Jackson Public Schools administrators, educators and students gathered in the auditorium of Poindexter Elementary School on Thursday, Sept. 6, for the announcement and celebration of the district's top-rated schools. JPS Superintendent Earl Watkins revealed six level 5 (superior-rated) schools, including first-timer Poindexter Elementary. Making a swift improvement from level 2 in 2005, Poindexter is a true success story, Watkins said.
"The principal of Poindexter Elementary School came to Poindexter around November or December … and when she came to the school, the school had been rated at that time as a level 2 school, Watkins said. "And in a half of a year, working in collaboration with the teachers and the parents of this school, Mrs. (Yolanda) Lloyd and the parents and the teachers moved this school to a level 4 in one year. They continued to work … and now they are level 5."
Other schools designated level 5 are Casey, Davis Magnet, George, McWillie and Power APAC Elementary schools.
Jackson Mayor Frank Melton appeared at Poindexter to congratulate the top-rated schools. The victory for Poindexter was a personal triumph for him as well, he said.
"For the last 24 years I've been coming in and out of this school," he said. "Most of the kids that have come through this school, I've taught them how to swim at the Farish Street YMCA."
Melton said that as mayor he would allow no one to "have anything negative to say about our school system."
"When these kids leave the school today, the kids who will go to the right will pass by a liquor store; the kids who will go to the left will pass by some abandoned houses. But they're level 5," Melton said. "When many of these kids go home ... there will be some difficulties in the neighborhood; there will be some difficulties in their families, but the kids are level 5."
Melton told Poindexter students that they should concentrate on four things to succeed in life. "It's about faith in God, it's about faith in your family, it's about a quality education, and it's about giving something back to the community," he said.
Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman, who was president of the school board in 2002 when Earl Watkins was hired as JPS superintendent, was also present. Current School Board President Delmer Stamps, Vice President Jonathan Larkin, and board members Sollie Norwood and Ivory Phillips also attended.
Following the announcement of schools achieving level 3 status and above, Watkins reported on the adequate yearly progress scores of district schools in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind statutes. Students must test proficient in reading/language, math and an "other" category. Attendance is the "other" category for elementary and middle school students, while the graduation rate is taken into account for high school students.
While 44 schools met AYP proficiency levels in all three areas, the overall percentage of JPS schools meeting AYP standards has dropped from 82 percent to 79 percent in the 2006-2007 school year, and the figure for schools meeting AYP in two categories dropped from 98 percent to 91 percent.
Watkins admitted that there was a setback in those areas, but said he has a plan for helping schools improve scores by increasing coaching, more specialized professional development, implementing student progress monitoring systems, and more.
Level 4 (exemplary) JPS schools are Barr, Clausell, Green, Isable, Johnson, Key, Lake, Lester, Mcleod, Smith, Sykes, Van Winkle and Walton Elementary schools, as well as Murrah High School. Twenty-eight schools including Boyd, French, Galloway, Hopkins, Lee, Marshall, North Jackson, Oak Forest, Pecan Park, Raines, Spann, Timberlawn, Watkins, Wilkins and Woodville Heights Elementary schools were rated level 3 (successful). Eighty-seven percent of all JPS schools were rated level 3 or above.
Level 2 schools were Baker, Bradley and Brown Elementary schools, Blackburn and Rowan Middle schools, and Bailey and Forest Hill high schools.
There were no level 1 (low-performing) JPS schools in the 2006-2007 school year, and next year Watkins' goal is to have no level 2 (under-performing) rated schools in JPS.