JPS Keeps Accreditation for Now as 18 Districts Go on Probation | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

JPS Keeps Accreditation for Now as 18 Districts Go on Probation

Paula Vanderford, MDE's chief accountability officer, told the Commission on School Accreditation that MDE is looking to move away from an all-or-none approach to accreditation in the state.

Paula Vanderford, MDE's chief accountability officer, told the Commission on School Accreditation that MDE is looking to move away from an all-or-none approach to accreditation in the state. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— Jackson Public Schools is still accredited, at least for now.

The Commission on School Accreditation approved the 2017 accountability grades of schools and districts at its meeting Tuesday morning, as well as recommended that 18 school districts in the state go on probation for accreditation violations.

Jo Ann Malone, the director of accreditation at MDE, did not recommend that the commission revoke accreditation from any school district, including Jackson Public Schools, which is on probation and at risk for takeover.

Several districts struggled to comply with one standard that requires all teachers to be properly licensed to teach in the state. Mississippi has a problem with teacher retention statewide. Paula Vanderford, the MDE chief accountability officer, said the state's licensure commission will look at potential changes to the standard next month.

"We recognize that this is an issue statewide, so right now our accreditation system is all or none, so you can have one deficiency on record, or you can have 32," Vanderford told the commission. "... We know that this is an area that we need to review."

Districts on probation will have to submit corrective action plans to bring their districts into compliance with state standards. Accreditation is currently an all-or-nothing game, so a district can be out of compliance with one or 29 of the standards and technically be put on probation. Vanderford hinted that MDE might look to change that going forward.

"We are looking to move away from the all-or-none and having a threshold of compliance, so that one student record in one school in a district with 10 schools does not result (in probation). ... But today we had to enforce the policy that's currently approved," Vanderford said. "But with any of the districts at any time, any one of these 18 districts resolves their deficiencies. We'll bring it back to the next commission meeting."

The commission also approved the official school and district grades for 2017, which will not be official or made public until the Mississippi Board of Education votes on them Thursday. Earlier this year, the commission and the state board approved a new baseline for cut scores but allowed districts to use the old baseline for this year only, so districts were able to take the best of the two scores.

MDE officials shared the 2017 accountability scores with the commission. Fifteen school districts received "A" grades, and almost 70 percent of districts in the state received a "C" grade or higher. Thirty-six districts received "D" grades, and nine "F"-rated districts.

School districts can appeal their preliminary scores, and Alan Burrow, director of accountability services, said MDE received 799 appeals this year. The department approved 294 of those appeals, Burrow said. Those appeals are included and corrected as a part of each district's final grade.

Official district grades will not be official or public until Thursday, when the Mississippi Board of Education votes to approve the rankings. The Mississippi Board of Education will meet Thursday after its regularly scheduled meeting for a work session about JPS.

Read more about the impending takeover at jacksonfreepress.com/jpstakeover. Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at arielle@jacksonfreepress.com.

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