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District unveils 'eMerge' initiative
by Jebb Johnston
Jan 23, 2014 | 57 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A new spin on education continues to emerge in the Corinth School District.

In a time in which the electronic task of “copy and paste” is considered an essential skill to know by third grade, a not-too-distant future may see every student using a tablet or laptop as they explore new avenues of learning — possibly including the study of multiple languages.

In an education summit on Thursday, the district unveiled its “eMerge” initiative — a range of programs including the recently announced early learning collaborative, a literacy initiative, curriculum enhancements and personalized learning, among others.

“We’re rolling in what has worked in the past with what is working now and what we think education needs to look like in the future,” said Superintendent Lee Childress.

Some of the initiatives are already happening in the classroom and some will launch in the next school year. He expects the changes to help motivate students.

“If you personalize that learning,” the superintendent said, “if you blend that learning and you put that technology component in, it will create a sense of excitement, a sense of motivation. And while I might have before said, ‘I cant do this,’ I will now say, ‘Wow, I can do it.’ And that’s exactly what we have seen with the Excellence for All program.”

The overall approach moves beyond merely acquiring knowledge and choosing an answer on a multiple-choice exam to actively applying what the student has learned.

“If I have a great deal of knowledge but can’t apply it, it really doesn’t matter,” said Childress.

The technology component that the district is considering would give every student an electronic device, either iPad or laptop, that can be used in the classroom with take-home opportunities for students in grades five through 12. Tablets would go to the lower grades, including prekindergarten.

Funding, as always, will be part of the equation.

“We think we can do most of what we are talking about and not raise taxes,” he said, but a fund may be established to help provide some expanded opportunities for teachers.

Curriculum changes in the works include launching Cambridge Primary for children ages five to 11, information communication and technology starter skills infused throughout pre-K through 12th grade, and increased access to world language enrichment programs.

The latter would expose young children to other languages with a goal of having them master not only English but two other languages by the time they reach eighth grade.

In a competitive world, “Look at how marketable that person will be,” said Childress.

Corinth’s former superintendent, O. Wayne Gann, now chairman of the Mississippi Board of Education, said he is excited by what is happening in the Corinth School District.

“Don’t ever take it for granted,” he told the gathered community members.

In his current role, he sees a breakdown in education in some districts that he said is “heartbreaking” and “ought to be criminal.”

Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey Wright also addressed those gathered at the CHS auditorium. She recited some of the alarming results for education in the state: ACT results in 2013 deemed only 12 percent of graduates are college ready in the four tested subject areas, compared to the national average of 25 percent; the 2013 Kids Count report found Mississippians are spending $35 million a year on remedial college classes that do not earn credits; and the 2014 Education Week Quality Counts report rated the state an “F” on both K-12 student achievement and spending on education.

“I believe we can do better … What I don’t want to forget is that our students can achieve greatness,” said Wright. “They are no less smart than any other student in any other state. What they need are teachers and school leaders who are well prepared for instruction and who hold our students accountable for learning.”

The summit is planned to be an annual event to bring community members together for a discussion of where the district stands and where it is headed.

(Editor’s note: Additional coverage of the summit will follow in future editions of the Daily Corinthian.)
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