The mission of MSA may be focused primarily in the arts, but it has been proven that academics and the arts meshed together bolsters the proficiency of educating the whole student. Students in Mississippi School of the Arts’ “U.S History from 1877 to the Present” course recently received test scores from the Spring 2021 testing window. One-hundred percent of testers passed the exam, with several Advanced level recipients being recognized. The test is required for graduation in Mississippi’s public school systems.
The score range is spread across 5 tiers: Minimal–Basic–Passing–Proficient–and the top being Advanced. The highest percentage of students tested in the Spring window received Advanced and Proficient (90%). However, scores were not received from the December 2020 window, so it was anticipated that the number scoring Proficient and Advanced would have been much higher for the 2020-2021 school year. No student scored lower than “Passing,” making the overall percentage of passing the test at 100%.
“This is very impressive, especially since we’ve had to adjust during the pandemic. This is also the first test since the US History test was changed.” said Vickie Malone, MSA’s U.S. History teacher. During the 2020-2021 school year, MSA shifted instruction to a hybrid model prior to December 2020, but returned to traditional setting starting January 2021.
Instruction is quite different at MSA than many academic settings. More hands-on projects prepares students to comprehend the course material. Students are required to complete worksheets in packets that includes drawing political cartoons, learning and researching important dates in history, reading and drawing graphs, and researching U.S. presidents. “It’s a lot of work but very rewarding,” Malone said.
According to Malone, students are given a pre-course test at the beginning of the semester. This is similar to a universal screening method to gauge the progress of students throughout the course. “I give my students a test at the beginning of the course to see what they already know. This gives me indicators on what we need to work on to get them prepared.”
Vickie Malone’s classroom is not like many others throughout the state, physically. Housed in one of the oldest educational buildings in Mississippi, the Johnson Institute (circa 1883) was revitalized in early 2000 and transformed into a Mississippi Landmark, and a place where students can grow and learn in the arts. It’s part of a larger landscape of buildings on the National Register that was once the campus of Whitworth College, but now the home of Mississippi School of the Arts–a public, residential high school for 11th & 12th grade students.