Local schools slip on state ‘Report Cards’
Local schools slip on state ‘Report Cards’
Department of Education issues letter grades to all state schools
email@example.com In an attempt to create a rating system that was more easily understandable to the general public, the Arkansas Department of Education has assigned a letter grade, using the traditional A-F system, to each of Arkansas more than 1,000 public schools.
The grades — culled from data from the 2014-2015 school year and comparison data from the previous two school years — rate each school, with A’s for excellence down to F’s for schools with low achievement in a number of key indicators. Those indicators included scores on standardized tests, graduation and retention rates, attendance, achievement gaps among student population groups and demographics, and other factors.
While the letter grades do not carry any sort of reward or penalty, they are intended to offer a snapshot look at each school in a way that is less cumbersome and more accessible than the lengthy annual reports (typically 12-14 pages per school).
Grades were down overall, particularly in “A” achieving schools.
Statewide, only 10 schools received A’s, down sharply from 162 schools scoring the high mark last year.
There was some upward movement, however, with only 19 schools receiving F’s, down from 43 on the previous year’s report.
Schools were scored on a points system, with 300 points being the highest possible score. A school scoring 270-300 gets an A, 240-269 points earns a B, 210 to 239 points gets a C, 180 to 209 points gets a D, and any score below 180 earns an F.
While some district leaders praised the new grading system when it was first issued last year, others said adding it only created confusion about a school’s performance. Other school leaders say labeling a school with a letter grade may have a negative effect on the way the school is viewed.
“The goal,” said Education Department spokeswoman Kimberly Friedman, “is to help parents and the public better understand how well a school is performing and to begin conversations to continually improve education.”
Friedman said that a variety of factors can lead to a high or low score and that parents who want to know more about the specific reasons behind a school’s grade can contact the school.
“We encouraging parents to have those conversations with the schools,” she said.
Locally, two schools that achieved A’s last year saw their grades drop. Richland Elementary School in West Memphis saw its grade drop to a C, while Marion Junior High School fell all the way down to a D. The Richland dip is particularly perplexing as it was one of only a handful of schools in the state to score a perfect 300 last year, meeting or exceeded standards in virtually every category across demographics, sub-populations and subjects.
Other area schools offered a mixed bag of grades. All three county high schools received C’s, with the Academies of West Memphis (223/300), scoring just a tad higher than Earle High School (221/300) and Marion (214/300). In it’s final year in operation before being absorbed into the West Memphis School District, Hughes High School, consolidated with West Memphis for the 2015-2016 school year, also received a C (211/300).
No Crittenden County school received an A or B in this year’s report. In West Memphis, Bragg, Richland, West Junior High, and AWM all received C’s. Faulk, Maddux and Weaver elementaries received D’s, as did both East and Wonder junior highs. LR Jackson and Wonder elementaries were assigned F’s.
In Earle, while the high school scored a C, Earle Elementary received a D. In Marion, Avondale and Marion Elementary joined MHS is receiving C’s, while Marion Middle and Marion Intermediate joined MJHS in scoring a D.
Crittenden County Schools were not alone is being scored more harshly in 2015. No schools in neighboring counties saw improved
in Wynne, which saw straight B’s last year turn to three C’s and a D this time around.
ADE officials attributed the decline in the higher marks to a change in statewide testing programs, from PARCC to the ACT model.
The full report cards for each school can be viewed at adesrc.arkansas.gov. The list is broken down first by school district and then by individual school. Each school’s grade can be found in the section of the report titled “Indicator: School Performance” in the subsection titled “School Rating.”
By Ralph Hardin