Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

TOP STORY >> Area schools get top grades

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District has five top-rated schools, including three in the Jacksonville area and one in Sherwood, under a new rating scale by the state Education Department.

The new ratings are part of the department’s annual Arkansas School Performance Report Card, which will soon be delivered to parents across the state. Under the rating, schools receive a score of one to five, with one being the worst and five the best.

Schools with a Gains Rating of a five or four are receiving $100 from the state for every student who made upward gains.

Area schools in PCSSD that received a five rating include Warren Dupree Elementary (awarded $8,300), Tolleson Elementary ($6,700), Harris Elementary ($6,300) and Oakbrooke Elementary ($11,200).

Cabot also had a top-scoring school — Westside Elementary, which received a rating of five and will receive $5,600.

The Badger Academy in Beebe also scored a five and is netting $700.

Area schools that rated a four include Lonoke Elementary ($24,700), Lonoke Middle School ($37,800) and Carlisle Elementary ($15,900).

In Cabot, schools with a four rating include Southside Elementary ($7,000), Northside Elementary ($7,600), Ward Central Elementary ($7,700), Magness Creek Elementary ($8,200), Cabot Middle School South ($65,400) and Cabot Middle School North ($59,900).

PCSSD schools with a four rating include Cato Elementary ($8,100), Pinewood Elementary ($10,100) and Arnold Drive Elementary ($3,900).

Beebe Intermediate ($21,700) as well as Southwest Middle School ($52,600) in Searcy also received fours.

The Cabot School District has the only school in the area — the Academic Center for Excellence, an alternative school — with a one rating and is “in need of immediate improvement.”

Cabot also has four other sub-performing schools — Central Elementary, Stagecoach Elementary, Cabot Junior High South and Cabot Junior High North — that had a two score and are “on alert” according to the Gains Rating.

Seven PCSSD schools are “on alert” and they include Bayou Meto Elementary, Jacksonville Middle Girls School, Sylvan Hills Middle School and Northwood Middle School.

Beebe Junior High and Ahlf Junior High in Searcy were also rated a two.
Even though students at those schools may have scored well on the benchmark, they are not improving from year to year, according to the state.

To determine a school’s Gains Rating score, the state looks at students’ progression on the required benchmark exams.Upward movement results in a positive score and downward movement results in a negative score for that student.

All student scores are added together and then divided by the number of students at that school to obtain the average gain for the school.

Schools given a score of five are considered “schools of excellence for improvement,” those with a four rating are “schools exceeding improvement standards,” a three score means “schools are meeting improvement standards,” a two means “schools on alert” and a rating of one is for “schools in need of immediate improvement.”

The new rating, along with other indicators, make up the school performance report card. “Parents of children in our public schools deserve to know how their schools are measuring up,” said Dr. Ken James, commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education.

“The report card provides a way for parents to compare their individual school to other schools in their district and their district to other districts in the state.”