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School accountability appeal goes to state board

The Commission on School Accreditation rejected the Corinth School District's appeal of accountability results on Thursday, but the matter is still alive as the appeal goes to the State Board of Education in the coming week.

After hearing the report of the Department of Education's internal review committee, which denied the request to withdraw the grade classifications for the district and its three schools, the commission voted 6-2 to recommend that the State Board of Education deny the district's appeal.

The discussion was part of a special meeting of the commission in Jackson.

The final phase of the appeal process comes on Thursday when the district's appeal goes before the state board. The district is contesting the recently assigned accountability ratings of C for the district, D for Corinth Elementary School, C for Corinth Middle School and F for Corinth High School.

The district is requesting the opportunity to address the state board when the matter comes up for consideration.

Superintendent Lee Childress made the district's case in a presentation to the commission members.

"The Corinth journey is one of an unfulfilled promise made by the Mississippi Department of Education," he told the commission, "and one that is filled with changing reasons as to why the Mississippi Department of Education has deliberately defied a Mississippi State Board of Education action. That is what has brought us here today."

He said the district never sought to have a new accountability model. Its District of Innovation plan requested a modified accountability model that would simply replace the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program tests with Cambridge International assessments.

"The State Board of Education directed the Mississippi Department of Education to work with us to develop a modified model, not a separate model, to do this," said Childress. "For two-and-a-half years, or more now, we have attempted to get this model developed."

Last June, a letter from the Department of Education notified the district that the department was effectively revoking the District of Innovation waiver related to accountability, said Childress.

When the unfavorable ratings were made public, the students, faculty and community "were incensed," he said, because the Mississippi Department of Education "had broken a promise they had made with the Corinth School District."

The Department of Education has taken the position that it is legally required to make public the accountability ratings, which were labeled unofficial.

The school district's attorney, Bill Davis, said the district is hopeful for a favorable outcome before the state board.

The Commission on School Accreditation "appreciated the conundrum we are in and the frustration that we've had with the department," he said, "but, at the end of the day, they were basically advised that they had to go with MDE or they'd be violating the law. We just think that's an incorrect legal conclusion."