Changes mark new school year

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Buses and backpacks are a sign that another school year is upon us.

AP file photo

Buses and backpacks are a sign that another school year is upon us.

Students across Mississippi are headed back to school for the 2016-2017 year, and a few things are different this go-round:

  • 2016-2017 marks the first year of the Computer Science for Mississippi pilot program in 34 school districts. Sixty-eight teachers from 50 high schools and 167 K-5 teachers from 106 elementary schools will teach computer science content to students.
  • This will be the second year of the Mississippi Assessment Program state test. The MAP test measures student progress in grades 3 through 8 with annual tests in English Language Arts and Mathematics, along with high school Algebra I and English II. Because the state has used different assessments over the last three years, this will be the first year to yield results able to be compared to last year’s results.
  • A total of 425 public school students are eligible to use the state’s special needs scholarship accounts at private schools this year. 2016-2017 will be the second year for the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act, which provides more than $6,500 for each student to use for private school tuition, fees and other services.
  • The state’s third charter school, Smilow Prep, is opening in Jackson. The two existing charter schools — Midtown Public Charter School and ReImagine Prep, also in Jackson — are each adding another grade this year.
  • Beginning this school year, students in districts rated C, D or F by the state Education Department are eligible to apply to attend charter schools in school districts they don’t live in. Senate Bill 2161 was passed by the Legislature this session and went into effect July 1.
  • Cleveland School District is preparing to comply with a federal order requiring the district to resolve racial disparities in in four of its schools — Cleveland High, East Side High, D.M. Smith Middle and Margaret Green Middle schools. According to a timeline submitted by the district in court, the district this year will form a multiracial advisory panel to help develop academic and curricular planning and to assess and fix facilities needs for the consolidated schools. The goal is for the new consolidated middle school and high school to open in the 2017-2018 school year.

You may have read quit a bit about several education changes passed by the Legislature earlier this year, but many do not go into effect until at the 2017 school year or after. These include:

  • Requiring all school superintendents to be appointed rather than elected. After years of discussion, the Legislature passed a bill this session requiring all school superintendents to be appointed as of January 2019.
  • School district consolidations. Continuing the trend of reducing the number of school districts in the state, lawmakers approved consolidating the Holmes County and Durant districts in 2018; the Winona and Montgomery districts in 2018; the Lumberton School District and adjoining districts in 2019; and the Leflore County and Greenwood districts in 2019.