Leader Blues

Friday, August 22, 2008

TOP STORY > >Cabot sees big jump in enrollment

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The Cabot School District is growing. On the first day of school, enrollment was up 300 from the first day of last term, 9,049 to 9,349. By the second day, 177 more had been added. To make sure all those students receive a quality education, Dr. Tony Thurman, school superintendent, told the board Tuesday night that much of the administrators’ retreat, held July 21-22, revolved around aligning general procedures, curriculum and assessment throughout the district.

“We must be careful to not become a district of independent operators at each site instead of a cohesive, focused system,” Thurman told The Leader in a later interview. But he also said the push to align the schools should not detract from their uniqueness.

“We encourage each school to develop its own personality or culture. That is what makes each school unique and special,” he said. How the students are taught is still individualized. All teachers teach in their own style. But what they teach and when they teach it is standardized across the district.

And for the past three years, students in each grade are all tested at the same time to determine both how well they are learning and how well the teachers are teaching.

With input from Cabot teachers, the tests are prepared by The Learning Institute in Hot Springs. Unlike the standardized tests required by the state, the results are known in hours, not months.

“We can’t wait until the end of the grading period to realize that certain students are not mastering specific learning objectives,” Thurman said. “These formative assessments provide teachers with the information they need to make instructional decisions for their classrooms.”

This year, Thurman has said he wants teachers to put more emphasis on using the data they receive from the tests.

In other business, the board voted to keep Coke as a provider of cold drinks on campus for the next three years. Coke machines are already on campus, Thurman told the board and the only drinks that can now legally be sold are water, juice and diet drinks. And the only drink that can be sold in 20-ounce bottles is water.

Thurman also reported that traffic is running smoother this year than last especially at the intersection of Lincoln and Pine near the high school where a new traffic light with a protected left-hand turn has been installed.