AT FIRST GLANCE, McCOMB SCHOOL DISTRICT looks like any other public district—two elementary and middle schools, one high school, and one alternative school. But then, you’ll find a business and technology complex and an early childhood learning center. What are these doing here?
Digging in, you discover a palpable energy that permeates one McComb school in particular: Summit Elementary School. Walking into the building, you are greeted by a man sporting a playful bow tie and candid smile. He simply says, “We’re producing students empowered to change the world. That’s what you’re feeling. Let me show you what I mean.”
You discover this man is none other than Superintendent, Dr. Cederick Ellis. He shares about the past’s many unproductive tweaks and changes and McComb’s “Mindset Shift into World Class” (2015) designed to break away from these old practices. And, it turns out—Summit Elementary was ground zero for this transformation. You learn the model has been expanded to the brand new Kennedy Early Childhood Center.
What kind of learning goes on here? Dr. Ellis declares passionately that learners are all met where they are and supported to accelerate the development of their knowledge, skills, and dispositions. At McComb, these kids are intensely engaged because grade cohorts no longer hold them back or force them forward—competency-based learning is the name of the game here.
He talks about Keyonna, who always felt like a crutch for her peers because her learning pace had her acting as a second teacher for others. Now, she can accelerate her learning, knowing she won’t be held back, and remain socially embedded through collaboration with peers and mentors.
Dr. Ellis reiterates how dynamic education can be if all learners are recognized for their passions and interests, rather than their test scores. You hear about Patricia, who loves learning through technology and coding and couldn’t stand the pencil and paper ways of the past. With integrated technology, Patricia can now explore open-walled opportunities virtually and within her community.
These anecdotes are only snippets of the full transformation Dr. Ellis envisions. With one elementary school serving as the pilot and catalyst, he sees learner-centered education becoming the norm for the whole system. He and his team are looking to push the envelop even beyond the district—having every learner in Mississippi placed at the center of their learning.