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Mississippi schools at risk of becoming chartered

thirty-five mississippi schools in more than 25 counties are in consideration to be taken over by parents because of their under-performing statuses.

Parent-led conversion of low-performing schools has been on the rise across
the nation, and Mississippi schools are being taken into consideration.

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) decides if a school should be converted into a charter school by looking at the school’s academic rating and
performance.

“Charter schools are independent public schools allowed freedom to be more innovative, while being held accountable for improved student achievement,” as stated by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The Conversion Charter School Act of 2010 from the Mississippi Legislature stated that as many as 12 charters may be given; however, three per congressional district is the maximum.

A petition has to be approved by over 50 percent of parents and guardians of the students who attend an under-performing school to the State Board of Education in order to convert the school into a charter school.

“The Board would have the option of rejecting or accepting the petition,” Pete Smith, bureau director at the Office of Communications and Legislative Services, said.

The Mississippi Parents’ Campaign supports charter school legislation in order
to help students who attend low-performing schools.

Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents’ Campaign, gave her insight on the matter of charter conversion.

“In order to be eligible for conversion, the school would have to have fallen into one of the bottom three accountability ratings, low performing, at risk of failing or failing for three consecutive years,” Loome stated.

For the first time, 35 schools in the state of Mississippi are at risk of becoming chartered. Among the counties where schools are at risk of becoming chartered are Claiborne, Clarksdale, Holmes, Hinds, Meridian and Yazoo.

There are other factors to be considered regarding a charter.

“A school can be considered a New Start School under section 37-167-1 of the
Mississippi Code,” Smith said.

Section 37-167-1 of the Mississippi code states “the term ‘New Start School’ means the successor school to a public school in the State of Mississippi, which, during each of three (3) consecutive school years, is considered failing, as determined by the State Department of Education.”

“However, there are different criteria that a school would have to meet to be placed as a New Start School,” Smith said.

The parents involved would have to construct a feasible plan as to how the school would advance and develop under their guidance according to Loome.

“We hope that administrators would look closely at the school by using diagnostic informative assessments to determine where the children are, where the weaknesses are and where the strengths are,” Loome said.

Loome said the core principle of the Parents’ Campaign is that all Mississippi
children should be in great public schools.

“We hope that parents and administrators and teachers will all work together to
make sure that children in every area of the state have great public schools,” she said.