Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TOP STORY >> Most schools in area need improvement

Leader staff writer

Arnold Drive Elementary was named one of just five exemplary schools in the state by the Arkansas Department of Education this week.

This is an even bigger honor considering two of the exemplary schools are charter schools.

Arnold Drive was the only school in central Arkansas to be placed in the state’s top category for schools.

Most of the other Pulaski County Special School District and Cabot schools were placed in one of three much lower performing categories: Needs improvement, needs improvement focus or needs improvement priority.

Two schools — Jacksonville High School and Harris Elementary — are in needs improvement priority, the state’s lowest category.

The education department named 563 schools across the state as needing improvement, including 34 area schools.

Along with Arnold Drive, the four other exemplary schools in the state were Kipp Delta Collegiate High School in Helena, Clinton Junior High, Hass Hall Academy and Cotton Plant Elementary.

Twenty-two of the 305 schools in the next best category are local schools.

Cabot schools in the achieving category are Westside Elementary, Southside Elementary, Ward Central Elementary, Cabot Middle School South and Cabot Junior High North.

Other achieving schools included Lonoke Middle School, England High School, Lisa Academy North Elementary, Lisa Academy North Middle School and Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter.

Area PCSSD schools in the achieving category include Clinton Elementary, Oakbrooke Elementary and Sylvan Hills Middle School.

Among the area PCSSD schools listed as needing improvement are Bayou Meto, Cato, Pinewood, Warren Dupree, Tolleson, Sherwood and Sylvan Hills elementary schools, Jacksonville Middle School, Sylvan Hills High School, North Pulaski High and Northwood Middle.

In Cabot, the “needs improvement” schools include Eastside, Central, Northside, Magness Creek and Stagecoach elementary schools; Cabot Junior High South, Cabot Middle School North, Cabot High School and Cabot Learning Academy.

Other area schools needing improvement include Lisa Academy North High School, Jacksonville Lighthouse Middle School, Jacksonville Lighthouse Flightline Academy, Beebe Middle School, Badger Academy, Searcy’s Sidney Deener Elementary School, Searcy High School, Southwest Middle School and England Elementary School.

Also needing improvement are Lonoke Elementary, Lonoke Primary, Lonoke High School, Carlisle Elementary and Carlisle High School.

Needs Improvement Focus Schools are the fourth rung down and include 109 schools across the state and two from the local area: Murrell Taylor Elementary and Cabot’s Academic Center for Excellence.

The lowest category, which is for schools needing the most help or improvement, is needs improvement priority level. Area schools in this category are Jacksonville High School and Harris Elementary.

Overall, 37 schools are in this category and receiving the most oversight from the state.

These classifications re-place former categories under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The categories fall under the state’s new accountability system.

The new system measures student performance on state assessments looking at data in three ways — student achievement, student growth and graduation rates at high schools.

Tom Kimbrell, the state’s education commissioner, explained Monday that a school that needs improvement is not necessarily a failing school but that it has missed a number of its targets or goals and the staff needs to reevaluate what they are doing.

According to the state Education Department, the system maintains a focus on helping students achieve proficiency in both literacy and math, but also gives credit for improving performance along the way.