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Op Ed: State Dept. of Education Owes Yazoo City Kids an Explanation

OP ED Policy: We welcome qualified Op Ed pieces to be published on this website. In the interest of balance, if an opposing opinion piece is submitted, we will run that also. The News Mississippi Editorial Staff reserves the right to publish at its discretion. 

Bryan Davis is a Mississippi journalist and former teacher in the Yazoo City School District. This column is set to appear in the Yazoo Herald and is special to News Mississippi.

During the 2012-2013 school year, I wrote a column for this paper that was addressed directly to the Mississippi State Department of Education.

Ironically, it was around the fall of last year when MDE officials stood before the Yazoo City School Board and told local officials that the school district would be taken over if things did not improve soon.

I challenged Dr. Lynn House and all of MDE to make good on what has become an idle threat over the years in Yazoo City.

On Friday, MDE shocked the state by taking over the Claiborne County and Lefloure County school districts, but the state department, once again gave new life to the five-ring circus that is the Yazoo City School District.

Yazoo City Superintendent Dr. Arthur Cartlidge told MDE in last week’s hearings on school takeovers “I think we have a team in place now to move forward. I think we can make it happen.”
It’s funny how Yazoo City has moved only backward since Dr. Cartlidge politically usurped Anthony Sudbury during October of 2011, the year I taught at Yazoo City High School.

His tenure as Yazoo City School District’s Puppet in Chief has spelled lower achievement for children and political sanctuary for his handlers.

The students who took the state U.S. History exam in May 2011 had an 80 percent pass rate on the test. Cartlidge’s children in May 2013 had a pass rate of 51 percent.

Algebra was the highest at 61 percent. Biology was a hair under 42 percent in the pass range, and last but not least, only 37.5 percent of your children at YCHS passed the state English exam.

The saddest part of this tale is not that Dr. Cartlidge has failed so mightly in his duty as chief officer over the welfare of hundreds of children. The worst part of this sordid story is that the Mississippi Department of Education doesn’t see anything wrong with the job that he and his political handlers have done with your children.

Dr. Cartlidge told the state department on Thursdaythat he was doing a good job, and the state department in turn said that they agree.

MDE thinks that a 37.5 percent pass rate on last year’s English test is good enough to allow this disaster of a district leader to continue to harm the minds of Yazoo’s children.

MDE thinks that a 30 percent drop in History test scores over three years is perfectly acceptable.
Dr. Cartlidge told MDE that he and Yazoo City do not need help, and MDE agreed.

News flash to Cartlidge and MDE: Yazoo City needs help.

Last year, the Yazoo district lauded their own efforts to pull a projected 51 percent graduation rate in February up to 76 percent by May. They did this by providing re-testers with Saturday tutorials, extra tutoring at schools and boot camps.

It’s funny to me that the first-time testers last May did not receive the same test preparation that the re-testers got. I guess you’ll worry about them when they’re down to their final round in a couple of years, or in other words, when you’re faced with discipline for low graduation projections.

I issued a challenge to MDE last year, and I’m doing it again this fall.

This time, it’s to the chief.

Lynn House, I want you to write a letter for this publication to the children of Yazoo City, explaining your department’s continuing disservice to them, their parents and the business owners who have to turn them away because they are not equipped for the workforce after completing Cartlidge’s Saturdaytutorials.

And Dr. House, I would like for your to issue this letter without using the word “rigor.”

Your department consistently tells educators to let data drive decisions. I don’t know how you could look at the data produced from YCSD and come to the decision your department made last week.

I think that we all deserve an explanation.

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