Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Schools face state takeover

Jacksonville High School, North Pulaski High School, Sylvan Hills Middle School and Northwood Middle School have landed on the state Education Department’s watch list, which could lead to a possible takeover by the state.

That’s not a happy prospect for these four schools in the Pulaski County Special School District and 54 others around Arkansas that are targeted for “state-directed” supervision, which could mean appointing a school-improvement director who would work toward raising test results as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The state has watched these schools fail on their benchmark or end-of-course test scores for five years or longer, and now the Education Department is running out of patience.

Both North Pulaski High School and Northwood Middle School are on the state-directed watch list for the sixth year, as is Jacksonville High School. Sylvan Hills Middle School is now in year seven of state-directed school improvement.

A state takeover is not only embarrassing but could complicate Jacksonville’s bid to leave the Pulaski County Special School District. Although their sorry record points to the district’s failure to offer students an adequate education, would a judge look more or less favorably on letting Jacksonville High and North Pulaski High separate from PCSSD?

Having their two high schools on the failed list might give supporters more ammunition to form their own district — unless a judge decides this is not the time to rock the boat. In any case, the two Jacksonville high schools and the two Sherwood middle schools need new leadership if state standards are to be met.

Sylvan Hills High School is in targeted, intensive-school improvement for the fifth year. Murrell Taylor and Jacksonville elementary schools are in whole- school intensive improvement for the fourth year, so they’re getting closer to a state takeover if they don’t improve. Sylvan Hills Elementary is in whole school improvement year two, while Oakbrooke Elementary is in target improvement for the second year. Harris Elementary School is in year one of school improvement but is making gains. Cato Elementary is on alert, meaning without improvement it will be on the list next year.

Outside of those four schools, as Rick Kron reported Saturday in The Leader, most others in the area are making adequate progress or are much lower on the school improvement list. Of the 19 PCSCD schools in the area, five are achieving or meeting standards, but the rest are at some level of school improvement. Bayou Meto, Clinton, Warren Dupree, Pinewood, Arnold Drive and Sherwood elementary schools are all meeting standards based on the benchmark exams.

According to Kron’s report, nine of Cabot’s 13 schools are meeting standards: Eastside, Central, Westside, Southside, Northside, Ward Central, Magness Creek and Stagecoach elementary schools and the Academic Center for Excellence are listed in the 2009 report as achieving and meeting the standards.

But Cabot Junior High North, Cabot Middle School South and Cabot High School are on alert, meaning if they fail to make adequate progress on the benchmark and end-of-course exams next year, they could be placed on the school-improvement list. Cabot Junior High South is in its second year of targeted school improvement, and Cabot Middle School North is in its third year of targeted improvement.

Beebe High School is on alert for the 2009 year, meaning if it doesn’t make adequate progress on its benchmark and end-of-course exams next year, the school could end up on the improvement list.

Both Beebe Middle School and Beebe Junior High are in their second year of targeted improvement, so they have a few years before they’re targeted for a state takeover. Beebe Elementary and Beebe Intermediate are in their first year of targeted improvement.

Lonoke Middle School is meeting standards, but Lonoke Elementary and Lonoke Primary schools are on the improvement list for the third year. Lonoke High School is also in the third year of needing improvement.

These results offer a snapshot into whether local schools are meeting their obligations to educate their students. Parents have a right to know if their children are educated. Taxpayers should also know if their hard-earned money is wisely spent on education.