Bad news is good news at Cooper Elementary
While the bad news is that the Bentonville School District won’t be getting additional help from the state, that’s also the good news. The schools in the Bentonville district, including Cooper Elementary, are doing so well they don’t need the additional help, Leandra Cleveland, director of assessment and data management for the district explained.
When the state recently announced the results of the school assessment program, all the Bentonville schools got A’s or B’s, she said. Cooper was one of the schools that earned an A and was the third highest of the 11 elementary schools in Bentonville.
The school grading system changed over the past few years, she explained, because the federal law changed. The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced No Child Left Behind and the state developed a new assessment system. One of the most important changes, she said, is that 50 percent of the score is now based on student improvement.
“The new plan takes into effect student growth,” she said. Every individual student’s growth — as long as the student started in the district by October — is factored into the school’s grade.
“It’s a big difference,” she said. The old system looked at the percentage of students who tested as proficient. That meant that a relatively small number of students — the ones who were almost proficient — could have a big impact on the overall scores. If those “bubble” students received enough extra help to raise their scores above that line, it didn’t really matter if other students progressed or not.
Now, every student’s growth is measured. The students who start out doing very well are still expected to grow, and so are the students at the low end of the scale.
Teachers have constant access to the data, Cleveland said, so they can tell how they’re doing.
Principal Chad Mims said his staff has perfected a system in which every student spends some time every day in a small group environment. Teachers place students in a group according to their individual needs and the groups are constantly changing as the students progress.
The system works at Cooper partly because Cooper is the only elementary school in the district that offers PE4Life, and that means that every student has PE every day. Each grade level is divided in half during the PE period, with half going to their small group while half goes to PE. Then they switch.
While other schools use small group instruction, Mims believes Cooper’s system allows more kids to take part in smaller groups.
According to the school’s grade, even the subpopulations — like special education students or students from low-income households — are doing very well.
Cooper, he said, is part of the top 5 percent of schools in the state.
The new system also considers things like attendance, Cleveland said, because students who are engaged at school want to be there. Individual test scores are still considered, as well, with an emphasis on reading scores.