Ed secretary sees online science lessons in Mississippi


U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, center, is welcomed by students and attendees at a roundtable for the Holmes County Consolidated School District held at Holmes Central High School in Lexington, Miss., Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Sarah Warnock/The Clarion-Ledger via AP)

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LEXINGTON, Miss. — Students in a poor part of the Mississippi Delta are receiving high-level science instruction aided by online lessons.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos went to Holmes County Central High School in Lexington on Thursday to see the Advanced Placement physics class.

Students have a teacher in the classroom, and through the Global Teaching Project, they receive online lessons from instructors at universities, including Yale. DeVos says she wants school districts to try innovative approaches to teaching.

“Start new things and do things that haven’t been tested and tried before, because doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is just not going to work,” DeVos said during her stop in Mississippi, which was part of her three-day “Rethink School” trip to four southern states.

The Global Teaching Project, which is funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and other philanthropic groups, has programs in 11 Mississippi districts, with five more preparing to join.

Tawanna Jackson, one of nine students in the physics class in Lexington, told the Greenwood Commonwealth that the blended approach provides rigor.

Brea Portis, a senior, said she wants to become a pediatrician. She told the Clarion Ledger that having access to the advanced physics course is setting her up to achieve that goal.

“It’s a challenging class and I’m pushing myself,” Portis said. “I’m proud of myself. Everything I get from this class, I’ve earned.”

Holmes Central has a D rating and the Holmes County School District as a whole has is rated F in the state’s A-through-F rating system. In the district with a 45 percent poverty rate, money problems persist.

Holmes County Superintendent James Henderson said he attended the high school 33 years ago.

“Unfortunately it still looks the same,” Henderson said. “The biology labs didn’t work then, and I’m afraid to say, they’re barely working now.”

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