Eight Arkansas schools, including one each in the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts, have been cleared of their "Focus" label, which was applied by the state because of the large achievement gaps between student groups at their campuses.
The Arkansas Board of Education voted Thursday to remove the label from the schools after state Department of Education staff members reported that the schools had met student performance goals in two consecutive school years -- 2015-16 and 2016-17.
The schools are :
• Ashdown Junior High in the Ashdown School District.
• Washington Middle School in the El Dorado School District.
• Greenland Middle School in the Greenland School District.
• Pulaski Heights Elementary School in the Little Rock School District.
• Pleasant View Campus School in the Mulberry/Pleasant View Bi-County School District.
• Crestwood Elementary School in the North Little Rock School District.
• Meekins Middle School in the Stuttgart School District.
• College Hill Middle School in the Texarkana School District.
The schools were among the 10 percent of state schools identified as far back as 2012 as having the largest achievement gaps on state exams between students who were poor and/or in need of special education, and English as a second language services and the students at the same school who did not fall into any of those categories.
As of March there were 87 "focus" schools among the more than 1,000 schools in the state. Leaders in those schools and in the districts operating the schools had to work with and report to the Arkansas Education Department on their efforts to reduce the achievement gaps. Identified schools were eligible to apply to the Education Department for grants to aid in their improvement efforts.
The "focus" and "priority" labels applied to schools were part of the state's plan to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 and later the federally approved plan for flexibility from the No Child Left Behind Act. Priority schools were identified as the lowest 5 percent achieving schools in the state on state-required tests. Priority schools also have to meet achievement goals in two consecutive years to be released from that label.
The No Child Left Behind Act has been replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, and the state has submitted to the U.S. Department of Education a proposed plan for complying with that law that calls for providing support to school districts in their pursuit of academic achievement in their schools.
The state Board of Education members Thursday congratulated the school and district employees, as well as students, for the accomplishment.
Beth Shumate, deputy superintendent of the North Little Rock School District, along with Rosie Coleman, director of elementary education, and Henry Anderson, director of secondary education and testing in the district, described for the Education Board their work this year that led to Crestwood Elementary's exit from the focus school list.
Crestwood was identified as a focus school in 2012 with an achievement gap of 34.30 points between the student groups.
Crestwood faculty members "had to acknowledge that some of what they were doing was just not working and they knew change had to occur," Coleman told the Education Board. "They were doing some things right but they looked internally at their school and the way things were being done for students. They began learning new strategies that were proven to work."
Those strategies included moving to student-centered classrooms from teacher-centered rooms, which meant the students had a voice in how they learned, Coleman said. Students' needs were met in more personalized and differentiated ways.
All kinds of data were used to determine what the students needed to learn, and interventions or ways to meet those academic needs were identified and used, she said. Partnering with parents to help them work with their children also was emphasized, she said.
North Little Rock Middle School is the only remaining focus school in the North Little Rock School District.
Metro on 11/10/2017