Sale Elementary International Studies Magnet (Columbus) and Mississippi University for Women College of Education & Human Sciences

Duration of partnership: 3 years
564 volunteers
Impacts 400 students

Principal Nancy Bragg and International Baccalaureate Coordinator Kay Ellis have long had ideas about what learning should involve for the elementary students under their charge. In summer 2009, those ideas began to come together in a special way. The school had just been notified of its MDE Academic Watch Accountability status for the 2008-2009 academic year. Principal Bragg and her faculty had also accepted the challenge from Superintendent Del Phillips on two counts – they were declared an international studies magnet school, moving toward approval by the International Baccalaureate World Organization, and they had elected to participate in an extended school year calendar.

During this extended school year, they wanted to use Success Weeks, or the weeks between academic sessions, for both remediation and enrichment. A greater idea influencing their thoughts and decisions was that the students (88% of whom were eligible for free or reduced lunch) in their Title I school needed to experience learning outside their own school walls. This was their vision – to take their students out to experience the greater world.

Ideas began to form and they reached out to Sue Jolly-Smith, then Education Department Chair at Mississippi University for Women. Could they bring their enrichment students to the MUW campus for these Success Days and could MUW bring education majors to the Sale campus to reach out to work on remediation for those students who needed increased support?

As long as any of them could remember, the university and the Columbus schools had partnered in the preparation of future teachers, but this would involve something new. From that initial meeting in July 2009, the vision grew into reality when the first Sale Kids ‘N College group of 85 students came to the MUW campus in fall 2009. Now, three years later, on Feb. 13, 2012, and under the direction of now MUW Education Department Chair Monica Riley, a group of Sale Elementary kindergarten through 5th grade students will return to the MUW campus for the sixth consecutive semester of the partnership enrichment experience.

During the three years of partnership, some experiences have been continued and strengthened, while every semester, new experiences have been added. Both elementary students and university teacher candidates have been the beneficiaries, but the experience has been a shared one – among Sale students, faculty, administrators, parents, and among the MUW faculty in departments and colleges throughout the campus, the administration, and the undergraduate teacher education candidates.

Both entities of this partnership have gained significantly. University teacher candidates have learned that any school can use the resources they have to become a caring, attractive, supportive, and creative learning environment. They have experienced a supportive environment in which to practice the craft they‘ve been taught. The elementary students who have needed remediation have had increased one-on-one teaching and gained confidence and abilities through interaction with university teacher candidates who have come to their school.

During Success Weeks of enrichment, elementary students in grades K- 5 who are performing according to the most current measures, at or above their grade expectation, have come to the university campus. There, they have traveled around the world in small-group, interactive, week-long sessions with teams of dedicated first-semester senior year elementary education block teacher candidates.

Along the way, Sale enrichment students have definitely learned about their world, and even more about themselves. They‘ve reflected, improved their abilities to write and to express themselves, gained self confidence, and begun to question in new and different ways. As one of the Sale students said in a presentation, “Look out world, I‘m on my way!”

Activities

Success Week Enrichment Experiences for K-5 Sale Elementary students on MUW campus and Plymouth Bluff Center; activities aligned with the Mississippi Curriculum frameworks and are grade/ability level specific. Elementary school-based remediation work throughout the school year for students performing below grade level on current assessments.

Results

Performance Data, Accountability Ratings indicate overall improved student performance. MDE Accountability Status moved from “Academic Watch” to “High Performing.” Changed perceptions of the larger community about ability levels of elementary age students and particularly those who may come from different socioeconomic environments.