Tuesday, December 20, 2016

TOP STORY >> Schools rewarded for improving

Leader staff writer

The state recently gave out almost $7 million as a reward to schools that have seen academic improvements and higher graduation rates.

Three Searcy schools, along with one from Cabot, one from Jacksonville and both Lisa Academy campuses were honored.

The best in the area was Searcy’s Alhf Junior High, which made the state’s top five percent performance list and is receiving $60,600.

Westside Elementary, also in Searcy, was another top five percent performer and is receiving $53,300.

McRae Elementary in Searcy was in the state top six-to-ten percent performance list for the 2015-2016 school year and is receiving $25,150.

Cabot Middle School South was also in that second upper echelon category like McRae and is getting $34,900.

Arnold Drive Elementary on Little Rock Air Force Base is the only school in the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District to be rewarded, landing in the district’s top 5 percent improved for last school year when it was part of the Pulaski County Special School District. For its efforts, the school is receiving $17,500.

Construction of a new school combining Arnold Drive with Tolleson Elementary will start in May.

Lisa Academy Middle School North landed in the top five percent performance category and will get $22,300. Its high school, on the top five percent growth and graduation rate list, will receive $11,200.

“I am proud to recognize the 201 top Arkansas schools that have qualified for additional funds from the Arkansas School Recognition Program,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said earlier this week. “These schools have demonstrated exceptional academic improvement and have inspired students to work hard to achieve their goals. I am excited to see how these schools use their School Recognition Program funds to continue to increase student success.”

Dr. Janice Walker, principal at Arnold Drive, is having the staff decide how to best use the money to continue student improvement.

Cabot’s superintendent, Dr. Tony Thurman, said, “A final decision on how to use the funds must be made by a committee from the school. It’s been past practice that the administrators have requested to use the funds to purchase additional Chromebooks for student use.”

He added, “The reward and incentive funding is based on a unique calculation for not only achievement, but for overall improvement, such as the case at Cabot Middle School South last year. The staff worked very hard and our students responded by doing extremely well.”

The state created the Arkansas School Recognition Program to provide financial awards to public schools that experience high student performance and academic growth as measured by the annual state-mandated battery of tests. Secondary schools are also awarded for increased graduation rates.

If a school scores in the top five percent of all Arkansas public and charter schools in student performance or student academic growth, it receives $100 per student. Those schools finishing in the next level (six to 10 percent) receive $50 per students.

However, schools classified as focus schools or priority schools under the “needs improvement” list do not receive financial rewards.

The state has been awarding schools since 2013.