Friday, April 29, 2016

TOP STORY >> Report cards reflect changes in grading

Leader staff writer

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles reviewing the recently released state report cards for all public schools.

Last year, more than 100 schools, including four in Cabot and one in Searcy, received A’s on the state’s annual report card. This year, only 10 schools statewide received A’s and none were in Cabot or Searcy.

Of the five previously A-ranked schools in the area, three received C’s on the latest state report card and two fell to B’s. Cabot’s Eastside, Southside and Mountain Springs Elementary schools all went from A’s to C’s , according to the state. Cabot’s Stagecoach Elementary and Searcy’s Westside Elementary dropped from an A to a B.

Even with most schools dropping in grades, eight schools here were still honored as Reward Schools for academic growth and performance and received cash awards.

“The School Report Card grades are figured through a very sophisticated process which simply fulfills the requirement to give schools a ‘grade.’ Within the formula, a couple of things can be tweaked, if even by only a small amount, and it can drastically affect the overall grade. It’s a formula that is dependent upon specific criteria,” explained Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of Beebe schools.

“With that being said, we could take a whole different set of criteria, and all of our schools would have an A. The report card formula is mainly based on test scores,” such as PARCC, Shook added.

Beebe Junior High School was recently named a Reward School for achieving academic growth and performance, yet the state report gave it a C, with lower scores than the previous year.

“Beebe Junior High will receive $44,720 for top 5 percent growth in the state, and a building committee has decided to spend this money on additional technology for the students. I am extremely proud of the work at the school and our entire school district,” she said.

“Last year was the first year to take PARCC, and it was a new experience. We joined schools all over the state in the initiation of online testing. With that new process, we had technology problems with internet connections, not to mention all the technology that had to be purchased. Furthermore, students had to learn a lot about technology to take the online PARCC, so it was as much a test of technology skills as it was content,” Shook said.

She continued, “It has been shown that students scored higher on the paper and pencil version when they didn’t have to worry about the technology skills. Nevertheless, online testing is here to stay and we feel that the longer such testing is in place, the better our students will do, because they will be thinking about the content, and not the process.

“Of course we are not happy with Cs, but considering the entire process, we know we will see improvement and do not think PARCC was a true indication of what our students are capable of doing.”

To get an A, a school must score higher than 270; a B is a score of 240 to 269; a C is a score from 210 to 239; a D goes from 180 to 209; and an F is any score below 180.


According to the recently released state report cards covering the 2014-2015 school year, Beebe Elementary kept its C from the previous year, but its score fell from 234 to 227. Badger Elementary also kept its C score and also dropped its score from 219 to 214, edging close to a D. Beebe’s Early Childhood School also stayed at a C, but fell from 234 to 229.

The high school fell from a B (score of 242) to a C (score of 233).

The only school to show improvement was Beebe Middle School moving from a D to a C and raising its score from 208 to 223.

“I am optimistic, if we continue to use the same standards and tests consistently, our schools will continue to see test scores and report card grades improve,” Shook said.


At the elementary level, Eastside, Southside and Mountain Springs all went from A’s to C’s. Eastside’s score fell from 283 down to 236; Southside went from 314 down to 237 and Mountain Springs dropped from 303 to 228. Stagecoach went from an A to a B with its score falling from 277 to 260.

Ward Central and Magness Creek both went from B’s to C’s. Ward Central’s score dropped from 260 to 232. Magness Creek fell from 250 to 228.

Northside, Westside and Central Elementary schools stayed at a C grade, but still fell in their scores. Central went from 232 to 223; West-side from 231 to 225; and Northside from 231 to 213, very close to a D.

Cabot Middle School South actually improved, according to the state, going from a C to a B, going from a score of 237 to 252. The rest of Cabot’s secondary schools kept their grade from the previous year. Cabot Junior High North kept a C and improved its overall score, going from 223 up to 231. Cabot Junior High South also stayed at a C and improved its score a point, going from 218 to 219. Cabot Middle School North also kept it C grade and its score fell slightly, going from 235 to 233.

The high school stayed at a B, but fell from 264 to 247. The Cabot Freshman Academy was not operational two years ago, so it got a grade just for last year and received a B with a score of 244.


Westside Elementary fell from an A to a B, with its score going from 297 to 248.

Sidney Deener Elementary School was the only Searcy school to show an improvement based on the state report cards. It went from a D (score of 204) to a C (score of 230). The city’s other elementary school McRae, dropped from a B to a C, going from 269 down to 219.

Southwest Middle School and Ahlf Junior High stayed the same. Southwest kept its C but did improve its score, going from 227 to 237, just three points from a B. Ahlf kept its B, but dropped from 244 to 240, just one point above a C.

Searcy High School fell from a B to a C. Its score went from 257 to 230.