Jackson State University and Jackson Public Schools entered into a historic agreement on Thursday, creating a partnership to enhance the quality of education offered at Blackburn Middle School.
Blackburn will become a JSU laboratory school. JSU faculty and researchers will start working this summer with Blackburn faculty and administrators to create a school where excellence in education theory and practice can be observed, studied and utilized.
The school will also provide clinical experience for JSU students and create a living laboratory for research and applied practices to improve teaching. It will be renamed Blackburn Laboratory School.
JSU President Carolyn W. Meyers, Ph.D., said she was “thrilled” about the agreement she signed with Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Cedrick Gray.
“All of us have to be engaged in the preparation of the next generation. We’re using each other as resources,” Meyers said, referring to faculty and staff at the school and the university. “We’re making sure every student at Blackburn gets exactly what he or she deserves. That’s the best education possible.”
Blackburn Principal, Marietta Carter, said improving academic achievement at her school has always been the priority.
“We’re always trying to find better ways to educate our children, especially those who are struggling. This ensures our students are successful and can achieve,” Carter said.
Dr. Daniel Watkins, dean of JSU’s College of Education and Human Development, explained the urgency in addressing the educational needs of middle school students across the nation: a significant percentage is deficient in reading and math. He said 1.3 million students drop out of school each year.
“We must use the middle school as a preventive measure,” said Watkins.
Gray leads one of the largest school districts in Mississippi. Improving education in the state has been discussed for years by groups that range from elected leaders to community activists. Gray said action — not talk — is the key.
“We create graduates in high school, but we create dropouts in middle school,” he said. “If we say we want a better metropolis, then we have to begin by shutting our mouths and opening our hands.”
About 9 million students attend the nation’s middle schools. Experts say those years are a critical time for youth. According to researchers, some middle school environments have been blamed for the increase in student behavior problems and cited as the cause of low achievement.
Meyers, who is an engineer, said she recalled some of her middle school teachers and credits them for her love of music and her introduction into advanced math, including calculus. She also said her mother was a middle school teacher. That’s one of the reason the day had special meaning to her.
“This is a day that I think each one of us will mark as a historic day for finding the right smart thing, the right thing to do for our young people,” she said.