Major Mississippi school district puts administrators on leave, opens investigation into huge testing gains

The Jackson Public Schools (JPS) system placed several administrators on leave pending the outcome of an investigation into testing irregularities.

The suspensions were revealed just one day…

The Jackson Public Schools (JPS) system placed several administrators on leave pending the outcome of an investigation into testing irregularities.

The suspensions were revealed just one day after the district announced large gains in testing results among students. In a simultaneous announcement, the district said that it was investigating the testing results at several schools.

In a statement released by the district, Superintendent Dr. Errick L. Greene claimed that the testing abnormalities were “not a districtwide issue” and called the problem “a very isolated incident.”

Altogether, seven schools of the 55 system schools, or 13%, have been marked for investigation, according to local WJTV 12 News.

In the meantime, the district has placed the administrators on leave with pay at each of the schools under investigation, pending the outcome of the query, said the Mississippi Free Press. 

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) uses a forensics screening system which caught the abnormalities. MDE then notified the district that it is required to conduct an investigation, said WJTV.  

“In the notification from the Mississippi Department of Education, we were directed to conduct an internal investigation to better understand what occurred in those schools. And we were given 15 days, 15 working days to present back to the Mississippi Department of Education our findings,” said Greene. 

JPS buried the announcement of the investigation into the testing in a self-congratulatory statement announcing the sharp rise in district test scores.  

Students showed “remarkable” academic growth across “all grade levels,” in Algebra 1, Biology 1, English II, U.S. History, English Language Learner (ELA), Math, and Science,” said the JPS announcement.   

“This year, our most significant gains were in the fields of science and mathematics. In 2023, 43.8% of our scholars achieved proficiency in science—an 11% surge from 2022 and 25% increase from 2021. Comparably, in the area of mathematics, we observed a 9% increase in proficiency from 2022, which translates to an exciting 22.6% rise from 2021. Between 2022 and 2023, proficiency gains of 6% for English language arts and 7% for history were also achieved,” said JPS.  

The Mississippi Academic Assessment Program shows that students from the state have almost completely recovered in English, math and science to pre-COVID-19 levels, but that still doesn’t erase a 4-year achievement gap. 

The JPS Board of Trustees minutes from two days prior to the dual announcement, makes no mention of the test scores or the investigation. 

The minutes instead show the approval of a low-cost housing loan system for teachers; approval for the hiring of a project director for school-based mental health; the approval for a program with the liberal Equal Justice Initiative, which represents inmates who claim to be wrongly convicted; the approval of an agreement with the local juvenile justice center; and other administrative approvals. 

The meeting minutes reflect just one item that arguably could be construed as improving academic performance: approval of the annual JPS dropout prevention plan.  

Nevertheless, in his statement, Greene promised a thorough investigation and necessary measures to address any cheating on the test.   

“We will follow the investigation where it leads and take all appropriate actions including termination and reporting to the Mississippi Department of Education Office of Educator Misconduct. Our investigation process is designed to be thorough and impartial, and we will involve all necessary parties to ensure transparency and accountability,’ said Greene.