For the past 10 years, the Mississippi Department of Education hasn’t been doing its job supporting our local school districts.
On Thursday, State auditor Shad White released findings MDE had, since 2009, failed to maintain the Legislator required Office of Dropout Prevention, had not audited a district-level dropout prevention plan since 2014 and employed staff responsible for dropout prevention who were not even aware a dropout prevention plan existed.
White also found MDE was guilty of fiddling with how graduation rates are calculated, removing the count of students repeating 12th grade, in order to artificially reach the 85 percent graduation goal handed down from the Legislature.
“This change increased the MDE-published graduation rates by nearly 10 percent and misaligned MDE benchmarks with legislative intent,” White said.
Anyone who has worked for a large company can understand the position MDE was in to raise the graduation rates. All too often it seems like the folks at the top don’t fully appreciate or acknowledge they are demanding too much.
But cooking the books to meet a goal is not the right way to do things, and aside from being illegal, MDE’s actions did the teachers and staff of our public school districts no service.
I don’t believe there is a teacher, principal, school board member or custodian in the state of Mississippi who will claim educating tomorrow’s leaders is easy. Our public schools work excruciatingly hard to do the best they can, often with little funding and less guidance from the state.
By failing to maintain the Office of Dropout Prevention and auditing district-level plans, MDE has failed our schools by depriving them of the guidance needed to have the best programs available for their students.
And by changing the way graduation rates are calculated, MDE diluted our districts ability to accurately measure the efficacy of the programs and initiatives they worked so hard to put in place.
The Mississippi Department of Education owes our teachers, our students and our communities an apology and safeguards must be put in place to ensure this does not happen again.
You can contact managing editor Thomas Howard at email@example.com