and math departments spoke in favor of the program at Tuesday's school board meeting.
Shaver said the new program would particularly appeal to higher-academic achievers, who would be pushed with more rigorous classes and would be better prepared for college, and to those students who drop out of school early because they are bored.
This program, and the opportunity to graduate early, could provide extra motivation, he said.
"We feel the students we will capture are the potential high performers who have never been engaged learners," he said.
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or email@example.com.