The Mississippi State Board of Education met on Thursday morning, and among the items on the agenda, the board explored the option of adding three counties into the state’s new Achievement School District. The Achievement School District law was passed two years ago, with the idea that the program could help underperforming school districts get back on track. After a task force met for the past two years, they made recommendations for the Jackson Public Schools, Noxubee County and Humphreys County schools to be added to the program.
Earlier this year, a state takeover of JPS was widely debated, but Governor Bryant ended up announcing a coalition with Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to improve the district. Due to this announcement, Pete Smith with the MDE said that JPS was taken out of Thursday’s discussion.
The board voted not to discuss the option that included JPS, but they did choose to discuss the other two school districts. While the discussion took place, the board deferred a final vote until a superintendent is chosen to lead the Achievement School District. Smith says the hire will hopefully be made by February 2018. As far as the intent behind the law, Smith says it not meant to be a punishment, but instead, a new strategy for success.
“The legislature didn’t pass it with the intention to be something that is putative toward any district,” Smith said. “Sometimes a district just needs to be provided with new leadership and the Achievement School District is aiming to do that; provide a new leadership so they can come in and hopefully move the needle so these students can perform up to par academically.”
If the schools are voted into the Achievement School District, Smith said that to be returned to the communities, the schools must perform at a C-level or higher for five consecutive years.