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Mississippi schools show a trend of continuous improvement



Photo from the Vicksburg Warren School District website

The Mississippi Department of Education announced that the state’s public and public charter schools are advancing toward an overall goal of achieving C or higher ratings for all schools and districts in the state.

For the 2018-19 school year, nearly three quarters of the state’s schools and 70 percent of its districts will be rated C or higher when the State Board of Education approves accountability scores later this week.

“The grades show a three-year trend of continuous school and district improvement,” MDE said in a statement released today, Sept. 17.

The board set its goal In 2016, and since that time, the percentage of schools meeting the goal has risen from 62.4 percent in 2016 to 73.5 percent in 2019. The number of schools and districts earning an A has more than doubled, with A-rated schools jumping from 88 to 196, and A-rated districts increasing from 14 to 31.

The percentage of districts meeting the SBE goal has increased from 62.2 percent to 69.7 percent since 2016.

Among the 140 districts and five charter schools, 46 increased their letter grade from 2017-18 to 2018-19. Among the state’s 877 schools, 258 increased their letter grade from last year.

“Mississippi schools and districts are achieving at higher levels each year, and their grades demonstrate how well they are serving the children in their classrooms,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, in the release. “I am extremely proud of our students and their families and every teacher, staff member, and leader who work hard every day in our schools and districts across the state. Together, families, communities and educators are preparing students to be successful in college, the workforce and life.”

The percentage of Mississippi schools and districts rated D or F dropped significantly since 2016, from 37.6 percent to 26.2 percent for schools, and 37.8 percent to 29.0 percent for districts.

The unofficial ratings show that the Vicksburg Warren School District has retained its D rating from the 2017-2018 academic year. Schools in the district are rated as follows:

Bovina Elementary SchoolA
Warrenton Elementary SchoolB
Redwood Elementary SchoolB
Bowmar Avenue SchoolB
Beechwood Elementary SchoolC
South Park Elementary SchoolC
Sherman Ave ElementaryC
Warren Central High SchoolD
Vicksburg High SchoolD
Vicksburg IntermediateD
Warren Central IntermediateD
Dana Road ElementaryD
Warren Central Junior High SchoolD
Vicksburg Junior High SchoolF

Mississippi’s A-F accountability system evaluates how well schools and districts are performing each year. Accountability grades are based, in part, on how well students perform and progress from year to year on the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program tests for English language arts and Mathematics. These tests are aligned to the Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards and are administered annually to students in grades 3 through 8 and in high school. Overall, students showed statistically significant gains in both ELA and Mathematics from 2017-18 to 2018-19.

“Student achievement on MAAP reached an all-time high in 2018-19, because teachers are challenging students to achieve at a higher level,” Wright said. “I am a firm believer that students can and will achieve more when they are challenged and supported by great teachers who help them meet higher expectations.”

The statewide district and school grade comparisons from 2017-18 to 2018-19 are as follows:

*Two new charter schools that opened in 2018-19 do not yet have enough data to earn a grade.

Among the 31 A-rated districts, nine districts earned an A for the first time in 2018-19:

The accountability system places an emphasis on the progress students make in ELA and Mathematics from year to year, particularly the lowest performing 25% of students, and factors in how well students perform on science tests in grades 5 and 8, and the progress that English Learners (EL) make toward achieving proficiency in the English language. Accountability grades for high schools and districts include the four-year graduation rate, student performance on Biology, U.S. History and ACT tests, and student participation and performance in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement and dual credit/dual enrollment courses.


Hinds CC names Mark Chaney 2019 Alumnus of the Year



Mark Chaney, Hinds CC Alumnus of the Year for 2019

Mark Chaney’s devotion to Hinds Community College started early and continues strong today.

Chaney, who has been named the 2019 Alumnus of the Year, is a native of Bovina in Warren County. He transferred to the University of Mississippi at the end of his second year without technically graduating from Hinds.

He was so determined to have a Hinds credential, however, that he transferred credits back so the record would reflect his Hinds degree. Although that’s common today, in 1950 it was unusual.

His devotion is especially remarkable for someone who didn’t have the best start at Hinds. He went out for football but damaged his knee and immediately ended any hopes of a football career.

“But they were so nice at Hinds to provide me an additional half scholarship by letting me clean up after classes. I was so lucky that the area they assigned me to clean up was the home [economics] department,” Chaney said. That job also made him popular in Shangri-La, the residence hall where he lived, because it meant extra food for him and his buddies.

Despite going home most weekends to help on the family farm, Chaney was involved in campus activities. He was vice president of his class. He spent two years in the International Relations Club sponsored by the legendary coach Jobie Harris, including serving as club president.

“That was one of the things I thoroughly enjoyed, being with him and being active in the club,” Chaney said. He was among delegates of the club who represented the college at a convention in Atlanta, an experience he still relishes.

After finishing an education degree from Ole Miss, Chaney taught and coached one year in Durant, Miss. Both of his parents, Mark and Maud Chaney, were educators so the field was a natural for him. But in trying to provide for his growing family, Chaney decided to go into a new line of work with oil and gas companies.

He was the district marketing manager for Citgo Oil Co. for 15 years, working mostly in Florida. “I kept asking to be transferred to Mississippi. My parents were getting older and needed help on the farm,” he said.

He landed in Columbus, Miss., for a few years before he decided he needed to return home for good. He got a job with Lion Oil Co. and moved his family back to Bovina.

Back home again, he entered public service. He was elected to the Warren County School Board, then to a term as a state representative, from 1972-1976, and then as chancery clerk of Warren County, serving from 1976-1984.

He later worked as an attendance counselor for the Vicksburg Warren School District, was a licensed real estate broker and a cattle farmer. But one constant throughout his years has been involvement in Hinds Community College.

As a state representative, he worked on legislation to help with establishing vocational-technical programs.

As chancery clerk, “I had the opportunity to help Hinds a lot, keeping up with county funds that went to Hinds. We were always able to keep those invested,” he said.

His greatest contribution to the college may have come when he was vice president of the Warren County School Board before the county and city school districts merged in 1987. In this role, Chaney was instrumental in helping to secure the land where the Hinds Vicksburg-Warren Campus now sits. He was among bidders for a piece of foreclosed land that was up for auction. The board authorized a certain amount, but a counter-bidder pushed the bids over that limit.

Representatives continued bidding, however, and got the land. “We topped it. We were over the amount that we were authorized to bid,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the fact that we went above what we were authorized to do, none of this would be here.”

Since then, he has served terms as president of the Hinds Alumni Association, established a scholarship in his parents’ names and continued to attend many Hinds Community College events, including the annual 50+ lunch and the Clyde Donnell and Othel Mendrop Memorial Golf Tournament.

“Mr. Chaney still comes to campus to see the progress we are making for the Vicksburg-Warren community,” said Vice President Marvin Moak. “His passion for the community and his dedication for the campus are simply unbelievable. He has always worked to ensure the campus is serving the community needs.

“For the Chaney family, education at Hinds Community College, and the Vicksburg-Warren Campus he helped establish, are so important. Both his son, David, and daughter-in-law, Kay, dedicated their careers to teaching on it.”

Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse has known Chaney since he was in the Legislature.

“Mark Chaney has been, as long as I can remember, very supportive of Hinds. He is very deserving of this award,” Muse said. “He has exhibited that love for Hinds through his family and through a scholarship he has funded. When we started going to the Board of Supervisors asking them to levy the millage for the new George-Oakes Building in Vicksburg, he was right there in the middle of it, supporting it.”

In May, the auditorium in the Loviza Building on the Hinds Vicksburg-Warren Campus was named in his honor.

“Hinds has done a lot for me, and I like to return the favor,” he said. “You don’t do things for recognition. You try to do it for education, for something that would be worthwhile for the community,” Chaney said.

“I’m certainly blessed to be considered or that Hinds would bestow on me.”

Chaney will be honored at halftime during Hinds’ homecoming football game Oct. 3 when the school plays Coahoma Community College. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. An Alumni Recognition Dinner honoring him as Alumnus of the Year, the Alumni Service Award recipient and the 2019 Hinds Sports Hall of Fame inductees will begin at 5 p.m. at Mayo Fieldhouse.

Also featured at halftime will be the Homecoming Court, crowing of the queen and performances of the Hinds Community College Eagles band, Hi-Steppers and Alumni Hi-Steppers at Gene Murphy Field at Joe Renfroe Stadium in Raymond.

For tickets or more information, contact Libby Posey at 601-857-3350.

On Oct. 5, the Alumni Tennis Tournament will be held at the Cleon McKnight Tennis Center on the Raymond Campus. Play begins at 9 a.m. For information, contact Jacki Millet at 601-857-3564.


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Hinds CC and partners in education making a difference for three in Coding Academy



HInds CC Coding Academy students Andrew Hearn, Jarrod Bruce and Cian Miller.

Hinds Community College’s partnerships in education are proving successful for three students in the college’s Coding Academy.

Andrew Hearn, seated

Andrew Hearn

Andrew Hearn, Cian Miller and Jarrod Bruce are enrolled in the computer coding program, housed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, after having graduated from Warren Central High School.

The trio chose to be in the Animation and Simulation Design program at Hinds after participating in the dual-credit Career and Technical Education program in high school, part of a partnership between Hinds and the Vicksburg Warren School District.

“In my final year of junior high school, I wanted to start high school doing something that could get me into the field of video game design,” Hearn said. “My mother said that if I wanted to do this, I needed to get in touch with my counselor so they could talk to the high school counselor. My first day at Warren Central High School I got on the Vo-Tech bus and instantly felt like I was on my way to something great for me and my future.”

During their first year in the CTE program, they worked with a variety of software such as Adobe Photoshop, Blender, GameMaker and Audacity. In the second year, they were introduced to C++ programming.

Cian Miller, seated

Cian Miller

“This was the most challenging part of the entire two years that I was in the class,” Hearn said. “I struggled with computer programming for months until I realized that I was over-thinking. I finally realized I have a set list of commands that have their own individual function.”

Students in the Coding Academy, now in its second year, have the potential of employment at ERDC when they finish the program. “Now I am working in the classroom getting real-world experience while also getting certified in programming languages such as HTML, Python, Java Script and SQL,” Hearn said.

Miller became interested in 3-D modeling while in the Simulation and Animation program. “I wanted to make a career out of it,” Miller said. “So my senior year I took an engineering class and got to make 3-D designs of things, such as a bridge.”

For Bruce, the partnerships between Hinds, ERDC and the school district will also lead to a career. “From an interest in computers and video games, I have learned much from regular high school courses and the simulation class,” Bruce said. “This class will teach me how to code, and it will help my future.”

Jarrod Bruce, seated

Jarrod Bruce

The trio’s success made for a vital addition to the Vicksburg-Warren Campus’ CTE curriculum.

“They are fine examples of a class I’ve found to have natural gifts for coding, strong enough work ethics to get the job done and the desire to help fellow classmates when they are in need,” said Jim Dismuke, coding academy instructor.

All are on track to graduate from Hinds in 2020, along with numerous fellow CTE students with similar stories to tell. Their instructors agree they are examples of how education partnerships in Vicksburg work for the community’s young people.

“Coding powers computers,” said Robert Lord, instructor in the Animation and Simulation Design program at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus. “Computers are so important to many aspects of our careers and personal lives. I know they will do well in the Coding Academy and am eager to see the paths they follow at the completion of the academy.”

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Mississippi Supreme Court upholds constitutionality of public charter school funding



Photo by formulanone from Huntsville, United States - Mississippi State Supreme Court, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Verbatim release from the Mississippi Justice Institute:

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of public charter school funding, preserving the schools that have served as a lifeline to hundreds of Mississippi children in just a few short years.

“This ruling is a major victory for parents who simply want what every parent wants: the ability to choose the best possible education for their children,” said Aaron Rice, Director of the Mississippi Justice Institute. “We are happy for our clients and for every parent and student in Mississippi who will continue to have increased educational choices because of this ruling.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit in 2016 which could have shut down charter schools. The Mississippi Justice Institute intervened and represented three parents whose children attend charter schools.

The Court ruled that Mississippi’s Charter School Act of 2013 is constitutional. The Southern Poverty Law Center had argued that part of the Act’s funding mechanism was unconstitutional. That provision requires public schools to share the tax revenues collected for education with charter schools in their district, based on the number of students who attend those charter schools. The Court held that this funding mechanism was constitutional, because charter schools are public schools and are associated with the school district in which they are located.

“The parents are pleased that the Supreme Court has confirmed the authority of the legislature to provide different options to meet the educational needs of all Mississippi children,” said Mike Wallace, a Shareholder with Wise Carter who provided pro-bono counsel for charter school parents. “Mississippians should now continue to work with the legislature to develop new and creative programs so that parents can choose those that best serve their children.”

“I’m very excited about this decision,” Tiffany Minor, the mother of a student at Smilow Prep said.” It gives my daughter and other children the opportunity to choose what type of education they would like at what school they choose to go to. So I’m very excited. This was the best decision ever. I love it.”

In just a couple years, Tiffany has seen the change this new option provided for her daughter, Jalonda.

“When my daughter did a test during her first year at Smilow Prep as she was entering fifth grade, she was on a third grade reading level,” Tiffany said. “By the time she ended that school year and was getting ready to go to sixth grade she was on the actual six grade reading level. So she transformed three reading levels in one year from Smilow Prep. It’s helping her and she’s having fun while she’s making honor roll so I love it. It’s amazing to me.”

“Smilow Prep has helped me a lot since I’ve been in it and it actually makes me a better learner,” Jalonda said. “They give me extra help when I need it.”

Charter schools are public schools that are given freedom from some of the regulations placed on traditional public schools. They currently operate in over 40 states and the District of Columbia. If the Southern Poverty Law Center’s suit was successful at the Mississippi Supreme Court, Mississippi would be one of a small handful of states to not offer these innovate schools for children.

Ella Mae James has two children at Reimagine Prep, Laporcha and Jonathon.

“My children have been attending Reimagine Prep from when the school first opened,” Ella said. “And they have grown so much in their reading and math levels. They did it with the tutoring and the extra help they receive. And we just appreciate having this opportunity to give them that choice.”

The full ruling can be found here.

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