/State Jackson schools violate 22 of 32 education standards

State Jackson schools violate 22 of 32 education standards

Mississippi Today learned that the Jackson Public Schools District was cited by the state Education Department for violating 22 out of 32 state accreditation benchmarks. According to the Education Department, some of these violations are classified as “standards which pose life-threatening conditions” for staff and students. The citations allege that Superintendent Cedrick Grey has failed to ensure safe and clean schools and has often overturned principals’ discipline policies. There were also problems with records and class instruction in the district. Also, there was no documentation to prove that seniors who graduated within the last two years have met state graduation requirements. Officials found that many JPS teachers didn’t have a valid teacher license or were not properly approved for teaching the subject. “We constantly review the licensure status of our teachers. Gray stated that some teachers are on emergency licenses, while others are in limited service. Gray also said that substitute teachers without teaching credentials are available. “Just as the rest of the nation and the state, we are struggling to ensure that we hire and retain teachers.” The 100-page document stated that school board policies were outdated or not in compliance with the law. This included policies on attendance, grading, and graduation. Beneta Burt (the president of the district’s school board) said that she couldn’t discuss specific findings until she read the entire document. Burt stated that the Board of Trustees had complete faith in Dr. Gray’s leadership and has been working to address the issues ever since receiving it. Gray, who has been the head of the district since 2012 said that he cannot comment on the details of the audit, and that the district administrators are still analyzing the findings. “We have assembled a team to assist with the preparation of the district’s response. Gray stated that Gray has complete trust in JPS administrators. They are all professionals who understand the stakes and have the highest level of professionalism. Gray stated that an audit is not a “snapshot of a particular moment.” Gray added that Gray also believes it is important to remember that the audit is only a snapshot of approximately 20 schools over a period of three weeks. As a result of a law that required the state to audit C, D, and F-rated school district, the Education Department audited 18 districts, including Jackson. Jackson Public Schools was the only district recommended for a downgrade in accreditation status. On Aug. 4, the Commission on School Accreditation will hold an hearing where it will recommend that Jackson’s status be reduced from “accredited to probation.” Jackson Public Schools must submit a plan within a specified time frame for rectifying each violation. There are three possible statuses: withdrawn, probation, and accredited. “Probation” refers to a district that is not in compliance with the accreditation standards or policies. The district will have to create and implement a plan of corrective action within a given time frame. A district is considered “withdrawn” if it has been previously on probation and is not following its corrective actions plan. According to the Education Department’s website, JPS failed to meet graduation requirements and failed to adhere to standards that could lead to a recommendation to withdraw its accreditation status. “Recommendations for downgrading a district’s accreditation status consider both the number and scope of all deficiencies within the district,” Jean Cook, Education Department spokeswoman, said when she was asked how the department came to recommend “probation” over “withdrawn.” Schools would also be restricted to participating in no more than half the regular season of any type of athletic activity. This includes speech and debate as well as choral music, band, and choral music. All post-season activities will be suspended and the school district won’t be permitted to host any special games, parades tournaments or other competitions. Cook said that the state board of education may also recommend that the governor declare a school in a state emergency. This could lead to a state-takeover. An examination of records of students who graduated in 2015 revealed that 25 of the 193 students did not meet graduation requirements. The previous year, “a lot of records do not contain documentation verifying that students passed the four subject area exams at the end of each course,” which is required for graduation. The audit states that the superintendent is not effective in providing educational leadership in areas such as managing district personnel, implementing policies, and developing board and community relationships. Gray stated that the district had already worked to fix the special education program’s problems, and it will continue to work to rectify any audit findings. A group of students with special needs sued the state and the district in 2012 for special education violations. These included the placement of special-needs students in segregated classrooms and improper suspensions of students with disabilities. Jackson Public Schools is the second-largest school district in the state and has more than 30,000 students. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think. Republish this Story