New STEM school matches governor’s plans for Mississippi

New STEM school matches governor’s plans for Mississippi

In his annual State of the State address in February 2024, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, highlighted Mississippi’s recent improvement in education and the need for further progress.

This is a mission shared by the SR1 College Preparatory and STEM Academy, (SR1 CPSA) a K-5th grade science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) focused institution that in its inaugural academic year achieved 71% and 66% schoolwide growth in Reading and Math respectively on I-Ready, a research based instruction and assessment program. SR1 CPSA is located within 25 miles of the high school area that the governor proposed using in his address.

Mississippi Miracle

In his annual address, Gov. Tate Reeves highlighted the progress Mississippi has enjoyed in the education sphere over the last few years, commonly known as the “Mississippi Miracle.” This miracle refers to the state’s impressive feats in closing the test score gap it used to have with the rest of the US. In 2013, Mississippi was the second-worst state for
fourth-grade reading abilities.

Yet by 2022, it had achieved a ranking of 21 out of all the states—a significant achievement. These improvements have been attributed to state policies like holding back third graders with poor reading skills and focusing on phonics to better cover the basics of literacy. The state has also boosted its graduation rates, which went from 75% (below the national average) in 2011 to 87% (above the national average) by 2020.

But the Governor does not want to stop there, saying: “Now we must discover how to go from good to great.” To achieve this, he cited ambitions to embrace new education models, such as schools that take a fresh approach to learning. The Mississippi School for Math and Science was named as one success story. Located on the campus of Mississippi University for Women and aimed at academically gifted high school students, the school has become one of the best public high schools in the nation since launching in 1987.

A Call for More STEM Education

Gov. Tate Reeves proposed creating more schools in Mississippi dedicated to STEM subjects in order to recreate the success stories shown by programs like the Mississippi School for Math and Science.

He said in his speech: “I propose that we create twelve mathematics and engineering magnet schools throughout the state. By establishing eight Pre-K through 8th-grade schools and three more high schools, we can help ensure Mississippi kids are given the education required to be successful in an increasingly technological economy.”

The state is also capitalizing on this growing technological economy outside of education, with Mississippi benefiting from various industry titans basing themselves in the state. Namely, there are plans to build Accelera by Cummins, an EV battery factory in Marshall County, and two Amazon Web Services data centers in Madison County. Both of these will offer higher future economic opportunities for students.

Introducing SR1 CPSA

As its name suggests, SR1 CPSA is focused on STEM education and shares many of the objectives outlined in the governor’s address. Spanning 250+ acres, the future campus is a testament to STEM education, with various developments that allow students to benefit from hands-on learning.

The future EduCafe is a light-filled space with an adjacent open porch, allowing easy access to outdoor learning and creating a collaborative learning environment.

One standout feature will be its farm’s vernacular learning structure, composed egg harvesting, seasonal planting, and more. Other constructions of note throughout the school campus will include:

The future educational greenhouse wings have multiple energy-harvesting elements.
  • Trail system spanning wetlands, rivers, woodlands
  • Earth tubes with climate control
  • Controlled growing environments with climate control
  • Green growing towers and growing trays
  • Composting toilets

SR1 CPSA has a comprehensive STEM curriculum and ample extracurricular activities that will expand and facilitate STEM learning outside of the classroom. For instance, the school regularly incorporates trips to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and Mississippi Children’s Museum.

SR1 CPSA students explore wildlife up close with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.

While still a fairly new project, SR1 CPSA has already enrolled over 125 students for its 225 available slots in grades K-2 for the 2024-2025 school year. Leveraging strategic partnerships, SR1 will offer an early learning program with a PreK-4 division designed to enhance students’ learning before they begin formal schooling, providing them with an optimal foundation for a STEM education. The PreK-4 program has a capacity for 40 students.

An Emphasis on Underrepresented Groups

SR1 CPSA is a free public charter school open to everyone. The school is also focused on promoting equity in STEM education — a point that will aid Mississippi’s economy.

Underrepresented groups such as African American, Native American, Hispanic, female, and rural students often do not enter STEM due to the lack of representation and failing to receive the much-needed foundational education early in their lives. SR1 CPSA aims to amend this issue through SR1, its parent company and award-winning nonprofit, which works with organizations in Mississippi and nationally to boost social mobility for underrepresented groups.

An Exciting Time for Mississippi

Mississippi has recently garnered a reputation across the US for its stellar educational offering and impressive advancements over the last few years. Building on success stories like the Mississippi School for Math and Science and upcoming STEM-focused developments that could make the state a center for technology and industry, its future may be even brighter. SR1 CPSA is showing strong potential for contributing to this positive future in Mississippi. Great educational initiatives like SR1 College Preparatory and STEM Academy are built with the help of local support from individuals who believe in a bright future for our state.

SR1 is committed to building a Sustainable Campus by embracing the principles of a Circular Economy. Through innovative practices in agriculture, waste management, and resource efficiency, we aim to create a model for sustainable living and learning.

SR1 has launched a $25 million fundraising campaign to develop an expansive 250-plus acre campus in Mississippi, a beacon of innovation in educational spaces. This campus will feature greenspace designs to improve student health, happiness, and learning outcomes.

By incorporating STEM and outdoor learning into the curriculum, the project aims to transform education into a dynamic and health-promoting journey. To learn more about our mission, or how to contribute to the SRI SCPSA campus, visit www.sr1cpsa.org/donation or call 601.206.4544.