Expanding early childhood learning tops the list of a strategic plan by a Mississippi commission charged with transforming Jackson Public Schools. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
The Jackson Public School strategic plan incorporates research from The Better Together Commission. It consists of five commitments. They include innovative teaching and learning, creating joyful learning environments and fostering a culture of accountability and excellence. But the number one commitment is to expand early childhood learning. Rhea Williams-Bishop is with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and a member of the commission.
"An knowing it's really an economic driver. We have to have high quality accessible, affordable, early childhood education to move this state forward," said Williams-Bishop.
Robert Blaine, the city administrator is also on the commission. It was formed as part of an agreement to keep the failing district from being taken over by the state. He says they're piloting a two-year pre-k program right now with the Kellogg Foundation in the hopes of eventually making it universal. Also among their targeted goals is to raise 3rd grade reading and math proficiency by 50 percent. The plan says rates are currently in the 20 percent range.
"Institutions actually use the 3rd grade reading gate as a measure to determine prison populations. And so if we can make significant dents in student achievement, we will see some of the most significant changes in the performance of our city," said Blaine.
JPS is also in need of certified teachers. Those who haven't passed a required teaching proficiency exam received an extension from the Mississippi Department of Education. JPS Superintendent Errick Greene talked about the need for teachers during the launch of the plan.
"We still have a number of vacancies, our team is working furiously to process applications and to demonstrate the kind of love and professionalism we want all of our teachers to experience so that they will join us and so that they will stay," said Greene.
The Better Together Commission spent 18 months devising the plan with input from educators, parents and the community.
To read the Better Together Commission Strategic Plan visit: www.jackson.k12.ms.us/StrategicPlan.