Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

TOP STORY > >Schools warned: Improve scores

Leader staff writer

Sylvan Hills Middle School in Sherwood has entered its sixth year of being on the state’s infamous School Improvement List.
North Pulaski and Jack-sonville high schools are entering their fifth year.

In the recently released list of 375 schools across the state that need improvement based on the 2008 Benchmark Exam, 24 area schools are on the list.

Four Beebe schools made the list, three from Cabot, four from Lonoke, two from Searcy, and the rest from the Jacksonville and Sherwood areas.

The No Child Left Behind Act calls for all students to be at grade level or above (profi cient or advanced) in literacy and mathematics by the end of the 2014 school year. Between now and then, schools are required to make adequate yearly progress-— about 6-percent advancement per year—toward that 100 percent proficient or advanced goal.

At this point at least half the students at a school should be proficient or advanced.

The federal law states that schools must meet their yearly progress goals as an entire school and in various subgroups that include African-Americans, Caucasians, economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities.

Aside from test scores, a school may also be placed on the improvement list if less than 95 percent of its students took the Benchmark Exams, had low student attendance or graduation rates.

Dr. Ken James, the Arkansas commissioner of education, was not surprised to see that this year’s list had 50 more schools on it than last year’s list.

“The probability is very high that the number of schools placed on the list of schools in need of improvement will increase each year because the bar gets higher each year,” he said.

Of the 375 schools on the current list, 67 on them are on it for the first time. Also 82 of the schools on the list did make adequate progress, but are required to have two consecutive good years before being removed from the list.

This year there were:

104 schools in Year One of school improvement, including Harris Elementary, Jacksonville Middle School (Boys), Oakbrooke Elementary School, Southwest Middle School, Beebe Elementary School, Beebe Junior High, Beebe Middle School, Beebe Intermediate and Cabot Middle School South.

88 schools are in Year Two, including Cabot Junior High South, Ahlf Junior High School, Lonoke Elementary School, Lonoke Middle School, Lonoke High School and Lonoke Primary School.

58 schools are in Year Three, including Cabot Middle School North and Jacksonville Elementary School.

59 schools are in Year Four, including Jacksonville Middle School (Girls), Murrell Taylor Elementary School and Sylvan Hills High School.

49 schools are in Year Five, including North Pulaski High School, Northwood Middle School and Jacksonville High School.

14 schools are in Year Six, including Sylvan Hills Middle School.

Two schools are in Year Seven.

One school is in Year Eight.

Schools that are on the list for the first year are required to review their school improvement plan and provide extra training for teachers and staff.

Schools in Year Two must provide students an option to attend another school in the area that is not on the improvement list.

The schools may also offer supplemental or additional services such as after-school tutoring.

Schools in Year Three must continue to let students option out to other schools and must provide additional services.

When a school is on the improvement list for the fourth consecutive year then the state steps in with an academic and corrective plan for the school.

Schools in Year Five are restructured by the state, meaning that principals, teachers and staff could be replaced and need programs adopted.

There are no actions listed in the state regulations for schools that remain on the list after the fifth year.

The state uses the annual literacy and math Benchmark Exams in grades third through eighth, the 11th-grade literacy Benchmark and the end-of-course algebra I and geometry test to determine if a school is making adequate yearly progress.

Overall, Dr. James said, “It is really encouraging to see how many schools are moving their students toward proficiency.”