No school district placed in state Achievement School District for now

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Kayleigh Skinner/Mississippi Today

ASD Task force chair Bonita Coleman, who is superintendent of Ocean Springs School District, presents the state board with candidates for the ASD.

The question of whether two public school districts will be taken over by the state has been put off until next year.

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to delay a decision until a superintendent for the Achievement School District is in place.

In October, the Achievement School District task force recommended Noxubee County and Humphreys County school districts as candidates. In a separate resolution, the task force included Jackson Public Schools as well.

Scheduled to begin operations in the 2018-19 school year, the district would help transform persistently failing schools, according to the law.

There are multiple ways a district is eligible:

• Districts with an F accountability rating for two consecutive years, or twice in three years.

• Districts with 50 percent or more of a district’s schools are rated F.

• Districts with 50 percent or more of the students in the district attend an F school.

Additionally, the Achievement School District will only take on as many schools as it has the capacity to serve.

Jackson, Noxubee and Humphreys districts meet all three criteria, which is why the board made one recommendation that all three be considered.

Each of the three districtsreceived an F in state accountability ratings and ranks at or near the bottom of the list in terms of overall accountability scores: Out of the 143 districts which received scores, Noxubee was 140th, Jackson was 141st, and Humphreys was 142nd.

A separate intervention is underway in Jackson Public Schools.

The state Board of Education and Commission on School Accreditation both recommended the district be taken over this fall, but Gov. Phil Bryant declined to sign a declaration of emergency. Instead, he announced a partnership between his office, the City of Jackson, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Those groups created the 15-member Better Together Commission, the entity tasked with overseeing the transformation.

On Thursday, the state education board as whole agreed the Jackson district did not need to be placed into the ASD.

“There is no question in my mind that Jackson Public Schools is heading in the right direction,” said board member Charles McClelland, who also serves on the Better Together Commission. “I think it would be pretty harsh at this point with the momentum being put forth to change JPS, to put them in the ASD and let this work go to waste.”

The board then voted to defer action for Noxubee and Humphreys until a leader is in place.

Kayleigh Skinner/Mississippi Today

State Superintendent Carey Wright

State Superintendent Carey Wright told the board her office has received “a number of calls from people all over” and hopes to interview candidates in January and bring options to the board in February.

Board member Karen Elam bristled against what she said was an incorrect media portrayal of the Achievement School District.

“It’s not a takeover, it’s a privilege to be included in this district that is going to really be the shining light of what can happen in this state,” Elam said.

The law states any school district placed into the state-run district loses local control. The school board and superintendent are replaced by the state Board of Education and the Achievement School District superintendent.

There is a separate avenue for state intervention as well — a separate law created the District of Transformation model. When the the Commission on School Accreditation and State Board of Education both decide an extreme emergency exists in a district, they can request that the governor declare a state of emergency for the district to be taken over by the state become a District of Transformation.