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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — Little Rock School District headquarters are shown in this 2019 file photo. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

Eight of Little Rock School District's 40 schools will receive "F" letter grades in the aftermath of last spring's state-required ACT Aspire tests -- the same number of F schools as in the previous year but not all the same eight, according to preliminary 2019 letter grade data.

The 23,000-student capital city district will have six A schools, which is two more than last year; three B schools; eight C schools; and 15 D schools -- all if no errors are found or adjustments made before next week's official statewide release of school letter grades by the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The eight F grades are a barrier to the Little Rock district's unconditional release from five years of state control, according to state plans for returning the system to a locally elected school board.

District officials released the 2019 state-applied letter grades for the district's campuses Thursday before the state release in response to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Freedom of Information Act request.

The F schools include Hall, McClellan and J.A.Fair high schools and Washington Elementary-- all were F schools in 2018, as well. The new F schools are Henderson Middle School, along with Meadowcliff, Watson and Baseline elementaries.

Schools that had F's after the 2018 tests but have improved to Ds for 2019 are Cloverdale Middle, as well as Bale, Romine and Stephens elementaries.

The district's six A schools are Don Roberts, Forest Park, Gibbs International Studies Magnet, Jefferson elementaries, along with Forest Heights STEM Academy for grades kindergarten through eight, and Pinnacle View Middle School.

The three B schools are Fulbright, Pulaski Heights and Williams Traditional Studies Magnet elementary schools.

The preliminary release of the district results came the same day as a Little Rock Education Association employee union membership met to plan its response -- possibly a strike or other job action -- to a state Board of Education member's proposal to end the union's collective-bargaining rights in the district.

Both the school letter grades and the previously tabled motion to end union recognition are on the agenda for next Thursday's state Board of Education meeting.

District Superintendent Mike Poore said Thursday that while there are concerns to be addressed, "there are a lot of positives in these results." Thirty of the 40 schools have improved growth scores over the 2018 results, he said, and 21 schools reached a growth score of 80, indicating that students, on average, matched or bettered their achievement rates from the previous year.

"Growth scores matter the most to educators because it looks at what happened to that child during the course of the year," Poore said.

Also, four of the district's five high schools showed higher graduation rates -- another factor in letter grade calculations.

"I think it shows we are on the right track in so many different ways, and that is through the good efforts of teachers, first and foremost," Poore said about the data. "I think it also represents good things about administrators and support staff and it is a positive about the Department of Education in their work with us. In the last year we have really hit our stride with the Department."

The district's 2019 school letter grades -- along with the Every Student Succeeds Act numerical scores on which the A-to-F letter grades are based -- are significant because of the role they will play in the Arkansas Board of Education's decision on the future of the district that has been operating under state authority for nearly five years.

In 2015, six of the district's then-48 schools were labeled as academically distressed based on chronically low student scores on state exams. The district's seven-member School Board was dismissed and the superintendent placed under the direction of the state's education commissioner.

Current state law calls for a district under state authority for five years to meet state-set exit criteria for regaining a locally elected school board, face the permanent "consolidation" or "annexation" to another district or be "reconstituted," which is not defined in state law.

After holding public forums to solicit ideas on how to reconstitute the district, the state Board of Education on Sept. 20 approved a framework plan that calls for returning the district to a nine-member, locally elected school board in November 2020, which would oversee schools with D or better grades, while F schools -- or Category 3 schools -- would be placed "under different leadership ...but in partnership with the district."

Placing F-graded schools under different leadership has generated opposition from teachers, parents and others who contend that the state will be racially and economically segregating the district.

The Education Board has on its agenda for Thursday putting the district's schools into three categories, per the framework plan.

The actual number of Category 3 schools "under different leadership" would be less than eight, according to the provisions of the framework plan and the school district's previously approved plans for closing, consolidating and repurposing schools.

Both Fair and McClellan high schools, for example, will be closed when the new Southwest High School opens in August. Additionally, the district's plan is to immediately repurpose the Fair campus as a kindergarten-through-eighth grade school to serve pupils now at Henderson -- a newly labeled F school -- and Romine and David O. Dodd elementaries. Henderson, Dodd and Romine would be closed as traditional schools. Meadowcliff, Baseline and Cloverdale are also scheduled for closure in subsequent years -- once a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade building is constructed at the current McClellan site.

Schools being reconfigured will be Category 2 schools, according to the framework and under the supervision of the elected board.

LRSD 2019 grades

Little Rock School District preliminary grades for the 2018-19 school year are based

on multiple factors, including results on the spring 2019 ACT Aspire exams, as well as improvement on those tests over time.

Bale Ele.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . D

Baseline Elementary . . . . . . .F

Booker Arts Magnet Ele. . . D

Brady Elementary . . . . . . . . D

Carver Magnet Ele. . . . . . . . C

Central High . . . . . . . . . . . . . C

Chicot Elementary. . . . . . . . D

Cloverdale Middle. . . . . . . . D

David O. Dodd Ele. . . . . . . . D

Don Roberts Ele. . . . . . . . . . A

Dunbar Magnet Middle . . . D

Forest Heights Stem Aca. . A

Forest Park Ele. . . . . . . . . . . . A

Fulbright Elementary . . . . . .B

Gibbs Magnet Ele. . . . . . . . . A

Hall High. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .F

Henderson Middle. . . . . . . . .F

J.A. Fair High . . . . . . . . . . . . . .F

Jefferson Elementary. . . . . . A

M.L. King Magnet Ele. . . . . D

Mabelvale Elementary . . . . D

Mabelvale Middle . . . . . . . . D

Mann Magnet Middle. . . . . C

McClellan Magnet High . . .F

McDermott Elementary. . . D

Meadowcliff Elementary . . .F

Otter Creek Ele. . . . . . . . . . . C

Parkview Magnet High . . . C

Pinnacle View Middle . . . . A

Pulaski Heights Ele.. . . . . . . .B

Pulaski Heights Middle . . . C

Rockefeller Incentive Ele. . D

Romine Elementary. . . . . . . D

Stephens Elementary . . . . . D

Terry Elementary. . . . . . . . . C

Wakefield Elementary . . . . C

Washington Magnet Ele. . . .F

Watson Elementary. . . . . . . .F

Western Hills Ele. . . . . . . . . D

Williams Magnet Ele. . . . . . .B

Metro on 10/04/2019

Print Headline: Grades for Little Rock district's schools released; 8 get F's

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