Jackson, Mississippi – Today, the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), and local advocates announced their recommendations for Mississippi’s draft state education plan, which will be submitted on September 18th to the U.S. Department of Education in compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA). DSC and LDF also encouraged students, parents, and community members to submit their own recommendations on the state’s plan, once its posted for public comment on the Mississippi Department of Education’s website. Under ESSA, states are required to consider feedback from community stakeholders.
Our recommendations – which were sent today in a letter to the Mississippi Department of Education – are intended to ensure that the state’s plan reflects community input, addresses school inequities, and includes provisions to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. Among other suggestions, our letter urges the State to include school climate and safety in its accountability system to reduce the use of practices that push students out of the classroom and unfairly impact students of color. We also encourage state officials to develop effective strategies for addressing teacher shortages and help students involved in the juvenile justice system successfully transition back into mainstream schools.
“If our communities are going to win this fight and actually create a nurturing environment where every child can succeed, we must move away from a focus only on test scores to a more holistic approach that addresses the needs of the whole child,” said Joyce Parker, Director of Citizens for a Better Greenville. “The Mississippi Department of Education has made important steps toward this goal, but parents, students, and community members must push state officials to go further in its state plan to fully realize this vision.”
“Leaders in education cannot continue to operate in silos with antiquated and dated strategies and then expect a different outcome,” said Marika Pfefferkorn a DSC coordinating committee member and Director of Programs for Minnesota Education Equity Partnership. “ESSA presents a historic opportunity to deeply engage families and communities about what is necessary to move the needle in education. School Climate should be at the top of this conversation and embedded in multiple aspects of any state ESSA Plan.”
“Mississippi has an obligation to prepare a state plan that reflects the concerns of those who will be most directly affected by its provisions: students, parents, community members, and other stakeholders,” said Elizabeth Olsson, Senior Policy Associate at LDF. “That is why the upcoming public comment period is so important: it’s a chance for members of the community to guarantee that their children have the resources and protections they need to thrive in school.”