The Mississippi Department of Education blistered JPS in a recent audit. The violations are simply too numerous to mention in one post and aren't merely technical in nature. MDE reported JPS had dangerous schools, too many unlicensed teachers, graduated students who should not graduate, and a host of other serious problems. JPS faces a loss of accreditation, as MDE will downgrade the accreditation status of JPS from "accredited" to "probation". JPS violated 22 of a possible 32 standards as it flunked the audit. MDE notified JPS in a June 15 letter stating JPS could contest the findings within the next thirty days. MDE will present the findings to the Commission on School Accreditation on August 4. JPS can request a hearing to contest the findings.
JJ is going to cover this subject a little differently than others. The report is 247 pages and is simply too long to cover in one post while giving it the attention it deserves. The public needs to know how bad really things are at JPS. JJ is going to publish a series of posts about the audit. The full audit is posted below if you want to read ahead. Here are the first batch of highlights from the report.
*Leadership. The audit states:
Based on the Findings outlined in this audit report, the superintendent does not provide effective educational leadership in key areas including management of district personnel, effective implementation of policies, and the development of board and community relations. (KF: No comment)*Then there is the School Board:
Based on confidential interviews and survey results, policies are inconsistently applied.
Implementation of discipline policies administered by the principal are often overturned by the Superintendent or central office administration. Reports also indicate the principals’ “hands are tied” regarding administering discipline consequences. (p.7)..
The Superintendent does not implement an instructional management plan that clearly defines the academic goals necessary for improving student achievement.
The Superintendent fails to ensure that school facilities are maintained according to standards required for clean, safe, and orderly schools. (This will be covered in a later post. There is a big devil in these details.)
(School) Board policies do not serve as the basis of operation for the district. Many policies are not current, and irregularities and inconsistencies exist in these documents when compared with other district documents. Findings include, but are not limited, to the following:
*The School Board gets more heat:
Policies and the Parent-Student Handbook contain many duplications. The handbook is disorderly and repetitious. The handbook contains no Code of Student Conduct.
The school board has failed to adopt, maintain, and implement policies that are current and clearly define and ensure that the necessary plans, procedures, programs, and systems are in place to effectively implement a discipline system that supports principals and teachers and ensures decisions are made consistently for all students. Based on confidential interviews and survey results, discipline policies are applied inconsistently, and central office administrators and board members overturn the administration’s decisions regarding student discipline.
The school board has failed to effectively perform its duties in its role of oversight of management for the District as prescribed by law. (p.12)The audit also states that the Board does not make visits in a group as required. Individual members visit the schools at their own discretion.
* Licensed teachers. Remember when JJ reported that only 43% of JPS employees were teachers? Here is why:
Many professional positions in the District are filled by staff who do not hold a valid Mississippi Teacher’s License or who are not properly endorsed for the subject they are teaching. (p.14)*JPS hired an administrator with a felony background. No action was taken regarding this hire until it was reported by the newspaper.
The District has a high teacher turnover rate and teacher abandonment of jobs. Students in those classes are divided and assigned to different classes. This also occurs when teachers are absent. Their students are dispersed among other classes.
Auditors were unable to determine the degree to which the District is noncompliant regarding the lack of properly certified or licensed professional staff. Many positions are listed in the District Personnel Edits; however, reports from individual schools revealed that a number of teachers had left the District and their classes are now covered by substitutes or either their students were merged into other classes in which the same subject matter was not being taught. The students were monitored by the classroom teacher, but received no instruction. A detailed personnel listing was provided to a staff member at one (1) school and the staff member indicated 12 professionals out of 30 were no longer teaching at the school.
*Licensed teachers again:
79 of the 1643 certified teachers employed by the District are working outside their areas of certification in academic core subjects. Approximately 200 of the 1643 teachers have no certification or are improperly certified. (p.16)*Three schools (of 58) lack a librarian. Librarians are unable to devote half of a day if the school has less than 500 students or a full day if it has more than 500 students. (p.17. This subject is covered in more detail later in the report and it will be reported in a later post.)
*Attendance reporting. The audit states:
The District has failed to report attendance in accordance with the reporting guidelines outlined in Miss. Code Ann. § 37-13-91.*Graduation requirements. The audit charges JPS was woefully negligent in this area:
Findings include failure to report unlawful absences within the required timelines, failure to ensure that correct contact information is properly placed on the student attendance referrals, lack of approved policies and procedures related to unexcused absences and tardies, and failure to report suspensions to the MDE.
In addition, auditors reviewing student records viewed documentation of students being absent for as many as 90 days and still passing courses and earned Carnegie units. (p.39)
Jackson Public School Board Policy JBJ/IGD for Promotion and Retention of Students also includes Graduation Requirements. The required subjects listed in the graduation requirements for a traditional diploma are incorrect. The total number of credits required is listed as 27. The District Option requires a total of 23 units...
A review of student records for graduating seniors of school year 2014-2015 indicated that 25 students out of 193 records reviewed did not meet graduation requirements. (p.44)
A review of student records for seniors of school year 2014-2015 indicates that a large number of records contain no documentation verifying that students have passed all four (4) end-of-course subject area tests. The following is the result of the record review for seniors of school year 2014-2015 (The first number is the number of students who lacked said documentation, the second number is the total number of students reviewed):
Forest Hill: 17/34
Jim Hill: 31/33
A review of records of seniors of school year 2014-2015, and the District’s graduation ceremony program, indicate that some students who did not meet graduation requirements were permitted to participate in the graduation exercises. (p.45. But hey, graduation rates are increasing so everything is ok, right?)
That was part I. Part II will be covered tomorrow. The report is posted below for readers who want to move ahead of the reporting. Keep an eye on Forest Hill and Callaway high schools while reading the audit. Those two schools will repeatedly stand out for the wrong reasons.
Kingfish note: Kate Royals provided a a nice synopsis of the report in her Mississippi Today article.
Dr. Gray told the Clarion-Ledger on April 6:
Gray said the he has known the review was coming and welcomes it.It will be interesting to see if readers will agree with this statement by Saturday.
"Districts will likely be dinged for willful neglect, which we don't have," he said. "We will take a close look at our policies and practices and improve on them."