By Cedrick Gray
Special to The Mississippi Link
Recently the Mississippi Legislature took up the issue of school choice, which is meant to offer scholars and their families options including public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, virtual classrooms, private schools and homeschooling.
Jackson Public Schools has a long tradition of providing the citizens of Jackson with a myriad wonderful education choices. Our special programs are offered throughout our district and include the Academic and Performing Arts Complex, the Academies of Jackson, Advanced Placement, Arts Access, Ask for More Arts, Open Doors for gifted youth, International Baccalaureate, JROTC, Montessori and Strings in Schools.
Academic and Performing Arts Complex Program
The Academic and Performing Arts Complex, a magnet program, provides challenging coursework for students who are academically or artistically advanced. Instruction is offered in dance, piano, instrumental music, vocal music, theater and visual arts.
The Power APAC fourth and fifth grade academic program includes the district’s curriculum for math, science, social studies, and language arts. The APAC Secondary Academics program is offered at Bailey APAC Middle School and Murrah High School.
Academies of Jackson
The Academy Model is focused on Small Learning Communities centered on student advocacy and wraparound services designed to promote optimum success in the ninth grade. Research supports the fact that students who are successful during their ninth grade year are much more likely to graduate. A clear program of study based on rigor, relevance, and relationship will serve as the catalyst for a strong foundation in high school therefore increasing the likelihood that students will graduate.
Advanced Placement Program
The Advanced Placement program was designed by the national College Board to give high school students an opportunity to enroll in college-level courses during their junior and senior years in high school or even earlier. Because the Advanced Placement curriculum and exams are standardized nationwide, AP gives students an opportunity to complete coursework that is recognized by a majority of U.S. colleges and universities as a measure of a student’s ability to handle the rigors of college work.
Arts Access Program
Casey Elementary offers the Arts Access Program. Arts Access emphasizes the integration of the arts (music, dance, drama, and visual arts) into all aspects of a school’s curriculum. Increased test scores, as well as the development of self-esteem, are all nationally proven benefits of such a program. There are forms of art that are adaptable to all core curriculum including math, science, language arts, or physical education. The goal of Arts Access is not to develop performing artists but rather to enrich and enhance the academic learning of all students in all subject areas.
Ask for More Arts
Ask for More Arts emphasizes integrating arts education into regular instruction in the elementary classroom. Teachers at partner schools receive high-quality training in how to use the arts to teach core subjects such as reading, math, science, and social studies and how to connect learning for children across the curriculum. Integrating arts into classroom teaching creates hands-on, highly engaged work for children that makes learning relevant and motivates students to take ownership for their success.
Gifted Education Program – Open Doors
The Gifted Education Program, Open Doors, is for intellectually and academically gifted students. The purpose of the Open Doors program is to identify and serve gifted students in a uniquely qualitatively differentiated program not available in the regular classroom. Gifted education courses provide instruction in creativity, thinking skills, research, creative problem solving, communication, leadership, group dynamics, and self-knowledge in order to increase students’ skills and capacity for autonomous learning, metacognition, and self-understanding. Students enrolled in the district’s gifted education program have met criteria set by the state of Mississippi.
International Baccalaureate Program
The International Baccalaureate program is a transdisciplinary program of international education designed to foster the development of the whole child. The IB program is a program of international education designed to helps students develop the knowledge, understanding, attitudes and skills necessary to participate actively and responsibly in a changing world. The general objectives of the IB program are to provide students with a balanced education; to facilitate geographic and cultural mobility; and to promote international understanding through shared academic experiences. Currently, Jackson Public Schools is the only district in the state of Mississippi to offer the complete continuum grades K-12.
Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps
A major focus of our JPS JROTC is building leaders for life through science, technology, engineering and mathematics. JPS has more than 1,900 cadets enrolled this school year, which represents 25 percent of all high school students. More than 97 percent of our JROTC graduates received formal acceptance letters to post high school institutions of higher learning last school year. JPS JROTC graduates earned over $4 million in scholarship offers to various colleges and universities across the state and nation last school year.
Additionally, our cadets perform more than 30,000 hours of community service in the Jackson metro area each year. The cadets are truly making a positive impact as they perform community service with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Stop Hunger Now, the Veterans Administration Medical Center and many others in the Jackson metro area.
Montessori education offers multi-aged classrooms with a strong emphasis on interactive, self-directed learning for pre-school and elementary children. At the heart of Montessori education is the emphasis on developing a child’s sense of independence, responsibility and respect for others. Each class includes students from more than one age group. The scholars stay with the same teacher for three years.
Strings in the Schools Program
Students throughout the District have the benefit of free instruction from professional members of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra through the Strings in the Schools Program. Participation is open to students in grades 3-12. Elementary classes in violin, viola, cello, and bass meet twice weekly, while secondary classes meet daily. Twice a year the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra performs a concert for kindergarten students in grades 3-5. In addition, the symphony’s small ensembles – the Symphony Woodwind Quintet, the Brass Quintet, and the String Quartet – provide informal concerts to introduce elementary students to the instruments of the orchestra.
JPS provides the most diverse curriculum culture and best educational choices for all citizens.
Cedrick Gray is superintendent of Jackson Public School District.