Education notebook

Results of teaching, testing study told

The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has received the results of a study it commissioned to determine alignment between state education standards and questions on the ACT Aspire exams given annually to third- through 10th-graders.

Stacy Smith, the state's assistant commissioner for learning services, reported last week that the average alignment of the state education standards with the Aspire's English/language arts tests was 94%.

At individual grades and subjects, however, the alignment such as in fourth- and fifth-grade writing or third- and fourth-grade reading dipped as low as 75%.

In math, the average alignment of state standards with test questions for all grades was 79%, Smith said. But when the alignment study took into account material covered in a student's grade level and one grade level below that, the alignment between education standards and what was tested was 98%.

The state hired a company to do the alignment study after the U.S. Department of Education concluded that the state's required testing program "substantially meets requirements" but required additional information.

Early count shows dip in LRSD pupils

Preliminary student counts in the Little Rock School District show only a slight dip in this new 2019-20 school year as compared with 2018-19.

The district had a 10th day of school "warm body count" of 22,624 this school year. That number, which includes prekindergarten pupils, is down 20 as compared with 22,644 on the 10th day of school in the previous year.

Enrollment counts taken on Oct. 1 are considered the official enrollment for the year in Arkansas school districts.

Lawyers to judge: Rethink $143,213

Attorneys for all black students in the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District have asked a federal judge to reconsider his recent court order awarding the attorneys $143,213 in legal fees and expenses.

U.S. District Chief Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., the presiding judge in a 36-year-old federal Pulaski County school desegregation lawsuit, in July partially approved and partially denied fees and expenses sought by the team of attorneys and legal aides led by U.S. Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock.

The team had previously asked for $270,000 for work on behalf of students in the Jacksonville district between June 2017 and October 2018 -- including a multiday court hearing in February 2018.

The attorneys represent the students who were previously known as the Joshua intervenors in the long-running lawsuit but are now the "McClendon intervenors," to reflect current families in the case.

"The Court's decision that the fees 'are too high for this work in this market' disregards the history of this case regarding the fee rates for this work in this market," the legal team told Marshall.

The legal team noted that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, seven years ago, had approved higher rates for the attorneys and their legal aides than the rates set by Marshall in the same lawsuit. Marshall also reduced the number of hours for which the team would be paid by the Jacksonville/North Pulaski district.

"Intervenors submit therefore that the Court's ruling regarding market rates is in error. With the time reductions discussed ... the Court's ruling appears punitive. Intervenors, therefore, request reconsideration," the team wrote to the judge.

Walker had asked for $450 an hour, and Marshall awarded $350 an hour. The judge approved $300-an-hour rates for attorneys Robert Pressman, who sought $360 an hour, and Austin Porter who sought $350 an hour. Aide Joy Springer was awarded $100 an hour rather than the requested $137.50.

Eckford wraps up New Zealand visit

Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine teenagers who desegregated Little Rock's Central High in 1957 and an author of a book about that experience, has recently returned from a 10-day trip to New Zealand where she and her co-author made nine presentations to as many as 5,000 students.

Eckford and Eurydice Stanley, authors of The Worst First Day: Bullied while Desegregating Central High, were invited to New Zealand by Fulbright Scholar and James Cook High School teacher Roydon Agent. Agent developed the speaker series to bring black history to life for New Zealand students and teachers.

In her presentations in the cities of Christchurch, Dunedin and Aukland, Eckford presented an overview of the civil rights movement and expounded on insights from her book.

At the end of their tour, Eckford and Stanley were interviewed on the national television.

SundayMonday on 09/01/2019