Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

TOP STORY >>PCSSD scores outpace LR, NLR districts

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District has a greater percentage of students proficient in elementary and middle school math and literacy than the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts, according to Beverly Ruthven, PCSSD assistant superintendent for learning services.

Pulaski County students had the highest benchmarks among the three co-joined districts for third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grade math, but North Little Rock students led in eighth grade math, Ruthven told the school board last week.

Part way through her PowerPoint presentation telling the board how the district was doing and about strategies for improving weaknesses identified by test scores, the board grew restless, saying they should have been given the results before the meeting, and told her to stop her presentation.

“We’re pleased with the results this year,” Ruthven told The Leader Tuesday, but expressed concern for the falloff in performance at the eighth grade level.

The district does have a plan to improve proficiency for eighth graders.

No such falloff occurred in literacy, where PCSSD had the highest percent of proficient students in all six age groups.

Quite the opposite was true however for the proficiency ratings in algebra, geometry and 11th-grade literacy end-of-course exams.

Ruthven said it was a district level problem that would be solved with district support, including the JBHM program.
“Formative assessment will assist in identifying any needs in curriculum materials, professional development and work with individual students,” Ruthven said.

Ruthven said that the district used all the various tests to identify both problems in teaching certain skills in a particular grade and also to identify which skills individual students needed help with.

PCSSD also had the lowest racial disparity, closing the performance gap between African- American and Caucasian students on benchmark math-proficiency rates.

She said the district would work with intervention coaches to train teachers and continue to lower the disparity. It ranged between 23 percent and 33 percent across the elementary and middle school grades.

In third-grade math, the increase in math proficiency was 6 percent, with the greatest improvement at Sylvan Hills and the least improvement—5 percent—at Sherwood and Bates Elementary schools.

Harris, which has the lowest proficiency rate, still managed a 13 percent increase in proficiency
Tolleson improved 9 percent, Jacksonville Elementary 10 percent, Scott 11 percent and Bayou Meto 11 percent.

Over half of the elementary schools in the district showed gains. Of the 13 schools with gains, nine of them sent principals to participate in a district leadership development program.

District wide, third-grade math proficiency increased to 66 percent, while literacy proficiency was 53 percent.

District wide, fourth-grade literacy declined 4 percent to 54 percent, but still outpaced North Little Rock and Little Rock.
Proficiency in fifth-grade math increased 10 percent, with the largest increase at Harris, where 33 percent more children were proficient than a year ago.

Jacksonville Middle School-Boys increased the percentage of those proficient in both 8th grade math and literacy.


STRATEGIES

Among the strategies for improving this school year are creation of professional learning communities, classroom walk-throughs, Odyssey-technology, transition camps, America’s Choice and International Baccalaureate, according to Ruthven.
Literacy plans for the year include early literacy learning in Arkansas, Effective Literacy, Literacy Now Institute Coaching for Participating Teachers and Literacy Now Leadership Devel-opment with Dr. Sharon Faber.

Math plans include bringing in Linda Griffith to train math coaches, Cognitively Guided Instruction, Math Links and JBHM Education Group.

SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT

Eighteen PCSSD schools are on school improvement as of April of this year and eight of those are in north Pulaski County, including Jacksonville.

Sylvan Hills Middle School is in year four school improvement despite making adequate progress in the combined population because of insufficient progress in economically disadvantaged math and students with disabilities in both math and literacy.
Jacksonville High School is in school-improvement year three with insufficient proficiency in combined population math, combined population literacy, African-American math and literacy and economically disadvantaged math and literacy.

North Pulaski’s combined population math and literacy are making sufficient progress, but insufficient progress in math and literacy among African-American students.

Northwood has made insufficient progress in the economically disadvantaged math, students with disabilities math and literacy subpopulations.

Murrell Taylor has failed to make adequate progress in the follow subpopulations: Title I students, combined math, combined literacy, economically disadvantaged math and literacy and students with disabilities, math and literacy.

Jacksonville Middle School (boys and girls combined) is in second year school improvement for insufficient progress combined math, African-American math, Caucasian math and math for economically disadvantaged-students.

Sylvan Hills High School is in the second-year of school improvement, with insufficient progress in African-American math and literacy and math for economically disadvantaged students.


STATEWIDE

“We are making sure and steady progress with student achievement in the state,” said Dr. Ken James, education commissioner.

“Every teacher, administrator, parent and child involved in education in Arkansas should be both proud and encouraged to continue to expect high levels of learning from all students.”

The state is realizing achievement gains because of several factors: dedication of public school staff, quality professional development for teachers and administrators, and high expectations for all students, James said.

“The trend toward higher scores on our state’s tests is proof that higher expectations and accountability lead to positive results.

“Remember, we have some of the toughest learning standards in the nation, so we can feel confident that when a child scores proficient in Arkansas, he or she is prepared to succeed in Arkansas, in the United States, and, indeed, in the world.”