JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has launched the Mississippi Innovation Lab Network (MS-ILN) that encourages a network of A- and B-rated school districts to work together to identify, test, and implement student-centered approaches to learning that will be shared statewide to help transform education in Mississippi.
The student-centered approaches to learning include personalized, competency-based, and anytime/anywhere learning.
“Advancements in technology, coupled with evolving workforce demands, require students be given opportunities to achieve at their own pace, whether advancing beyond standard mastery or requiring additional support to achieve proficiency. MDE developed this project to move Mississippi ahead and to provide opportunities for more districts to implement strategies that prepare all students to be college and career ready,” said Jean Massey, executive director of the Office of Secondary Education.
The school districts selected to participate in the network include the Districts of Innovation that will serve as exemplars for other districts. The current Districts of Innovation are Baldwyn, Booneville, Corinth, Grenada, Gulfport, and Vicksburg-Warren. The school districts that have joined the MS-Innovation Lab Network are:
• Rankin County
• Pontotoc County
• Hinds County
• George County
• Jefferson Davis County
• Starkville-Oktibbeha County
• New Albany
• South Tippah
• Neshoba County
Districts will collaborate in learning communities to implement policies and improve practices to support underserved students. Membershipin the network has no cost associated with it but does require a commitment from district superintendents, administrators, teachers, and local school boards to join and receive support for their work.
“Mississippi’s network provides opportunities for districts to share best practices and to innovate in ways that will better prepare our students for the future,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “We look forward to discovering effective approaches to student learning that meets their needs.”
The MS-ILN process also willbe used to identify future Districts of Innovation participants. Legislation passed in 2015 allows districts to apply for District of Innovation status, which enables them to request exemptions from state regulations to achieve performance targets.
A district that wishes to be identified as a District of Innovation will be invited to participate in the MS-ILN one year prior to making application for District of Innovation status. This one-year period allows collaboration with participating Districts of Innovation and the MDE to provide technical assistance to the district and to evaluate the district’s readiness to be titled a District of Innovation.
The networks will participate in innovative strategies and models that have been shown to be effective in other districts or states or new innovative strategies or models created by the district or school. Innovative strategies may include:
1) Moving to a competency-based learning system, including the development of alternate methods for delivering curriculum or for measuring mastery of standards and skills;
2) Creating multiple pathways to graduation, including rigorous career and technical pathways, apprenticeships, early college high schools, early graduation options, or digital learning opportunities;
3) Rethinking the times and places that learning occurs, including lengthening or flexing the school day or school year, moving learning beyond the traditional school building, or incorporating expanded learning opportunities;
4) Implementing forms of school governance that include the engagement of teachers, parents, and community members;
5) Designing learning environments that include student input in the guidance and career development for K-12 students;
6) Creating additional job classifications for certified or classified staff beyond the traditional roles of teacher and instructional assistants and compensating staff on schedules other than single salary schedules.