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Schools invited to participate in pilot program

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Six Mississippi schools districts have been invited to participate in a pilot program designed to give students options other than the traditional four-year track to a diploma.

The schools are Corinth, Tupelo, Jackson, Madison County, Gulfport and Clarksdale.

Corinth schools Superintendent Lee Childress tells The Daily Corinthian that the Mississippi Department of Education is enthusiastic about the program. He said the state is offering assurances that it will work to remove barriers to the program, such as funding and agreements that would be necessary with the community colleges.

“What they are proposing is modeled after what many countries are doing all across the world,” Childress told the local school board this week. “Many countries have changed the way they are providing a high school education, but we’re still providing a high school education the way you and I were educated.”

Childress said the program is on a fast track with implementation targeted for the 2011-2012 school year.

A consortium of 12 states — the New England states and several others, including Mississippi, Kentucky, New Mexico and Arizona — are involved in the project. The Gates Foundation is providing $3.5 million to evaluate the model.

Childress said the system, based on the result of an exam taken at the end of the 10th grade, would give a student several options. A student making a score showing the equivalent knowledge of four years of high school study could take that certificate or diploma — the terminology is yet to be decided — and enter a community college program.

Childress said the student could also go straight into the work force. The student could also do dual enrollment, taking some high school courses along with community college courses.

Students interested in attending a four-year college institution would take the upper division of the exam. The system could benefit advanced students who lack only a couple of required credits by the time they reach their senior year and are not being challenged, Childress said.

Apart from those options, a traditional four-year diploma would continue to be available.

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