Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

TOP STORY >> Schools hurry to remedy citations

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: The state places Cabot High School on accredited-probationary status for not offering enough instructional time.
Several area school districts, including Pulaski County, Beebe and Cabot, are working to meet accreditation standards issued by the Arkansas Board of Education. Lonoke is the only local district not cited.

Cabot High School was placed on accredited-probationary status for not meeting the 360 minutes of instruction time per day that the Arkansas Board of Education requires.
Cabot High School was among 96 schools across the state given probation for failing to meet minimum accreditation standards for the 2004-2005 school year.

The 2004-2005 bell schedule at Cabot High School shows a 369-minute school day, from 8:05 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

But the Arkansas Board of Education decided 25 minutes of the school day used by Cabot High School students for advising and career-action planning should not be considered instructional because club meetings are permitted during that time. Advisory and career action planning are key components of the High Schools That Work reform initiative pushed by Gov. Huckabee.

“It’s ironic,” said Frank Holman, Cabot School District superintendent.
“We’re doing everything that meets the High Schools That Work reform initiative the governor supports, and now the state is telling us we’re wrong.”

High Schools That Work is an initiative of the Southern Regional Education Board State Vocational Education Consortium that began in 1987. The program provides a framework for schools to offer students both traditional college-preparatory academics with technical and vocational studies.

Accredited-probationary status means a local school district has either failed to correct a problem for which it acquired accredited-cited status or committed a more serious violation of the standards.

“We provided information to the Arkansas Department of Education last spring and felt that we had sufficiently addressed their concerns,” Holman said.

If a local school district continues accredited-probationary status through the violation review date of Oct. 15, 2006, then the district can lose accreditation.
“We met the standard and surpassed it,” Holman said.

“We don’t feel like it was a reflection of what we were actually doing.”

The school is sending out letters to parents and updating the Cabot High School Web site to address the accredited-probationary status.

“We are disappointed that we were cited for attempting to implement strategies within the school day that we feel are good for our students,” Holman wrote in a letter to parents.
Other reasons a school can be placed on probationary status include not enough library books or lacking a superintendent, principal, assistant principal, nurse or counselor.
Among the rest of the 1,118 schools across the state, 182 were placed on accredited-cited status. That means a local school district has failed to satisfy the minimum Standards for Accreditation.

If the deficiencies aren’t corrected by the next school year, the school can be placed on accredited-probation.

Additionally, 840 schools were accredited meaning the school district satisfied the minimum Standards for Accreditation established by the Arkansas State Board of Education.
Holman and Cabot High School principal Tony Thurman were at Monday’s Arkansas Board of Education meeting. Thurman said the school was going to appeal the probation status but decided not to.

“We pulled our appeal Monday because we’re going to fix it easily this school year,” Thurman said.

Cabot High School will have a revised bell schedule for the 2006-2007 school year that has 371 minutes of instruction four days a week and 364 minutes of instruction on Thursdays.
This meets the instruction requirements as well as allowing time for tutoring, literature circles and CAP.

Another time crunch for Cabot High School students is the time required between classes.
Typically five minutes are allowed. Cabot High School allows seven minutes, an extra 12 per day, for 1,700 students to navigate the 25 buildings on the 44-acre campus. The new schedule will still allow seven minutes for students to get from one class to another.
“We feel it’s important for students to be involved with school sponsored clubs and activities, as well as the advisory and CAP curriculum,” Thurman said.

“We’re doing good things for kids and we’re being punished. Advisory/CAP time should have been approved as part of the required minutes.”