State Ed Dept.: Jackson Public Schools plan falls short

Print Share on LinkedIn More

The Mississippi Department of Education does not think the Jackson Public School District has a strong enough plan to fix its systemic issues.

State Department of Education officials will present their response to the district’s corrective action plan to the state Board of Education on Thursday, and board documents show the Office of Accreditation, which handles the process, will not recommend approval.

“JPS is one of three districts that MDE is working with to improve their CAPs before bringing them up for Board approval in March,” MDE spokesperson Jean Cook said in an email.

Two other districts — Natchez-Adams and Hazlehurst — are also on the list of CAPs that are not recommended for approval.

The board document states additions or revisions are necessary before the plans can be approved, and program offices will work with the districts to revise them.

Kayleigh Skinner, Mississippi Today

The Mississippi Department of Education’s audit report on the Jackson Public School District.

In August 2017, the state released a 680-page report detailing the results of an 18-month  investigative audit which found the district in violation of 75 percent of state accreditation standards. At the time, the district was on “probation” status and earned an F accountability rating, all of which factored into the Commission on School Accreditation and State Board of Education’s decision to request a state takeover.

Ultimately that did not happen — Gov. Phil Bryant declined to declare a state of emergency. Instead, he announced the Better Together Commission, a partnership between his office, the City of Jackson, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The commission is tasked with overseeing a separate evaluation of the district, and this week members announced that California-based Insight Education Group will conduct that evaluation.

JPS avoided a state takeover, but district officials are still required to develop and submit a corrective action plan, or CAP, to the state Department of Education. The CAP must address every issue outlined in the audit report and include solutions.

The JPS school board approved the plan last month, after debate on whether the more than $326,000 spent on a consultant to help navigate the audit process was worth the price.

District officials have warned the school board that some of the issues mentioned in the audit, like retaining and hiring licensed teachers and bringing old buildings up to current standards, will be very difficult to fix.

Every fall, the Commission on School Accreditation approves annual accreditation statuses for each public school district in the state. School districts are ranked as accredited, on probation, or withdrawn. For a district to remain accredited, it must be 100 percent compliant in all 32 state accreditation standards.

If the state board decides not to approve the plan Thursday, it would not be the first time this has happened. In November 2016, the state board rejected the district’s CAP for a smaller audit of just 22 schools because it was not specific enough. A month later, a revised version was approved but state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright warned that district needed to move quickly to implement the changes or the district faced a state takeover.

JPS has been on probation status since August 2016.