Fostering innovation in education

At Unleash Mississippi, a panel focused on fostering innovation in the classroom talked about what we can do to better our local school systems in order for every child to have access to quality education.

Panelists included Scott Waller of Mississippi Economic Council, Dr. Donna Akers of Ivy Greene Academy, and Dr. Lee Childress of Corinth Public Schools.

Below are some of their comments from the discussion.

Dr. Lee Childress 

“We have been involved in many things looking at how we can reshape the educational experience for children.

“One of the things we implemented was a modified calendar, where children started school a little bit earlier, take breaks in October and March and then take about 5 weeks in the summer rather than 8-9 weeks.

“A second major change we made was adopting the Cambridge international assessment program rather the Mississippi Curriculum Framework in an effort to provide a more rigorous course of study for all of our children in our district.

“We believed that if we could use internationally benchmarked curriculum along with internationally benchmarked assessments, we could really begin to move the Corinth students forward.

“We have found if you put children in the rigorous course of study, they can achieve and perform at a higher level.

“In order to prepare and engage our community, two years prior to the board adopting that calendar, we provided a series of calendars for people to look at and we had conversations on why we needed to do that.

“As people saw how successful children were when they moved on, they began to say and see that what we were attempting to do and what we were doing was the right thing.

“The good thing about the Cambridge program right now is that teachers have that autonomy and the teacher becomes more of a facilitator and that the direction that we really need to look forward and move towards in my opinion. From pre-k through twelfth grade with the teacher becoming more of a facilitator and the children assuming responsibility for their learning with the teacher guiding them.

“We are working on opening up a new career tech center that we are funding solely with local money that we’re going to gear specific opportunities to the industries that we have in Corinth.

“I think we can balance that need for accountability and autonomy by looking at an accountability model that is not that is not solely based on tests, that looks at other measures that are important to the success of students and the success of schools.”

Scott Waller 


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“If we don’t have a strong education system preparing our students to move into the workforce and be successful then we’re not going to ever get to the point that we need.

“It allows the business communities to have an understanding of how they communicate with their local schools in order to see that the types of educational programs are actually putting people in positions to be successful.

“It’s that cooperation of helping each side understand what the need is so that we can get to that point.

“We have to understand what the needs are not only for the jobs we have now but the jobs that are going to be in the future.

“We have made some great strides in education, there is no question about that but for us to continue to make those strides we are going to have to think differently.

“Are we judging the success of our students in a way that really give us a clear picture? Is the accountability system set up in a way to allow us to focus on each individual child and that child’s need?

“We have got to be able to adjust our system so that we are reaching the potential of every student that’s out there.”

Dr. Donna Akers 

“Acton Academy is an international organization, there are about 300 schools worldwide, and we are the only one in the state of Mississippi. What makes Acton Academy and Ivy Greene unique is we have really turned education upside down.

“Our philosophy is that we have given the learners the leadership role, we step back and we are guides. We don’t teach, we don’t stand in from of a class, we don’t answer questions, they have to find out the answers on their own and it helps them become independent people.

“One of the main focuses of Ivy Greene is to help all of our students find their calling.

“We design quests in which students are able to work collaboratively and independently to learn more about what their skills and gifts are so we can point them, help them, guide them to where they want to be.

“Apprenticeship program is one thing that I really think we need to work on in Mississippi is helping students to be able to learn that way.

“If people are interested in starting a school like they you want to find a mentor and a support group. It’s important to surround yourself with people that will help you and have a good solid base of founding families that are all on the same page with you.”