/State Ed Dept Jackson Public Schools plan falls short

State Ed Dept Jackson Public Schools plan falls short

Mississippi Department of Education doesn’t believe the Jackson Public Schools District has a plan that will solve its systemic problems. Officials from the State Department of Education will present the corrective action plan for the district to the state Board of Education Thursday. Board documents indicate that the Office of Accreditation will not recommend approval. Jean Cook, a spokesperson for MDE, stated in an email that JPS is one of the three districts MDE is working to improve their CAPs in order to bring them up for Board approval. The list also includes two other districts, Natchez-Adams (and Hazlehurst) that have been deemed unsuitable for approval. According to the board document, any additions or changes must be made before plans can be approved. Program offices will work with districts to make revisions. The state published a 680-page report in August 2017 detailing the findings of an 18-month-long investigative audit that found the district was not complying with 75 percent of state accreditation standards. The district was on “probation” at the time and had an F accountability rating. All of this factored into the Commission on School Accreditation’s and State Board of Education’s decision to request a takeover by the state. The governor refused to declare a state of emergency. Phil Bryant refused to declare a state emergency. Instead, he announced his Better Together Commission, which is a partnership between his Office, the City of Jackson and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The commission will oversee a separate evaluation of each district. This week, members announced that California-based Insight Education Group would conduct the evaluation. JPS was not subject to a state takeover. However, district officials must still develop and submit a Corrective Action Plan (or CAP) to the state Department of Education. The CAP must address all issues identified in the audit report, and provide solutions. After debate over whether the $326,000 spent by a consultant to assist with the audit process was justified, the JPS school board approved last month the plan. The school board was warned by district officials that it will be difficult to fix some of the issues in the audit. These include retaining and hiring licensed teachers, and updating old buildings to current standards. Each fall, each state’s public school districts are accredited by the Commission on School Accreditation. The school districts are classified as either accredited, on probation, or withdrawn. To remain accredited, a school district must meet all 32 state accreditation standards. The plan will not be approved by the state board if it is not approved Thursday. The state board rejected the district’s CAP to conduct a smaller audit of 22 schools in November 2016 because it wasn’t specific enough. The revised version was approved a month later by the state superintendent of education Carey Wright. However, Wright warned that the district must act quickly to implement the changes to avoid a state takeover. JPS has been in probation since August 2016.