Carroll County School District wants the community to know, even though their accountability rating from the Mississippi Department of Education reflects a D, J.Z. George is not a D school, and the district is doing much better than perceived. A computing error made by district officials cost J.Z. George High School 11 points in its graduation rate.
With the correct graduation rate, the district is a C, which would have in turn boosted the district’s overall grade. But, it’s not something they can change because it’s not an error on the state’s part, but on the district itself.
Federal Programs Director Sara Johnson broke down the district’s accountability grade for the Carroll County School Board and those in attendance during the district’s monthly board meeting on November 7. The district as a whole received a D, and both Marshall Elementary and J.Z. George High School received Ds as well when ratings were released earlier this fall.
“I know everyone saw the scores in the newspaper, and we are a D with two D schools,” she said. “There is work that we have to do.”
She added that the efforts of teachers and students at both schools should be commended because they worked hard.
However, Johnson said that’s not really the case for J.Z. George because the school did better then what was reported.
“When I added up J.Z. George’s numbers it was a 498, which is an F, and our adjusted total was 581 which is a D and I couldn’t figure out why. So, I called around. I called Winona, I called other districts and they said ‘We don’t know, this is just the spreadsheet that they gave us.’ And, I wasn’t okay with ‘I don’t know.’ I wanted to know the why,” Johnson said.
So, she did some digging.
“We are a nontraditional high school, which means we serve students sixth through 12th grade. When they did the points, they did it as if we were two schools,” she said.
Johnson said if J.Z. George was still J.Z. George High School and George Middle School, the high school would have scored a C and only eight points from a B.
The middle school, on the other hand, would be a D. She said the state gave the cumulative score of both schools because they weighted them separately and then combined the scored and the junior high school counted twice.
But, the score of J.Z. George High School, essentially the growth of students in English and Math which were the highest growth scores, were both in the 70s.
“I’d put those two teachers up against anybody,” she said. “That means that we have it going on at the high school, and we know what we’re doing.”
She added that the district didn’t need to lose the teachers responsible for the growth.
Superintendent Billy Joe Ferguson said he takes full responsibility for the mistake.
“It’s a mistake and mistakes happen. But, it came from my office, and I take the blame for it.”
Ferguson said many districts wanted another option to prevent dropouts from occurring, so a few years back, the state provided one.
Students who cannot pass their state test to graduate are encourage to enroll into New Learning Resource Center. The program is accredited with the Mississippi Department of Education and allows students to be transferred out the district when they enroll, but still take online classes on J.Z. George’s campus.
Upon completion, they graduate from NLRC in Jackson. After they graduate, the students are then placed back into J.Z. George’s system as graduates. However, the students weren’t put back in as graduates, which caused the incorrect graduation score.
“It’s not just Mr. Ferguson’s responsibility, it’s all of our responsibility. We all work in the district, we’re all a part of this district. From the students to the teachers to the administration to central office to the school board, we are all responsible for this and it will not happen again,” Johnson said.