State needs plan for state’s many failing schools

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Employees at the Mississippi Department of Education are probably praying for passage of House Bill 455.

If the bill fails to become law, the Department of Education is on the hook to take over as many as 52 failing schools if the schools earn an “F” on statewide rankings again this year.

Those schools already have failing marks for the last two years and under current law, the third strike means the state must take over the entire districts affected.

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The state education department is in no way capable of taking over so many school districts so quickly. The fear of the possibility of doing so led education department officials to begin giving threatened districts a list of possible ways out of the takeover threat.

The Natchez-Adams School District is among those potential takeover candidates based on two years of failing grades at Natchez High School and Morgantown Middle School.

Based on state advice, NASD is working on a plan to cheat the takeover by effectively reorganizing the two troubled schools. The logic is if the schools change in structure and form, the newly created entities will reset the failure clock, thus pushing back the day of reckoning.

But House Bill 455 — still in a fluid state as of Tuesday — would ease the problems facing the education department by allowing individual schools, rather than entire districts, to be taken over.

That would help, but unfortunately, the bill also resets the clock for takeovers, too. Perhaps that’s better than the alternative of disguising a retooling effort and a name change as a fix.

Eventually, the state must commit to a firm plan for what to do with the dozens of failing school districts across Mississippi.