Wednesday, January 22, 2014

TOP STORY >> Schools rewarded for improving

Leader staff writer

A total of about $425,000 has recently been awarded to 10 area schools for excellence in student performance, academic growth and graduation rates (for high schools).

The Cabot School District had five schools receive monetary awards. Searcy had four, and Beebe had one.

The Pulaski County Special School District had two schools honored, but the schools were south of the river.

Cabot Middle School North and its counterpart, Cabot Middle School South, were recognized for being in the top 10 percent of state schools in student performance and academic growth for the 2012-13 school year. Cabot North was awarded $77, 935, and Cabot South received $71,222.

Cabot’s Mountain Springs Elementary was also in the top 10 percent and received $39,083.

Two other Cabot schools finished in the top 20 percent for performance and academic growth. They were Cabot Junior High North, receiving $55,231, and Magness Creek Elementary, getting $16,326.

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman said, “We were very pleased with the news that our district will receive over $200,000 in incentive funding for performance and growth. We have teachers and students working very hard across our school system and the additional funds are validation of the good work that they are doing.

“The integration of technology into our schools is a priority. A challenging aspect of this exciting aspect of education is the associated costs with providing the devices for students to use in the classroom. We will use the funding to provide additional Chromebooks and charging stations for those schools earning the rewards.”

Searcy had two schools in the first tier (top 10 percent) and two schools in the second tier (top 20 percent).

Ahlf Junior High School and Westside elementary were in the top 10 percent, receiving, $57,262 and $41,867, respectively.

In the top 20 percent were McRae Elementary and Southwest Middle School. McRae received $20,403, and the middle school got $46,188.

Beebe Elementary School was in the top 20 percent and received $17,980.

The state awards schools the equivalent of $100 per student if the school is in the top 10 percent and $50 per student if it is in the top 20 percent.

According to Dr. Tom Kimbrell, the state’s education commissioner, the award-winning schools “were identified by assigning a percentile rank for the measures of each school’s performance, growth and graduation rate.” An average score was determined and those in the top two tiers were rewarded.

Overall, the state gave out about $7 million to more than 200 Arkansas schools.

The rewards program was established by Act 1429, sponsored by Sen. Johnny Key (R-Mountain Home) during the 2013 General Assembly.

State law requires that winning schools spend the reward money on personnel costs — like bonuses and contracted services to maintain and improve student performance — or supplies and materials for educational programs.

A committee that includes the principal, teacher and parent representatives will decide specifically how the funds will be spent.

Of the 206 state schools honored, 108 were in the top 10 percent and 98 fell between 10 and 20 percent.

Just 14 high schools were rewarded, along with 71 middle and junior high schools and 121 elementary schools.

On average, the reward schools are less poor and have a smaller minority population than the state. Just 47 percent of students in reward schools receive free-and-reduced lunch (state average 61 percent) and 23 percent are minority students (state average 36 percent).