Tuesday, September 01, 2015

TOP STORY >> Districts to tackle rankings

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville Middle School, Murrell Taylor Elementary and five other Pulaski County Special School District schools are among 151 Arkansas schools cited for chronically poor performance this week by the state Education Department.

Harris and Daisy Bates elementaries, Fuller and Maumelle middle schools and Wilbur D. Mills High School were also singled out for special attention due to poor test results in 2012 through 2014.

Cabot’s Academic Center of Excellence was also listed in the bottom 10 percent of schools.

The two Jacksonville secondary schools and Harris and Mills were determined to be among 46 priority schools in the bottom 5 percent of the schools in the state, while the others, using a different measure, were among the 105 “focus schools,” in the bottom 10 percent, cited for failure to meet the annual student achievement requirements.

These are problems the new Jacksonville school district and the state Education Department plan to address.


The state Education Department “will provide support and assistance to the focus and priority schools in accordance with the Arkansas (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Flexibility request,” said state Education Commissioner Johnny Key.

Student performance on Benchmark exams for math and literacy in grades three through eight, Algebra I, geometry and grade 11 literacy from 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 were used to determine the newly identified priority and focus schools.

Although Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville Middle School and Merrill Taylor will be part of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District next year, currently they remain part of PCSSD, which is making changes on the fly to address the problems.


“We’re trying to make certain we’re looking at each student to see what true deficit they may have and give the assistance needed,” said Laura Bednar, PCSSD deputy superintendent. She said the biggest problem area was mathematics.

She said the remedies for priority schools and focus schools are pretty much the same. “The last three years are data rich,” Bednar said. “We’ve repurposed the learning services division, putting all we can in the priority schools to lend support.”

Bednar said about 10 central office personnel had been reassigned four days a week to teachers and administrators at those eight schools.

Jeremy Owoh, Jacksonville-North Pulaski Assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, has been meeting with Bednar, according to Phyllis Stewart, JNP chief of staff.


Owoh has been going out into those Jacksonville-area schools, trying to see what’s working and what needs help, she said.

This year, PCSSD Deputy Superintendent John Tackett will be assisting at Jacksonville Middle School three days a week, with another PCSSD staffer there a fourth day, according to Stewart.

Pam Black, director of career technology education, will be at Jacksonville High School four days a week, working with the principal and other school leadership, Stewart said.

Susan Fletcher, an administrator for instructional technology, will work with the principal and the school leadership team at Murrell Taylor.

“They are there to help meet the mandates from the Department of Education,” Stewart said.

“They will provide ongoing support to administrators and teachers at the building level on the use of data to inform instructional practices to meet the needs of all students and to assist the school in disaggregation of student achievement data generated from formative and summative assessments to impact instruction,” she said.