Thirty current fifth- and sixth-grade students held back at Armstrong Middle School and Overstreet Elementary may soon have an opportunity to return to their intended grades.
The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees approved measures to establish a pilot remediation program called Success Academy during a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.
The program is geared toward the district’s elementary and middle school students that have been retained for up to two years.
During the meeting, the board also created the position of “transition specialist” to facilitate student transition back to intended grade levels following graduation from the program.
Superintendent Lewis Holloway said the annual cost of the program is expected to be $140,000, which will be funded through Title I and district reserves.
The program would staff two classrooms of no more than 15 students with certified, part-time teachers at East Oktibbeha Alternative School. Teachers would provide intensive academic assistance to help students reach required grade-level achievements in reading and math for graduation back to their intended schools. Students would also receive support from the program’s transition specialist, who would coordinate with parents, teachers and school administrators to ensure student success following their graduation.
“I have some reservation about the program, especially because the only place we have to serve them is out at (East Alternative School), and it makes it look like an alternative school setting, but my take on this is we’ve got to try something to help these kids,” Holloway said. “If we do nothing, nothing would change.”
The program was developed by a focus group consisting of assistant superintendents David Baggett, Jody Woodrum and Toriano Holloway, and administrators from AMS, Overstreet and East Alternative schools.
Baggett said qualification criteria, approved by the board, target students most likely to succeed. Students must be behind no more than two grade levels in math and reading measurements and must not have absentee or behavior problems, he said.
“There’s a stringent guideline that they have to go through and then through a committee as to whether or not they can be entered into the program,” Baggett said.
Baggett said he approached qualified students about the program who were eager to enroll and motivated by the desire to be with their peers.
“It’s obvious that they’re older than everybody else, so we felt that if we could help get these students caught up through their own work and us putting interventions in place, they could be successful and get caught up,” he said.
Baggett said by addressing academic performance early, the Success Academy could potentially mitigate the need for the remediation of older middle school students through the district’s other remediation program.
“Ideally the eighth grade Accelerators program that we’re currently using — hopefully if we can catch these kids at this age level — we will phase that out,” he said.
Baggett said the Success Academy program could be in place as early as the 2017 spring semester.
In other business Tuesday, the board amended a number of school district policies because of change to state requirements. Changes to election policy stated that new board members representing Oktibbeha County outside the city limits will be determined by election, and members representing the city will be appointed by majority vote of the Starkville Board of Alderman following the terms of current board members. Policy now also requires the board to approve school calendars annually.