Kayleigh Skinner covers issues involving state government and education. Prior to joining Mississippi Today, she reported on local and statewide education issues for The Hechinger Report and Chalkbeat Tennessee. She most recently served as a general assignment reporter for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. Kayleigh is a graduate of the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi.
Jackson Public Schools leaders say they will address the findings of a scathing audit report during a public meeting next week. Last week, the Mississippi Department of Education unveiled the results of an 18 month investigative audit which found the district in violation of 24 of 32 accreditation standards. District officials have the chance to address the findings at a Commission of School Accreditation meeting on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m.
Earlier Tuesday, the district sent out a release to announce the board would meet for a special work session “regarding the recent audit from the Mississippi Department of Education.” When the meeting convened at 4 p.m., the board voted to close the meeting less than ten minutes in to consider going into executive session.
Despite a missed deadline that resulted in a lost opportunity for federal grants, the Jackson Public School District will continue to work with a contractor they blamed for the mistake. No additional JPS funds will be spent. JPS was one of several districts that failed to apply for school improvement grants (SIG) earlier this year. Interim Superintendent Freddrick Murray said the district intended to submit applications for three of its schools but missed the May 8 deadline. At the time, district spokesperson Sherwin Johnson told Mississippi Today that contractor Tri-K Group “made some late changes to the grant that led to the district missing the required deadline” but the district would continue working with them to submit future applications later this year.
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has settled upon his first nomination for the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees and the City Council will confirm or deny his selection on Tuesday. The city council meeting agenda lists an item to confirm “the nomination of Letitia Simmons Johnson to the Jackson Public Schools Board.” Johnson is an attorney. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. The board urgently needs an additional member — at a July 20 meeting officials announced that member Richard Lind resigned.
The Mississippi Department of Education provided more details on the testing error that affected nearly 1,000 students and allowed some to accidentally graduate. Thursday morning, MDE chief of accountability Paula Vanderford told reporters the scoring error committed by testing vendor NCS Pearson Inc. helped out students that scored lower on the U.S. History exam, and hurt those who scored higher. “When you look at the impact that the error had and look at the range of scores that students could have received, the students at the lower end of the scale were awarded more points than what they should have gotten,” Vanderford said. The mistake was a human error, she said—the wrong scoring table was used and resulted in incorrect test scores for hundreds of students. The mix up did not negatively affect students because everyone affected got to keep the higher test score, she said.