There are a lot of people doing a lot of lobbying at the state capitol in Jackson, Mississippi right now.

Do I personally have a problem with lobbyists? Absolutely not. In my opinion, small businesspeople like myself, manufacturers, school teachers, bankers and everyone else should have someone advocating for their interests whenever laws are being considered that might affect them.

Do I have a problem with lobbyists parading under the thin veil of “education reform” when, in fact, their real agenda is to “promote the free market” by illustrating public education as a “failure”? Do I have a problem with the organized efforts of these “think tanks” in creating a separate and unequal system of pseudo-public education, all under the fictitious guise of “parent choice”?

Yes and yes.

But, I digress…

Today’s post is about recognizing some of the real reformers of public education in Mississippi. Here they are:

This is my friend Stevie Mosley. He is part of a local organization called Men For Change. Every day throughout the school year, Stevie and his volunteers come to this busy intersection at 3:30 to ensure the safety of the students walking home from G.W. Carver Middle School. Imagine a volunteer at every school intersection in the state of Mississippi. Could it happen? That's up to you and me.

The Meridian Rotary Club sends a volunteer to read to the Pre-Kindergarteners of a local Elementary School once a week throughout the school year. The Commission on Reading states that "The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success is reading aloud to children."

If communities ask for change long enough, they eventually get it. The result comes in the form of effective and inclusive Superintendents like MPSD's Alvin Taylor. Dr. Taylor is pictured here at the far left with his Community Advisory Council, which meets on a regular basis.

The good folks of Meridian's Junior Auxilliary have been providing free books to the children of Lauderdale County for almost 40 years. Next Fall they are stepping up their efforts even more by not only providing the books, but by reading the books aloud. If we had volunteers like the members of J.A. in every school in Mississippi, what would the effects be? Real reform, perhaps?

Mrs. Lucille Payne is a Foster Grandparent at a local Elementary School. She is one of the first people to arrive at the school each and every day. She does everything from sweeping to assisting teachers to loving and caring for students.

I'd say this bunch looks pretty happy to have community members in their school. Wouldn't you agree? What are the effects on a community when its kids are happy? Why are you still reading this? Go volunteer at a public school!







About The Public School Warrior

I am a product of Mississippi's public schools.
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  1. Winky says:

    Pictures really are worth a thousand words. Thanks for the post.

  2. Henry C Hale says:

    I love your story, your images, your message. As I am overwhelmed by this nightmare of political/corporate “reform”, I am now reminded of what I do – and why I do it – by the expressions on the faces of your Warriors. I am rejuvenated enough to face it all again tomorrow.

    And bless you, Mrs. Payne! I wish every teacher had one of You!

    Thank You.

  3. Trenton says:

    Try venturing a little bit outside the Meridian Public School District. Look at the Delta, JPS, Canton, etc. School reformers are looking at those districts and saying “This needs to be, and can be, better.”

    Although, Meridian does only have a graduation rate of 65.5% and is a Low-Performing (or F) district. Only one school is labeled above Low-Performing.

    Defending the public schools as is will not help Mississippi’s education. They are failing, miserably. I’m not saying the teachers are (I saw your post about that), but the system is. Change is needed.

    • Trenton, thanks for the comments and the advice. I have some advice for you, as well. Instead of simply looking at accountability labels on a computer screen, you should actually step foot on the campuses of some of these schools that you deem as “failing miserably”. In order to be informed, you need to tour a few of these schools.

      • tgwinford says:

        I have. To multiple of the ones in the Delta and JPS. I’ll be applying for Teach for America in a few years with a preference for the Delta. Trust me, I am very informed and very aware.

      • In that case, I applaud you. That is more than most people who have strong opinions about public ed. can say. Now, let me ask you this: What happens to the kid in the Delta who doesn’t get into the new charter school? Is he better off or worse off than before?

      • Jake McGuire says:

        As a former Teach For America teacher at Greenwood High School — someone who’s taken quite a few more steps inside a failing school than you have, Michael — I can tell you that the accountability model vastly understates the problems in our schools. I’ve seen terrible things in a “successful” district; imagine what’s happening in worse ones.

        We have 550 TFA teachers in the Delta this year, and the 60% who stay in education after their two-year commitment aren’t staying in Mississippi… they’re going to charter schools in other states. You tell me: are kids in the Delta better off or worse off when we’re bleeding some of our most passionate young teachers to other states’ charter schools?

      • Jake, we are in agreement on the accountabilty model. It is a joke, as is the new one with letter grades. I’ll take in stride your misinformed assumption that I know nothing of what goes on in struggling public schools. Are you saying that TFA’ers who stay in education prefer to teach at a charter school instead of a traditional public school? If so, why? Thanks for commenting.

      • Jake, would you like to respond?

  4. By the way, one of the schools in these pictures is deemed “At risk of failing” and the other is deemed “Low Performing”. So , yes, these accountability labels are just as meaningless in Meridian as they are in Greenville. I’m in these schools often. They are NOT “at risk of failing” or “low performing”. It’s a crock. I’d really like to hear more about why TFA’ers choose to leave Mississippi instead of staying to teach at a traditional public school.

    • tgwinford says:

      Meridian had a 2010/2011 graduation rate of 65.5%.
      26% of 8th graders scored below Basic on the Language Arts test.
      29% of 8th graders scored below Basic on the Mathematics test.
      29% of 8th graders scored below Basic on the Science test.
      25% failed the Algebra 1 subject area test (SATP).
      18% failed the US History SATP.
      44% failed the Biology 1 SATP.
      45% failed the English 2 SATP.

      Surely you aren’t trying to say that the Accountability Ratings are a crock when you see those numbers? And yes, I realize it is about a lot more than just those numbers. I realize I can’t understand the teachers’ abilities, parental involvement, “happiness” factors, etc. from those numbers, but I can understand that big percentages of students in Meridian are not meeting even the lowest thresholds of academic success.

      The pictures show some great aspects of the Meridian Public School District. It shows volunteers that are involved, among other things. Those are great! But those pictures don’t change the facts shown in the numbers I stated above.

      I am not advocating “under the thin veil of ‘education reform’ when, in fact, their real agenda is to ‘promote the free market’ by illustrating public education as a ‘failure’.”

      I am advocating education reform because I want to see those numbers decreased. I don’t want to see almost half of students failing Biology 1 and English 2 tests. And I’m also not only advocating charter public schools. I’m also advocating more community involvement, changes in testing, giving the teachers a better voice, etc.

      The current system is failing, period. The status quo MUST be changed.

      • Yes, I am aware that:
        74% of 8th graders scored ABOVE Basic on the Language Arts test.
        71% of 8th graders scored ABOVE Basic on the Mathematics test.
        71% of 8th graders scored ABOVE Basic on the Science test.
        75% PASSED the Algebra 1 subject area test (SATP).
        82% PASSED the US History SATP.
        56% PASSED the Biology 1 SATP.
        55% PASSED the English 2 SATP.

        Is there plenty of room for improvement? Yes.

        I’m also aware that these tests were given under a previous administration and that a new administration was put in place in June of 2011. When this year’s test scores come out in August, they will be much improved. The question is whether or not “ed reformers” will go out of their way to celebrate improvements in test scores as much as they go out of their way to place tunnel vision on poor test scores. I think we both know the answer to that, as improvement and good test scores make a pretty poor argument for “school choice”.

        The essential question that is never asked in “ed reform” discussions is this: Why do some students perform poorly on standardized tests? There are a multitude of reasons that partially play into this: through-the-roof childhood poverty, an epidemic of single-parent households, and many, many, many others. Is the fact that Mississippi DOESN’T have “school choice” one of these reasons? Hell no.

        Privatization is the STATUS QUO.
        An ever-eroding lack of community involvement in our public schools is the STATUS QUO.
        A burning hatred of any and all things having to do with “the government” is the STATUS QUO.
        A glaring lack of respect for public school teachers and administrators is the STATUS QUO.

        The current war on public education is the STATUS QUO, and you are damn right– THE STATUS QUO MUST BE CHANGED.

      • Is an 80% passage rate of the US History SATP “grossly underperforming”? Have you seen this test? It is a monster, and this year’s was even harder.

        Does a student scoring below “proficient” — the equivalent of an A+ — mean that he is “grossly underperforming”?

        The stats that you quoted ARE NCLB stats. If you are against NCLB, how can these stats have any credibility?

        How in the hell can any country in this world or any other world be 100% proficient in reading AND math by 2014, as NCLB requires? Since when can all of us make A+’s, all of the time?

        To answer your question, no, I vehemently disagree with the assertion that “the system is grossly underperforming”. And the National School Board Association — which is far less partisan than most — agrees with me: http://www.asbj.com/MainMenuCategory/Archive/2012/June/Top-10-List-of-Public-Education-Success.html

  5. tgwinford says:

    For some reason it wouldn’t let me reply to the last comment?

    Anyway, if you really think that flipping the numbers makes it sound successful, then you are wholly mistaken. How i said it and how you said it both present the failures equally.

    As for the question that is never asked, we actually ask that all of the time. It’s one of the primary criticisms of NCLB because it focuses too much on standardized testing.

    I’m sorry, but privatization is NOT the status quo. Not even close.

    And part of education reform aims at fixing the lack of respect for teachers.

    You seem to have perceived a “war on public education”. I have a very, very hard time considering fighting for needed change in a broken system to be a war on public education. You might disagree that charters is an appropriate approach, but surely you don’t disagree that the current system is grossly underperforming?

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