Friday, July 25, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Achievements please schools

Talk about being the elite of the elite — Lonoke Middle School and Searcy’s Ahlf Junior High are in sky-high company.

All the students at those two schools who took the Algebra I end-of-course exam scored advanced. That bears repeating; 100 percent of Lonoke and Searcy students taking the test landed in the top category of the state. Only five schools in the entire state can say that, and two are in our area.

There is some teaching and learning going on in area schools! Flip the coin, however, and recently released tests also show there are area schools in trouble.

But, first, congratulations to Beebe, where its students scored proficient or advanced on the Algebra I test.

Plus, a big shout out to Cabot Junior High North and Cabot Junior High South as all their students taking the geometry end-of-course exam scored proficient or better.

But why take these tests in the first place? For the most part, they show what teachers, parents, administrators and the general public usually already know.

Does the Lonoke principal need the Algebra I end-of-course test results to know those middle school teachers and students are great? No. Principal Jeannie Holt knows.

Even though Lonoke, Searcy, Beebe and Cabot can brag “officially” on their students, Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman and Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook were bragging about their flock long before test scores came out because they knew teaching and learning were going on.

The dedicated teaching is not only at the middle school level, but started in kindergarten and elementary schools when strong foundations were built to give students what they needed to do well on the state exams.

But the tests overall dampen the good news because the overall news for the state is not good.

Of the more than 30,000 Arkansas students who took the Algebra I test, only 30 percent scored advanced, and thousands scored so poorly that they have to retake the test.

So instead of bragging headlines, most districts have to deal with the “Oh my gosh, what is wrong here?” results of the test.

Unfortunately, for Jacksonville High School, which has improved in the last few years, teaching and learning still fall short, with just 38 percent of its students scoring proficient or advanced. But the blame is not all on the high school — it filters all the way down to kindergarten.

Is the new Jacksonville school district going to be the cure-all?

To put it bluntly, no. But it will go a long way toward changing the poor attitude and stigma that sticks to the Pulaski County Special School District, and that alone will bring up test scores.

— Rick Kron