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The North Little Rock School Board on Thursday voted to approve a change in interim assessments for students and to move the district's high school back to block scheduling.

The board voted in favor of using the NWEA MAP Suite of tests to replace the interim assessments produced by ACT Inc. for the 8,500-student district.

NWEA is a 40-year-old nonprofit testing company in Oregon. The testing program is a relatively common one in other school systems in the state and nation.

The new interim assessments would be administered three times a year in grades three through 12. The district is already using the NWEA system for kindergarten through second grade. The same is true for the Little Rock School District, which also is moving toward putting the other grades on the NWEA system.

Henry Anderson, director of secondary education and data analysis for the district, said the NWEA testing system is less disruptive for students, with tests being administered during class and lasting about 40 minutes. With other testing systems, schools usually "shut down" for two to three days to administer assessments, Anderson said.

Anderson said the NWEA is more expensive, but gives teachers more in-depth information about each student and their growth. The $104,000 cost of districtwide implementation will come from state funds allotted for the 2018-19 school year, according to emails released by the district. Administrators from most schools chose NWEA when asked if they wanted to move or continue with the ACT Inc. tests, emails show.

The board also voted to put North Little Rock High School back on the collegiate-style block schedule. The school last had students attending four, 80-minute classes on alternate days during the 2012-13 school year. It switched back to having students attend seven of the same classes every day for fiscal reasons, according to Karla Whisnant, principal of the district's Center of Excellence, a conversion charter school within North Little Rock High School.

Block scheduling can better prepare students to continue their educations and improve test scores, Principal Scott Jennings said. About 90 percent of parents, 80 percent of teachers and 70 percent of students responded favorably to the proposal, according to a survey.

Jennings noted that other competitive area high schools, including Little Rock Central, Parkview Arts and Science, and eStem use block scheduling. He added that North Little Rock High School had higher test scores during the 2012-13 school year, when that system was in place.

"It's obviously not the only factor, but there's something there," Jennings said.

The district has not yet approved a contract with Bobby Acklin, who was selected as interim superintendent earlier in June.

Information for this article was contributed by Cynthia Howell of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 06/22/2018

Print Headline: Board OKs changes in scheduling, pupil tests

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