New technology, new textbooks and a consulting firm are helping the Columbus Municipal School District implement a series of changes that seek to prepare the district’s students to be successful in the 21st century.
The “Pathways to Success” program at CMSD allows students to customize their education to their own interests by selecting a particular endorsement track when entering high school. Columbus High School students, beginning with this year’s freshman class, will be able to choose from five courses of study — STEM; business and industry; arts and humanities; public services; and multi-disciplinary — and when they graduate, they will receive a certificate acknowledging the emphasis they chose. Students can switch endorsements throughout high school.
To implement the new curriculum, CMSD enlisted the help of The Bailey Group, a Ridgeland-based consulting firm.
CMSD Superintendent Dr. Philip Hickman said the group is helping the district vertically align their language arts and mathematics subject areas. The consultants also coach teachers on best practice education methods.
Hickman said the consultants will help design and implement the curriculum with a team of the district’s top teachers, including grade-level and department chairs, for the first 12 weeks of the school year. CMSD has paid The Bailey Group $80,700 since July 1, according to district officials.
CMSD has worked with The Bailey Group before. In 2010, they consulted at Sale Elementary school and helped the school go from being ranked 146th out of 394 Mississippi elementary schools to 40th in 2013. The group also consulted for Lowndes County School District from 2011-2013, when they helped raise West Lowndes High School raise average math and reading scores more than 10 percentage points, according to Bailey’s website.
Hickman said the new curriculum uses $600,000 worth of material the district purchased from McGraw Hill.
About half of the McGraw Hill material is digital, and is used by CMSD elementary students on iPads and in computer labs throughout the elementary in middle schools. Elementary students received iPads in the classroom at a 2:1 ratio at the beginning of the year. CMSD is awaiting a shipment of MacBooks for high school freshman.
“Our style of education is a 21st century model,” Hickman said. “You will see our kids learning at a high level.”
“You don’t just sit there and go from chapter one to chapter 30,” he said. “That’s what we did in the old days.”
The superintendent said the district will be opening its doors to allow the public to come and see what is going on in the schools on a day-to-day basis toward the middle of the school year.
The new curriculum and modern teaching methods are vastly different from the way many adults learned in school, but Hickman said the methods are based on research and that he is confident in the job his staff is doing.
“This year our teachers are doing a better job than ever before,” he said.
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