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‘Qualified’ to keep program certified – Jackson State University

Despite allegations against him, Jackson State asks Southern
University’s former chancellor to correct its teacher certification woes

Jackson, Miss.
A state commission’s recommendation last month
could mean graduating students from Jackson State University’s teacher
education programs would be ineligible for licenses.

But the new interim dean of the university’s School of Education,
who has critics of his own, says he is at Jackson State to ensure that
the historically Black institution’s teacher training program doesn’t
lose its certification.

“I’m here to take corrective action to focus the School of
Education so we don’t lose our certification,” said Dr. Marvin Yates,
the former chancellor of Southern University. “I’m not just here to
make a dollar. I’m here to make a contribution. I’m very knowledgeable
about this whole business.”

JSU’s School of Education will need whatever positive contributions
Yates can make. Members of the Mississippi commission overseeing
teacher certification and licensure said the university must correct
longstanding deficiencies with the programs or face prolonged sanctions.

Fewer than 90 percent of the university’s graduates passed the
professional knowledge and specialty areas of the National Teacher
Examination (NTE) from 1995 to 1997. And that three-year trend is
unacceptable, said members of the Mississippi Commission on Teacher and
Administrator Certification and Licensure.

Reports show 75 percent of fifty-one Jackson State students passed
the professional knowledge portion of the NTE in 1995; 71 percent of
forty-five students passed the specialty portion of the test.

In 1996, 91 percent of forty-three JSU students passed the
professional knowledge portion, 86 percent of forty-seven students
passed the specialty area.

In 1997, 85 percent of thirty-five students passed the professional
knowledge part, and 75 percent of thirty-six students passed the
specialty area of the NTE — which is being phased out for another
testing program.

“It is pretty significant,” said Carolyn Alexander, the commission’s executive secretary. “They must present a plan.”

Commission standards require a minimum of 90 percent of an
institution’s teacher education graduates to pass the test. As for
Jackson State’s poor showing on the exam, the commission unanimously
recommended non-approval of the teacher education program from
September 1 through June 30, 1999. If it sticks, it means graduating
students in the program will not be eligible for teaching licenses.

The state Board of Education was asked to adopt the recommendation later last month.

The Jackson State School of Education enrolls 1,600 students. The
commission’s action could pose problems for education graduates in
December, officials say. If JSU makes sufficient progress to improve
education students’ exit scores, the commission can lift the suspension
in March 1999.

“Jackson State will meet the challenge,” Yates said after the
meeting. “No university wants any negative impact on any of its
programs. This is an opportunity to make improvements.”

The certification commission found similar student test score woes
in teacher education programs at Alcorn State University and Rust
College, but these schools corrected the deficiencies last year.

Alcorn’s president, Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr., quickly attacked
teacher education shortcomings, and Jackson State President James E.
Lyons Sr. is expected to do the same, said College Board member Ricki

However, it is possible that Lyons has handicapped these efforts by
selecting Yates to lead the charge. Yates is being dogged by
allegations that he misappropriated federal financial aid funds at the
Baton Rouge university over which he presided.

Yates, a fifty-four-year-old Memphis native, resigned suddenly last
December from Southern when audits showed that the university
improperly awarded $32,000 in federal aid. He had led Southern for six

But Lyons called Yates “eminently qualified” for the job and said
he didn’t “know of anything [Yates] did that was illegal…. I’m not
aware of anything he was charged with or prosecuted for. There was
nothing to cause me to say, `hands off.'”

Yates said he wants to help JSU’s School of Education overcome
longstanding problems. He said he isn’t bothered by what critics may
say about him.

“If this is a problem for Dr. Lyons, I will leave JSU tomorrow,” Yates said.

An independent audit cited Southern University officials for
misappropriation of student aid in 1996-97, said The Morning Advocate
of Baton Rouge.

A Louisiana legislative audit report cited unusual chancellor’s
awards from state aid amounting to $62,000 during 1995-96, the
newspaper said. Some scholarships went to well-connected and
undeserving students, the paper said.

However, Southern University officials said Yates had not acted illegally.

Yates is not a candidate to become JSU’s permanent education dean.
He said he plans to return to Southern University in July 1999.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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