Return to Headlines

Ole Miss School of Education, Oxford School District partner to address challenges faced in K-12 classrooms

photo of Superintendent Roberson with other convention participants

Oxford, Mississippi (February 5, 2024) — The University of Mississippi hosted The National Center for School-University Partnerships convention with Mississippi’s education leaders, including Oxford District’s Superintendent, Bradley Roberson, who is also the Center’s program coordinator. Leaders from a variety of other states, including Arizona and Illinois, were also in attendance.

The conversation revolved around the implementation of two breakthrough collaboratives in K-12 Education, focusing on the ongoing chronic absenteeism and math proficiency for students with special needs.

photo of people working at conventionTo address these challenges and more in K-12 education, the Ole Miss School of Education and the Oxford School District partnered to create a center in 2023, established as part of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Improvement Leadership Education and Development network. The organization is dedicated to collecting and sharing practical strategies for improving education not only in Mississippi but throughout the United States.

“We want to start tackling problems of practice that plague education,” states Superintendent Roberson.

“About 25% of Mississippi students that receive special services are proficient in mathematics, which leads to longer-term issues,” Roberson explained. “Mathematics proficiency is a driver for high school graduation, which is another issue in the state of Mississippi with students who receive special services.”

Throughout the year, school districts will partner with coaches on a bi-monthly basis and report the data they collect back to the Center. One common goal is to build capacity in leaders across the state and the country, to teach the methodology to go back to their districts and implement this work in solving other problems of practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in increased school absenteeism in Mississippi, with 23.9% of students missing 18 or more days in 2022-23. Math proficiency for students with disabilities has been consistently lower than their peers for over two decades, leading to many schools being identified as “in need of improvement” by the Mississippi Department of Education. Despite these issues, Superintendent Roberson and others in the sector remain optimistic about improvement within a year.

According to David Rock, the education school’s dean, the Center’s goal is to “address the challenges facing K-12 classrooms by collecting, aggregating, and disseminating strategies to tackle problems in education.”

Since its establishment last year, the National Center for School-University Partnerships has attracted 25 schools, school districts, and universities from across the United States. The Center’s purpose is to provide a permanent space for districts and universities to share their strategies and triumphs to enhance education.

Denise Soares, Professor of Special Education and Interim Director of the Center, stated that “the university partners will be better equipped to prepare future teachers to manage issues like absenteeism and special education.” By working alongside districts to gain insight and understand these problems, she believes that the Center will transform how they train future educators.

“We truly believe the idea of school and university partnerships is a critical lever in improving education across our state and country,” says Roberson. “The teacher that comes from the University of Mississippi, for example, teaching the Oxford School District, has a significant impact on student outcome. It’s a mutually inclusive relationship that is critical,” he states.

Lauren Jones