Gulfport becomes first in MS to redesign high school curriculum

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Dramatic changes are coming to Gulfport High School. On Tuesday, the Gulfport School District announced plans to redesign the high school curriculum to better prepare students for college and careers. It is a one-of-a-kind program in the state that will affect all Gulfport High juniors and seniors.

The Gulfport School District is blazing a trail in Mississippi by giving the traditional high school setting a complete makeover.

For example, in one class, Automotive Technology students are working with Physics students to measure the speed of a vehicle. This merging of different subjects will be fully implemented in the new Gulfport High School Academic Institutes.

"This thing is big. This is a major education reform in this state. We're not watering down anything. We're raising the bar," said Gulfport Schools Superintendent Glen East.

"This isn't going to be school. This is literally going to be an experience," said Gulfport High Principal Michael Lindsey.

That interactive experience starts when students finish their sophomore year. Administrators and counselors will work with individual students and their parents to determine the student's college and career interests. They will consider ACT results, grades, job interests and learning styles.

The students will then choose to enroll in one of three Academic Institutes:

  • Health and Human Services
  • Communications, Arts, and Business
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Each institute has career clusters that cover just about every occupation.

"This is a significant step in education because it's very different. This is tying in all of a child's aptitudes and abilities and interests into an institute format. They can get real life problem-solving and job experience, along with their career and college readiness," said Sandy Commer-East, Career Pathways Specialist for the Gulfport School District.

The lessons will extend beyond the campus. Gulfport High will also partner with businesses and organizations to offer internship and mentoring opportunities to match the students' career fields.

"This is an awesome program," said Jeannine Blum, Huntington-Ingalls Training Manager. "Industry has been looking for high schools to do this for a very long time now. We are so excited to be a part of this."

"I'm just so excited about this whole concept that young people can get what they need by the end of 10th grade in terms of almost earning their diploma, but spending the last two years of their high school education really focused on career and exploring what they want to do," said Sue Suter, United Way of South Mississippi Executive Director.

By giving students an early start on making career and college decisions, the district hopes to better prepare them for life after high school.

"We are really trying to prepare those students, no matter what they're going to do after Gulfport High School, that they're going to be successful," said David Fava, Director of Career and Technical Education for the Gulfport School District.

"They don't make the mistake later in life like so many of us do, where they owe huge college bills and then they find they're not really interested," said Commer-East. "If they want to be a city director or if they want to be a policeman, we're going to cover the whole gamut so that we get the top students, the middle students, and the students that are not interested in going to college."

The Academic Institutes will officially open in the 2012-2013 school year. District leaders plan to add a fourth institute the following year.

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