USDE Releases "Failing" List

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Northeast Lauderdale High School, Southeast Attendance Center, Witherspoon and Harris Elementaries, as well as Kemper County and Louisville High Schools, have been cited for producing test scores that did not meet state academic standards. Students at these schools could be offered an opportunity to transfer under the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001, signed by President Bush earlier this year.

Meridian school superintendent Dr. Janet McLin acknowledged both Harris and Witherspoon test scores have been less than desirable, but said they're working to improve them.

"When you have scores like that it takes a lot of work and it takes time to bring them up to standards where we want them to be," said McLin. "So there may be reason for people to point fingers and talk about errors that have been made but the truth is that when progress has begun at those schools it does take a long time."

Three years ago a new program to teach reading skills was instituted in those two schools.

"Both Harris and Witherspoon have had three years of implementation and we are beginning to see improvement in those children's reading and language arts scores," McLin said.

Lauderdale County school superintendent David Little says better test scores come from a partnership between the schools and the parents.

"When parents demand excellence from their children it doesn't matter which school they're in," said Little. "You get excellence. Now the schools can do a better job and that's what we're committed to and there's no doubt in my mind that under this new assessment and accountability model that we're under that people are going to be proud to say that their children go to Southeast, Northeast, Clarkdale or West Lauderdale."

A good education and a good job typically go together, according to the manager of the Mississippi Employment Security Commission's WIN Job Center in Meridian. Algene McQuarters says he seesit every day.

"A good job is going to be gotten by those that have prepared themselves," said McQuarters. "Those who have prepared themselves by taking correct courses while in high school. The difference between not having a high school diploma and having one right off is some $7,000. Less than $20,000 if you don't. Around $26,000 if you do."

McQuarters said preparation for all good jobs begins in high school.