DTM: Pass Christian High School
Recognized as a Dispelling the Myth school in 2013, Pass Christian High School rebuilt after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to become one of the highest performing schools in Mississippi.
Ever since Mississippi’s Pass Christian school district adopted as its slogan, “Committed to Excellence” a decade ago, conversations at Pass Christian High School have been dominated by the question of what more needs to be done to be excellent.
Every accolade and every award is greeted with a question about how to improve teaching and relationships in order to move academic achievement higher. Truth be told, both the faculty and community would like their sports teams to be just a bit more competitive. But they have made a choice: “Academics come first,” Meridith Bang, principal of Pass Christian High School says.
The high school’s steady improvement trajectory was even able to survive Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed much of the Gulf Coast town including the entire first floor of the high school.
“We just set up trailers at the only elementary school that wasn’t destroyed and kept working,” Bang, remembers.
Today, in a state where only 75 percent of students graduate from high school (68 percent of African American and 69 percent of low-income students), 85 percent of Pass Christian High School’s students do — not just the white students or the middle-class students, but also the African American students and the students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. And students don’t just squeak over the graduation line either — 85 percent of the class of 2012 took the ACT exam in 2011 and the average score was 21.4, well above the state average.
Pass Christian High School is committed to preparing all its students for college and other post-secondary opportunities. That’s why they have embraced Common Core Standards, which faculty members say will help ensure that their students learn to higher levels. And students embrace the challenge. As one student said: “College was never in my sights — until I moved here.”
In 2014, Meridith Bang became the district’s curriculum coordinator, and Robin Killebrew, who had been assistant principal, became principal.
- In the spring of 2014, Ed Trust, with the support of The Wallace Foundation, conducted a webinar with leaders of the Pass Christian School district, including high school principal Meridith Bang, to highlight the lessons we can learn from an improving district.
- “What Kind of Leader Should Superintendents Be?”by Karin Chenoweth reports on that webinar.
- A Huffington Post article by Karin Chenoweth profiles Pass Christian School.
- School website
- District website
- Great Schools profile
- More information about academic achievement in Mississippi