Education notebook

English, reading scores stir queries

Arkansas students achieved at higher rates on the English section of the ACT Aspire exam than on the reading portion last spring, prompting questions about why there would be a difference in what appear to be similar subjects.

Stacy Smith, the state's assistant commissioner for learning services, said the Aspire results are reported in terms of whether students are on track to be successful or "ready" on the ACT college entrance exam and in early college courses.

Achievement on the English section of the Aspire exams in grades three through 10 are tied to a student's being on track for success in freshman English in college, Smith said. Achievement on the Aspire reading test is linked to the social science courses in college, such as the histories and psychology.

"Think about the difference in the reading and writing there," Smith said about freshman English courses versus the social science courses. "There is a different level of rigor there," she said.

Tests show need to work on reading

Up to 40% of Arkansas' public kindergarten, first- and second-graders need additional support to achieve at a desired level in reading, Hope Worsham, the state's director of assessment, told the Arkansas Board of Education recently.

That's based on the 2019 results from the three different nationally standardized tests from which school districts can choose to give to pupils to gauge their achievements in reading and math.

The state-authorized tests -- iStation, Renaissance and NWEA -- produced similar results, and that indicates that the tests are reliable measures, Worsham said.

The statewide results are reported in terms of the percentage of students who scored above the 40 percentile, meaning they scored higher than 40% of a sample of students nationwide who took the same test. Fifty percent is considered the national average.

In second grade reading, for example, more than 60% of Arkansas pupils scored at the 40th percentile or better, regardless of the test brand.

Math achievement was higher than the reading results for the state's youngest pupils, Worsham also said.

"We still have room to grow" in both subjects, she said.

District OKs pick for treasurer post

The School Board for the Pulaski County Special School District last week approved the appointment of Jacqueline Rowlett as district treasurer, a new position in a district that will not be filling a longstanding chief financial officer position.

Rowlett of Little Rock worked for the past school year in the finance department in the North Little Rock School District, initially as a self-employed consultant and then as a district employee. She was a finance manager in the Pine Bluff School District for about two years, from October 2016 to August 2018. She worked for nine years, 2007-16, for the Arkansas Department of Education as a financial field analyst for the Arkansas Public School Computer Network.

A resume provided by the district shows that Rowlett attended the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 1982-83, Brookhaven Community College in Dallas in 1984-85 and the University of Arkansas College of Technology at McGehee in 1989.

Denise Palmer, who was the district's chief financial officer, was not re-employed for the coming school year.

Ex-superintendent Austin dies at 82

Joe Austin, a former superintendent of the North Little Rock School District, and most recently a resident of Texarkana, Texas, died July 6 at age 82.

Austin, a 32-year teacher, coach and administrator in Arkansas and Texas, was born in Dierks and graduated from Horatio High School and Henderson State University, and then earned advanced degrees from Texas universities.

Austin led the district in the mid to late 1980s, leaving in 1989 to become superintendent of the Beaumont, Texas, school system.

SundayMonday on 07/15/2019