El Do­rado re­ceives ‘D’ rating from state

Dis­trict su­per­in­ten­dent: Grade is not an ‘ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion’

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Kait­lyn Rig­don Staff Writer

The Arkansas Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion re­leased let­ter grades for the 201617 school year for over 1,000 schools in Arkansas last week, with El Do­rado High School re­ceiv­ing a D and two El Do­rado ele­men­tary schools re­ceiv­ing F’s.

“The El Do­rado School Dis­trict’s grades are not some­thing we are happy about and they are go­ing to change for the bet­ter,” said Jim Tucker, El Do­rado School Dis­trict su­per­in­ten­dent. “At the same time, the grades are not an ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of our dis­trict and the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion we pro­vide.”

The cur­rent grades were cal­cu­lated us­ing the new school ac­count­abil­ity law Ev­ery Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act (ESSA), which puts more re­spon­si­bil­ity for im­prov­ing schools at the state and dis­trict level. Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from the state, “the ESSA School In­dex score (a cal­cu­la­tion that in­cludes stu­dents’ weighted achieve­ment and growth on state re­quired as­sess­ments for grades three through 10, grad­u­a­tion rates, and school qual­ity and stu­dent suc­cess) pro­vides par­ents an in-depth re­port of schools’ progress to­ward the ap­proved in­di­ca­tors.”

Arkansas schools were graded in four dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories: achieve­ment, growth, grad­u­a­tion rate (high school only) and school qual­ity/stu­dent suc­cess. Each cat­e­gory is bro­ken down into

in-depth and spe­cific re­quire­ments, which the schools were graded on.

El Do­rado High School re­ceived a score of 61.86, with 67.43 (a C) be­ing the state av­er­age score.

Kim­berly Fried­man, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Arkansas Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, said the depart­ment spent nu­mer­ous hours ob­tain­ing stake­holder feed­back through­out the process of de­vel­op­ing Arkansas’ ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem.

“That statewide feed­back was in­cor­po­rated into the rating sys­tem,” she said. “It is an eq­ui­table sys­tem in terms of be­ing com­pa­ra­ble across all schools and stu­dent groups across the state.”

Tucker said the ac­count­abil­ity sys­tem is not fair be­cause it “doesn’t rec­og­nize the di­ver­sity of the stu­dents across the state.”

Tucker also said there were a lot of com­po­nents that went into the ESSA cri­te­ria that teach­ers don’t have con­trol over, but he said now that they know what the cri­te­ria is, they can “fig­ure out how to help with some of it.”

El Do­rado High School sends 85 per­cent of their stu­dents to col­lege, with 75 per­cent of those con­tin­u­ing to their sopho­more year. Tucker said those sta­tis­tics are above the na­tional av­er­age and “way above the state av­er­age.”

Although un­happy with the grade, Tucker said they have plans to im­prove. Cur­rently, ev­ery school in the dis­trict is de­vel­op­ing a school im­prove­ment plan.

El Do­rado High School Prin­ci­pal Alva Reibe said in an email to the New­sTimes that the school grad­ing was seven-tenths of a point from a C.

“EHS be­lieves we are a much bet­ter school than our rating, which is the re­sult of a math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion,” Reibe said. “At EHS, we con­tinue to strive to do the very best for the stu­dents and will con­tinue to do so. We have al­ways and will con­tinue to im­prove re­gard­less of a rating score … that’s what we do, con­stantly im­prov­ing to do what’s best for our stu­dents.”

Tucker said all of the ele­men­tary schools in the dis­trict re­vamped their en­tire lit­er­acy pro­grams this year, adding that lit­er­acy was one of the weak points for the dis­trict and he be­lieves this will have a ma­jor im­pact.

“Based on the feed­back that I’ve got­ten from teach­ers this year, they think it’s go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence and we feel like it will too,” Tucker said.

The dis­trict is also look­ing at a dis­trict-wide men­tor­ing pro­gram for new and in­com­ing teach­ers. The high school started a pro­gram called Teacher Lead­ers last year that has been ben­e­fi­cial, but Tucker said they re­al­ized that it is some­thing that needs to be in­cor­po­rated in kin­der­garten through 12th grade as well.

“I think we’ll see a dras­tic dif­fer­ence in new teach­ers and their teach­ing skills in the first year or two,” he said.

Reibe said the high school teach­ers are “very qual­i­fied teach­ers who are not only cer­ti­fied in their con­tent area, but many are also Na­tional Board cer­ti­fied, Ad­vanced Place­ment (col­lege board) cer­ti­fied, have master’s de­grees and/or ad­di­tional col­lege hours in their con­tent area, cur­ricu­lum and in­struc­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tive lead­er­ship.”

There are cur­rently 455 high school stu­dents in 18 Ad­vanced Place­ment (AP) classes, “which is one of the high­est num­bers in the state for schools our size,” Tucker said.

Reibe said that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vis­ited the high school to rec­og­nize their AP stu­dents and teach­ers.

“Stu­dents can leave EHS with many hours of col­lege credit al­ready on their tran­script,” she added.

This year, the high school added en­gi­neer­ing, com­puter sci­ence and pho­tog­ra­phy classes. For the up­com­ing year, Reibe said they are adding a pro­gram for tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity and are look­ing into adding bio­science and an agri­cul­tural pro­gram.

“Many of the teach­ers spend time af­ter school and on week­ends plan­ning ways to im­ple­ment best prac­tices and make their lessons op­ti­mal for stu­dent learn­ing and en­gage­ment,” Reibe said. “Many of the teach­ers of­fer be­fore and af­ter school tu­tor­ing and test re­cov­ery for strug­gling stu­dents. EHS teach­ers are among some of the best in the teach­ing field in Arkansas and in the na­tion.”

Tucker gave ex­am­ples of col­leges El Do­rado High School stu­dents have been ac­cepted to this year in­clud­ing Van­der­bilt, Rice, Notre Dame and the Naval Academy.

Hugh Good­win Ele­men­tary School re­ceived a B, Bar­ton Ju­nior High School and Wash­ing­ton Mid­dle School both re­ceived C’s, North­west Ele­men­tary School re­ceived a D and Retta Brown Ele­men­tary School and Yocum Ele­men­tary School both re­ceived F’s.

For ele­men­tary schools, the ESSA added at­ten­dance as a grad­ing mea­sure, “which is not some­thing we have a lot of con­trol over,” Tucker said.

“We make phone calls, but if par­ents don’t bring them, they don’t bring them,” he said.

Wash­ing­ton Mid­dle School was rec­og­nized as one of the top STEM schools in the na­tion this year. The dis­trict also started of­fer­ing pre-AP classes in fifth grade.

“Stu­dents can re­ceive high school credit at Bar­ton Ju­nior High School,” Tucker said. “You will not see that any­where else in south Arkansas.”

Some of the ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties the dis­trict pro­vides to stu­dents in­clude Arts, Drama, Theatre, Archery, Orches­tra, Jazz Band, Marching Band, trips to other coun­tries and over 13 dif­fer­ent ath­letic pro­grams.

Tucker said the El Do­rado School Dis­trict pro­vides many ben­e­fits for chil­dren, in­clud­ing the El Do­rado Prom­ise.

“(The Prom­ise) drives ev­ery­thing else,” he said. “We try to strive to be the best we can be­cause we know our stu­dents are go­ing to be able to go to col­lege.”

Fried­man said the state ex­pects to see im­prove­ments in the com­ing years, “but it is more im­por­tant for schools and com­mu­ni­ties to use the in­for­ma­tion in their cur­rent re­ports to have mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions with stake­hold­ers re­gard­ing areas in which the school is ex­celling, as well as areas that need im­prove­ment.”

“We en­cour­age dis­tricts to fo­cus on im­prove­ments that pro­duce sus­tain­able, long-term pos­i­tive im­pacts on stu­dents, rather than short-term ac­tions that tem­po­rar­ily boost the rat­ings but may not re­sult in sus­tained stu­dent ac­cess,” Fried­man said.

Ter­rance Arm­stard/News-Times

High School: The El Do­rado High School re­ceived a D on this year’s new ESSA grad­ing sys­tem. Although un­happy with the grade, El Do­rado School Dis­trict Su­per­in­ten­dent Jim Tucker said they have plans to im­prove.

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