Holmes TYCAM Leadership Positions and National Science Foundation Grant

Holmes TYCAM Leadership Positions and National Science Foundation Grant

When the Two-Year College English Association of Mississippi held its annual conference on Sept. 21, Holmes Community College Goodman campus professors Jessica Brown, William C. Moorer and LaShonda Levy accepted leadership positions with the association. Brown and Moorer will serve two-year terms as co-chairs, and Levy will serve as Holmes’ representative on the executive committee.

TYCAM, a Two-Year College English Association-Southeast affiliate and part of the National Council of Teachers of English, provides resources to help further English teaching methods and practices in Mississippi’s community colleges. Presidents of those schools and the Mississippi State Board of Community and Junior colleges support it.

In their positions as co-chairs, Brown and Moorer will have the responsibility of planning and running TYCAM conferences and textbook publications. Levy will serve as the liaison between Holmes’ English faculty and TYCAM, and will also work with the executive committee to run the annual conferences.

Brown, Moorer and Levy teach composition, as well as developmental English and reading at Holmes. Brown, co-chair of the college’s English department, also teaches American literature. Moorer, who also teaches creative writing, is the director of the Goodman Writing Center and has served as Holmes’ TYCAM representative on the executive committee since 2012. Besides composition and developmental English and reading, Levy teaches African American literature.

For more information, visit holmescc.edu.

Four State Universities to Share $20 Million NSF Grant

Jackson State University announced on Sept. 19 that it will be partnering with Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi to establish the Center for Emergent Molecular Optoelectronics, an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional materials research program. MSU will serve as the project’s administrative lead, and USM will serve as the science lead.

The center will focus on collaborative research in optoelectronics, energy and biotechnology, especially in relation to the study of organic semiconductors, or solid, nonmetallic materials that exhibit electrical conductivity.

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Plugging Kids into Mental Health

Plugging Kids into Mental Health

Sabrina Vance, the director of NFusion Metro, hopes the youth mental-health program model she runs will expand to surrounding counties to serve more youth.

On a sticky and still June weekday, kids trickled into the cool, air-conditioned room on the second floor of New Horizon Church that smelled like homemade enchiladas. Some had swimsuits on under their clothes and carried backpacks with towels. It was a pool day.

To an outsider, this could be any community summer camp or school program—but it is much more. NFusion Metro is a community-based mental-health-care program primarily for ages 11 to 18 years old in the Jackson area.

During the summer, counselors are doing themed weeks for their lesson time. On June 8, the “Around the World” theme was focused on Mexico. NFusion staff made enchiladas and virgin margaritas for the students to supplement their bag lunches and engage them in the lesson. After lunch the students went to swim at the community pool and then came back for group or individual therapy.

NFusion Metro differs from regular therapy for youth largely due to the environment. No part of the program’s rented space on the second floor of New Horizon Church feels like a doctor’s office. A long, open hallway connects staff offices. Counselors, whom the organization calls clinical care coordinators, share office space, and printed-out selfies adorn their doors.

“What we’re trying to do is have a non-traditional approach to therapy,” NFusion Metro Program Director Sabrina Vance told the Jackson Free Press in February. “There is such a stigma regarding mental health, so the reason why we’re not at the community mental-health center is because this age we work with—that population—they don’t want anyone to know that they’re receiving services. …

“We’re trying to provide a stigma-free environment, and that’s why we’re here at New Horizon Church.”

The advantage of a program like NFusion Metro, Shakena Lee-Bowie, one of the counselors at NFusion Metro says, is that she can do non-traditional therapy. Vance said some young people come to the program through referrals from Hinds Behavioral Health Services or Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center. Other times, families find the program through word-of-mouth or another doctor’s referral.

‘It Caught Me Off Guard’

Evandia Woods remembers sitting in the room with her son, Von’Tavius, during a regular doctor checkup and was stunned to hear his affirmative answers to questions about thinking of harming himself.

“It caught me off guard,” Woods told the Jackson Free Press in February. “I was thankful because I had no idea. … (He) went day-by-day just happy and doing things like he normally (would), so I had no idea.”

The doctor referred her son to NFusion Metro, and Woods has seen dramatic changes in his behavior and their relationship since then. She said her son was not a big socializer before starting the program, but now that he has been in it for more than a year, he looks forward to interacting with his peers there.

“He comes every day that he can,” Woods said. “It was real friendly and open; they made us feel like we were welcome.”

When a family signs up to be a part of the system of care, the child, guardian, and counselor sit at the table and decide on what boundaries and care are necessary. Youth get individual and group therapy sessions as a part of the program, but they also have access to their counselor more directly. NFusion accepts all insurance, including Medicaid, and the program currently runs through a federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant.

Parents and guardians get plugged into their child’s mental health care at NFusion, too. The program hosts nights specifically for parents to help break down the stigma of mental illness and bridge communication gaps.

At Their Level

Nadia Snyder has struggled with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder and got in trouble for acting out in school during middle school. She went to Hinds Behavioral Health for services, but at some point, her health-care coverage cut out, and she fell into a gap during middle school. When she was referred to NFusion Metro, she was nervous.

“I don’t know these people. How can I relate to these people?” she recalls thinking when she first started.

Bowie, Snyder’s care coordinator, agreed that Snyder should stick with it. She had a busy senior year. She was working two jobs, participated in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and was expected to help at home as the only child still living there. She came to the program when she could. Eventually, Snyder took a break from working and was able to start coming to group more.

“It helps me getting along with people because I’m really not a people person,” Snyder told JFP.

Snyder, who is 18 and recently graduated from Forest Hill High School, says NFusion Metro is different than other therapies she has gone through. She can text Bowie and keep her updated on how she is doing at school or work.

“Because we do nontraditional therapy, she will text me about issues that she has … and she’ll tell me how she handled them in a positive way instead of snapping off or some of the old behaviors,” Bowie said. “So she’ll text me and say, ‘This is how I corrected it or chose to ignore it.'”

The program has eased tensions in Snyder and her mother’s relationship, Snyder said, and she helps out a lot more at home. Bowie attended Snyder’s graduation from Forest Hill High School, and Snyder plans to attend a local junior college. In the meantime, she can still come to group and individual sessions at NFusion Metro because the program can serve youth up to 26 years old.

Vance is focused on making the program sustainable in the coming months, so it can continue after 2020 when the grant funds run out. Currently, the program is capped at 30 students a day, with a maximum of 10 students per counselor. This, of course, limits the reach of a community-based system of care. Vance said her goal is to create Rankin and Madison County NFusion Metro programs.

There are six SAMSHA-funded system-of-care programs similar to NFusion Metro statewide, including ones in Oxford, Southaven and Columbus.

Early College Coming to Jackson Public Schools

Early College Coming to Jackson Public Schools

By Marie Weidmayer

Freshmen at Jackson Public Schools now have the opportunity to graduate from high school with an associate’s degree at no cost to them. JPS partnered with Tougaloo College to offer Early College High School to 49 freshmen. Students will attend a high school on Tougaloo’s campus, north of Jackson. There is no cost to attend the early college program because JPS is a public institution.

Students must complete an application and participate in an interview process. An external agency selects the 49 students. Applications for the fall are closed and interviews begin July 9.

If students meet the graduation requirements, they can graduate with an associate’s degree or up to two years of credits toward a bachelor’s degree. While earning college credit, students will also complete Mississippi high-school requirements. Program graduates must meet the minimum SAT and ACT college readiness scores.

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President’s Education Awards Program: A Celebration of Student Achievement and Hard Work in the Classroom

President’s Education Awards Program: A Celebration of Student Achievement and Hard Work in the Classroom

Dept. of Ed Blog logo

President’s Education Awards Program (PEAP) student recipients are selected annually by their school principal. This year, PEAP provided individual recognition to nearly 3 million graduates (at the elementary, middle and high school level) across the nation at more than 30,000 public, private and military schools from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Outlying Areas — American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands — and American military bases abroad.

Students received a certificate signed by President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Schools also received letters from the President and the Secretary.

The Department encourages schools to be on the lookout for 2018-19 school year materials from PEAP program partners: the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). The materials outline how to order certificates to award students before the end of the school year. Certificates are FREE, and there is no limit.

Please review the participant list at to see if your school is currently involved. If not, contact your local school/principal and urge them to participate for the upcoming school year.

Background –

PEAP was founded in 1983. Every year since then, the program has provided principals with the opportunity to recognize students who meet high standards of academic excellence, as well as those who have given their best effort, often overcoming obstacles in their learning. Eligible graduating K-12 students are selected by their principal under two categories.

Certificate for President's Education Awards Program (PEAP) celebrating academic excellence.        Certificate for President's Education Awards Program (PEAP) celebrating academic achievement.

  • The President’s Award for Educational Excellence – This award recognizes academic success in the classroom. To be eligible, students must meet a few academic requirements, including a high grade point average or other school-set criteria and a choice of either state test performance or teacher recommendations.
  • The President’s Award for Educational Achievement – This award recognizes students that show outstanding educational growth, improvement, commitment, or intellectual development in their subjects but do not meet the academic criteria above. Its purpose is to encourage and reward students who give their best effort, often in the face of special obstacles, based on criteria developed at each school.

Recent School Celebrations –

At Fairland West Elementary School  in Ohio, Principal Teresa Johnson presented 51 fifth-grade students with the President’s Award for Educational Excellence on May 22. Johnson read the letter of congratulations from President Trump, and students received a gold-embossed certificate signed by the President and Secretary.

A picture of a group of about 50 fifth-grade students standing on bleachers holding their President's Education Achievement Program certificates.

The awards were presented to students by their fifth-grade homeroom teachers: Mrs. Sullivan, Mrs. Black, Mrs. Staggs, Miss Dillon, and Ms. Thompson.

Ombudsman Alternative Center in Mississippi serves high school-age students in Natchez School District who meet criterion and can take classes at their own pace to earn their high school diploma.  Two Natchez students were recognized by PEAP this year, receiving certificates for their academic achievements. Principal Allison Jowers announced the students’ awards in May at the local board meeting, saying both students had earned the honors through their hard work and dedication to education. Jaila Queen, a freshman, earned the academic excellence award, while Briana White, a senior, earned the educational achievement award.

Two Natchez students Jaila Queen (left) and Briana White (right) received awards signed by President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for their academic success this year.

The program also receives great feedback throughout the year. From Long Pond Schoolin New Jerseywhich celebrated their students’ achievement on May 24: “This is the 34thyear that Long Pond has participated in this program, and it’s really exciting to be part of it.” Principal Bryan Fleming closed the event with the reading of the anonymous poem “Just One,” which speaks of the many ways a small effort can spark greatness. The poem ends with the lines, “One life can make a difference, that one life could be you.”

Frances Hopkins is director of the President’s Education Awards Program at the U.S. Department of Education.

How Are States Handling Testing Opt-Outs Under ESSA?  – Politics K-12 – Education Week

How Are States Handling Testing Opt-Outs Under ESSA? – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Education Week logoThe question: This one comes from a school-based leader who preferred to remain anonymous. This leader wants to know “What are the federal guidelines for ‘testing transparency?’ Schools are mandated to get 95 percent participation, but how is that possible is we tell parents of their opt out rights?”

The answer: ESSA is actually really confusing when it comes to test participation. The law says that states and schools must test all of their students, just like under No Child Left Behind, the law ESSA replaced. Under NCLB, though, schools that didn’t meet the 95 percent participation requirement—both for the student population as a whole and subgroups of students, such as English-language learners—were considered automatic failures.

Now, under ESSA, states must figure low testing participation into school ratings, but just how to do that is totally up to them. And states can continue to have laws affirming parents’ right to opt their students out of tests (as Oregon does). ESSA also requires states to mark non-test-takers as not proficient.

State plans—44 of which have been approved by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team—are all over the map when it comes to dealing with this requirement…

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Jackson Schools Free Summer Lunch Program Begins Next Week

Jackson Schools Free Summer Lunch Program Begins Next Week

 — Kids and teens who are 18 years old or younger can participate in Jackson Public Schools’ summer feeding program, which begins on Monday, June 4. The district uses federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay for lunches served in Jackson at 12 different sites around the city.

On Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., students can go to one of the 12 locations to receive a free lunch from June 4 through July 13. The program is only closed for July 4.

Mary Hill, executive director of food service at JPS, said this is the 27th year in a row that the program has operated in the city. She said the goal is to not stop the stream of meals that students receive at school. The district is 100 percent on free-and-reduced lunch, meaning students eat free at school throughout the school year.

“I’ve been told that there are students that really rely on the program that we have,” Hill told the Jackson Free Press.

No transportation is provided to the 12 sites (listed below), but the only requirement for a student to eat is to be between the ages of 0 and 18 years old. Hill said the district projects it will serve about 4,500 meals a day this summer. She said groups from vacation Bible school or summer enrichment programs often participate. JPS will be reimbursed for every meal they serve.

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MISSISSIPPI – Ed Department Awards 90 Vouchers in a Lottery After Some Went Unused

MISSISSIPPI – Ed Department Awards 90 Vouchers in a Lottery After Some Went Unused

The Mississippi Department of Education held a lottery for 90 unused vouchers in the current school year as the Legislature could debate this afternoon whether to expand the program beyond special-education students to all children in the state.

The ESA program currently awards vouchers to children with special needs who have had an individualized education program from a public school in the past five years. The program allows them to leave public school and use the voucher on services elsewhere, including at a private school.

MDE accepts applications in the summer before the school year begins, and in 2017, the department awarded 435 ESA vouchers worth $6,494 each (almost $3 million in state funds). Participants in the program submit requests for reimbursements on a quarterly basis. As of January 2018, families had used ESAs at 88 private schools around the state, a list from MDE shows.

The ESA voucher program is on a rolling admission basis, and 90 families who had received an ESA by February still had not asked MDE for reimbursement. The department announced a lottery for the remaining vouchers on Friday, Feb. 2, which closed on Tuesday, Feb. 6. The ESA program had more applicants than slots in 2017, so 367 applicants in the pool were eligible for those 90 slots. MDE will send letters to the 90 families on Friday, Feb. 9.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves supports expanding the ESA voucher program.

“Senate Bill 2623, expanding eligibility for the state’s successful ESA program, could have more impact on long-term economic progress than any other bill debated in the Legislature,” he said in a press statement.

MDE has not used the nearly $3 million appropriated to the program in past years.

Sen. Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, will have to bring out his voucher-expansion bill today in the Senate in order for it to stay alive. Senate Bill 2623 would ensure that the program prioritizes special-education students and low-income students before opening up to all other public-school students.

If MDE receives applications after Feb. 6, they will go into the 2018-2019 school year application pool. Participants in the program are currently allowed to roll over into next year and continue receiving the voucher, however, limiting the number of open slots.

Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at arielle@jacksonfreepress.com and follow her on Twitter @arielle_amara for live updates from the Capitol.

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

Inside the ESSA Plans: What Are States Doing About Goals and Timelines?

By Stephen Sawchuk, Alyson Klein, and Andrew UjifusaEducation Week logo

EDUCATION WEEK — This week, Education Week is bringing its trademark analysis to the remaining state plans for fulfilling requirements of the Every Student Succeeds law. On Monday, we had a look at the states’ proposed “school quality” indicators, €”the required but nonacademic portion of each state’s plan to judge schools. Today, we’re going to take a look at states’ goals for raising student achievement and their timelines for doing so in the plans awaiting federal approval.

One thing we’ll keep stressing again and again this week: how far federal policy has moved since the days of the No Child Left Behind Act (ESSA’s predecessor). Read on.

So, what kinds of goals are states setting?

Some states chose fixed goals that aim for all students, and all subgroups of vulnerable students, such as those qualifying for subsidized school lunches or English-language learners, to reach the same target (such as 80 percent proficiency). What’s nice about this kind of goal is that it sets the same endpoint, making it easier to see over time how achievement gaps are expected to close. States in this category include: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, (grades 3-8 only), Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Rhode island, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Source: Education Week Politics K-12

Black students hit hard by for-profit college debt

Black students hit hard by for-profit college debt

By Charlene Crowell, (Communications Deputy Director, Center for Responsible Lending)

AMSTERDAM NEWS — Mounting student debt is a nagging problem for most families these days. As the cost of higher education rises, borrowing to cover those costs often becomes a family concern across multiple generations including the student, parents, and even grandparents or other relatives.

Today’s 21st Century jobs usually demand higher education and specialized skills to earn one’s way into the middle class. In households where educational loans are inevitable, it becomes an important family decision to determine which institutions are actually worth the debt incurred. Equally important is the institution’s likelihood of its students graduating.

Higher education institutions that do not provide its students and graduates with requisite skills and knowledge become money pits that lead to deeper debt and likely loan defaults.

New research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) analyzed student debt on a state-by-state basis. An interactive map of CRL’s findings reveal on a state basis each of the 50 states’ total undergraduate population, for-profit enrollment, and the top for-profit schools by enrollment for both four-year and two-year institutions.

Entitled “The State of For-Profit Colleges,” the report concludes that investing in a for-profit education is almost always a risky proposition. Undergraduate borrowing by state showed that the percentage of students that borrow from the federal government generally ranged between 40 to 60 percent for public colleges, compared to 50 to 80 percent at for-profit institutions.

Additionally, both public and private, not-for-profit institutions, on average, lead to better results at a lower cost of debt, better earnings following graduation, and the fewest loan defaults.

“In many cases, for-profit students are nontraditional students, making sacrifices and struggling to manage family and work obligations to make better lives for their families,” noted Robin Howarth, a CRL senior researcher. “For-profit colleges target them with aggressive marketing, persuading them to invest heavily in futures that will never come to pass.”

CRL also found that women and Blacks suffer disparate impacts, particularly at for-profit institutions, where they are disproportionately enrolled in most states.

For example, enrollment at Mississippi’s for-profit colleges was 78 percent female and nearly 66 percent Black. Other states with high Black enrollment at for-profits included Georgia (57 percent), Louisiana (55 percent), Maryland (58 percent) and North Carolina (54 percent).

Focus group interviews further substantiated these figures, and recounted poignant, real life experiences.

Brianna, a 31-year-old Black female completed a Medical Assistant (MA) certificate at the now-defunct Everest University. Once she completed her MA certificate and passed the certification test, she found she could only find a job in her field of study that paid $12 per hour, much less than the $35,000-$45,000 salary that Everest told her would be her starting salary as a medical assistant.

She was also left with $21,000 in student debt. As a result, she has struggled since matriculation with low credit scores and cramped housing conditions for herself and three children. For her, public schools, according to Brianna, are “better in the long run” due to their lower cost despite having more requirements for attendance.

Jackson Schools Can Start Clearing Accreditation Standards in the New Year

Jackson Schools Can Start Clearing Accreditation Standards in the New Year

JACKSON FREE PRESS — Jackson Public Schools can start clearing accreditation standard violations as early as January. William Merritt, the executive director of school improvement, told the school board at its last December meeting that the board needs to get the new JPS corrective action plan to the Commission on School Accreditation by Jan. 16, 2018.

The next JPS board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 9, and the JPS Board of Trustees is expected to pass the district’s new corrective action plan at that meeting. On Dec. 19, the board had a work session where district administrators answered board members’ questions about the CAP. The Mississippi Department of Education found JPS to be out of compliance with 24 accreditation standards in the fall.

“We are of course still working with a sense of urgency in making sure that we correct all deficiencies that exist,” Merritt told the board on Dec. 19. “We are excited as we prepare to clear some standards and we will begin that process in January.”

Previously, JPS administrators believed they could not clear accreditation standards until after the Mississippi Board of Education had approved the district’s new CAP in February, but now JPS will be able to call MDE staff out to the district at the start of the year to begin clearing standards. 
Merritt said the district is prepared to clear several standards including the annual financial audit, dropout prevention plans, ensuring enough instructional time for students, professional development, child nutrition and safety.

“There’s continuous work that goes into that, and again we feel confident that we’re moving in the right direction with those standards and will be able to address those in short order when we return,” Interim Superintendent Freddrick Murray told the board on Dec. 19.

Other standards will be tougher to tackle, Merritt told the board, including having enough licensed teaching staff, repairing aging infrastructure and having an instructional management system.

After the Commission on School Accreditation and the Mississippi Board of Education approve the new JPS CAP, the district will have until July 31, 2018, to clear remaining accreditation violations.

Email state education reporter Arielle Dreher at arielle@jacksonfreepress.com.