Friday, March 16, 2012

TOP STORY >> Jacksonville’s graduation rate lags

Leader staff writer

A little more than one out of two seniors graduated from Jacksonville High School in 2011, and three out of four needed remedial courses during their first year of college.

According to public school report cards placed online Friday, barely half (53.4 percent) of Jacksonville High School’s seniors graduated last year, which is more than 30 percent less than Cabot or Beebe.

The troubled school of 945 students, of which 61.5 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch, also had 76.6 percent of its students who went to college needing remedial courses.

Jacksonville also had the highest grade inflation rate in the area at 16.3 percent, showing that report card grades didn’t match up with end-of-course exam scores. There were more good grades given on the report cards than received on state and federally mandated tests.

Updated online school performance data for the 2010-2011 school year are available for educators, parents and the general public to review, according to Tom Kimbrell, who heads the Arkansas Department of Education. 

The data show just 53.4 percent of Jacksonville seniors graduated, the lowest in the area. It was also nearly a 20-point drop from the 2009-2010 school year.

Beebe, with 900 students and 40.7 of those on free or reduced lunch, was the only high school in the area to see an increase in graduation rates. It went from 80.8 percent in 2010 to 85.1 percent in 2011.

Sylvan Hills High, with 825 student of which 43 percent are on free or reduced lunch, was slightly better than Jacksonville with a graduation rate of 60.7 percent, down 16 points from the previous year. North Pulaski High School, with 820 students and 45.1 percent of them on free or reduced lunch, had a graduation rate of 66.7 percent, down 12 percent from the previous year.

Graduation rates improved in Carlisle, the small high school in the area with 375 students 50.1 percent of them on free or reduced lunch, having 75 percent of its seniors graduating and Lonoke, with 550 students and 47.3 percent of them eligible for free or reduced lunch at 79.5 percent. Although Carlisle did see a 12-point drop and Lonoke fell by five points from the 2009-2010 school year.

Searcy, Cabot and Beebe all had graduation rates higher than 80 percent.

Searcy, with 1,110 students and 33.6 percent of them eligible for free or reduced lunch, was at 81.4 percent, down about nine points. Cabot, the largest school in the area with1,983 students and just 23.6 percent of them eligible for free or reduced lunch, was at 83.3 percent, down just three points from the previous year, and Lonoke High School led the local schools in 2011 with an 85.1 percent graduation rate, up five points from the previous year.

The remedial rate for those seniors graduating and going on to higher state schools ran from as high as Jacksonville’s 76.6 percent down to 33 percent of Searcy’s students needing extra help.

North Pulaski had a remedial rate of 66.7 percent, Sylvan Hills was at 65 percent, Carlisle had a 60.7 percent remedial rate, Lonoke was at 56.6 percent, Beebe was at 42.9 percent and Cabot at 34.8 percent.

After Jacksonville, North Pulaski had the highest grade inflation rate at 14.5 percent, followed by Carlisle at seven percent, Lonoke at 5.5 percent, Beebe at five percent, Sylvan Hills at 3.7, Cabot at 2.8 percent and Searcy High School had no grade inflation, according to the online information.

The 2011 Arkansas School Performance Report is a joint project of the state education department and the National Office for Research on Measurement and Evaluation Systems (NORMES) at the University of Arkansas.

“We’re pleased to offer this service,” Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell said. “Schools must be accountable to the public and NORMES has done an outstanding job putting this data together in an easily understood format.”

Among other things, the report card includes information on school and district enrollment, graduation rates, free and reduced-priced lunch percentages, benchmark proficiency percentages and Adequate Yearly Progress status. 

The report card can be accessed at .