Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Fredrick L. Hickmon, Ed.D., principal of Choctaw Central High School, on the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Choctaw, Mississippi. We were interested in learning about some of the challenges facing students and teachers on the reservation and learning more about how Principal Hickmon and his team of educators enable students to meet their educational goals and excel as learners.
FuelEducation: Tell us about Choctaw Central High School.
Fredrick Hickmon (FH): Choctaw Central High School is located on the Choctaw Indian Reservation in Choctaw, Mississippi. The school was established in 1963 and currently services approximately 400 students. Since I began my career here in January 2005, my primary goal has been to advance the Choctaw people by providing rigorous instruction to ensure that students are college and career ready.
FuelEducation: What are the biggest educational issues your students face?
FH: The biggest challenge our students face is in language proficiency. Because they are English Language Learners (ELL), our students face particular challenges in reading comprehension and oral expression. And, as with all students who face learning difficulties, motivating students to embrace their goals and be persistent adds to the complexity of the language deficiency.
FuelEducation: How are you using alternative solutions to address these issues?
FH: One of the primary ways we assist our students in meeting their education goals is by personalizing learning and enabling credit recovery. Online credit recovery programs allow students to accrue the credits they need to meet an on-time graduation goal without additional time in school. The programs can be accessed at home, in our after school program, or during our 6th and 7th period classes. We are also using an online reading program to remediate struggling ninth graders and some older exceptional education students. Our school focuses on the Accelerated Reader, a software program that tracks reading progress, with all students being required to meet a point goal every nine weeks.
FuelEducation: What have been the overall successes to date?
FH: The Accelerated Reader has had an overall positive effect on students’ reading success, which has been demonstrated by improvements in students’ Universal Screening Reading Scores. Choctaw’s credit recovery program has been successful in that it has provided many students with opportunities to recover credits and graduate with peers or allow students to maintain their current grade level. The online reading remediation class has shown some short term grade equivalence increases, but most students have difficulty maintaining growth and continued progress.
FuelEducation: Are there specific examples of a student success you’d like to share?
FH: One of our student successes actually occurred today! The student returned to school in August of 2013 as a second year senior. She failed to graduate in 2013 because she lacked a half credit of science and 1 credit of English III, but there were also factors in her personal life, such as childcare, that added to her challenges. We set up her program so she could come into the school for half days and complete the remainder of her work online. We worked with the day care to make sure her child would receive full day care if she stayed in school. The GED® test mentor took her under his wing and allowed her to stay in his facility all day, thus assisting her with technical and content issues as needed. Yesterday, she left school having completed all assignments. When she returned today, I was able to tell her that she could walk in graduation with the Class of 2014. Her smile said it all. One more student with a high school diploma!
FuelEducation: What recommendations would you offer a similar school in your situation?
FH: I would recommend our credit recovery program. I have found that it offers course structure, challenging content and varied assessments. It allows my slower working students the flexibility of more time when needed, and it allows students repeated chances for testing when they are unsuccessful.
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