$900,000 grant establishes STAR Academy

With the help of Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) the Scott County School District has secured a $900,000 grant for a child intervention program that helps students who may have fallen behind in certain areas in school.

Last Friday, Morton High School held a ribbon cutting ceremony introducing the STAR Academy Program. This interactive program is a “drop-out” prevention” and “catch-up” program that was implemented in the spring of 2018.

Dr. John-Mark Cain, Deputy Superintendent with the Scott County School District, says the initiative consists of students previously retained in any grade level in their academic career, focusing on eighth grade students. The technology driven program sits a 20 student class.

“The program utilizes hands-on application and problem-solving strategies,” Cain said. “Everything is technology driven, it is group-based, and it is all about collaboration with your peers.” Cain also said that it is a flipped classroom setting. “The students do not just sit and get. They are actively learning.”

Even though the program will not be in full effect until next year Students like Cole Franklin are reaping the benefits of the STAR Academy right now. Franklin says that the program is more hands on, “I really like the class setting it is a lot easier to pay attention than sitting in regular English class.”

Da’Myshza Ragsdale another English student said, “I can concentrate better in this English class setting than in the regular class. I pay attention more because there are less students in the classroom.” Ragsdale also said that her grades have improved substantially.

The students enroll in eighth grade level courses first semester and ninth grade level courses during the second semester. If students pass all prerequisites, they have the opportunity of entering the high school as a 10th grader the following year, joining their original peers.

“We all want our students to graduate and go on to college or into the work force, and we have seen this program help students. We want that for Scott County, for the Morton community. We want the graduation rate to go up,” Cain said. “The district has been provided with a wonderful opportunity to reach out and become hope for particular students who may be at risk of becoming another statistic.”

According to Cain, with the three year STAR Academy grant program, at the end of the third year, all equipment will become the property of the Scott County School District, which includes  furniture, computers, tablets and curriculum resources.

There are four STAR Academies currently in the state, located in the Wayne County, Vicksburg-Warren Central, George County, and the Meridian School District.

Representative Tom Miles said that having this opportunity allows lives to be changed forever. “There will be others across the state that will follow the example that Morton High School is utilizing with this wonderful program.”

STAR Academy representative Virginia Robinson said that National statistics say, if a child is in the eighth grade and he or she does not make it to the ninth grade the first time, “over 85 percent of them will drop out nationwide.”

Statistics show that since 2005, there has been an 83 percent overall completion rate of all the STAR Academies and the program is nationally recognized as one of the most effective dropout prevention solutions in the country.

The STAR Academy will be housed at Morton High School next school year, eligible eighth graders will be contacted and registered this spring for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year.