EL DORADO, Ark. (10/15/19) — The Arkansas Department of Education recently released school performance reports for each public school in the state. The El Dorado School District is pleased with the scores they received.
“All of our schools are showing growth,” Superintendent Jim Tucker said. “We have momentum going in the right direction. I’m happy with the growth that we had.”
The ADE’s performance evaluations cover the past school year, fall 2018 to spring 2019. The department gives letter grades to each school within a district.
The grades are based on student achievement and growth on state-required tests. The El Dorado School District saw improvements with each of their school’s index scores.
Hugh Goodwin Elementary earned the only “A” grade among all schools in Union County.
Retta Brown Elementary and Yocum schools both jumped from an “F” to a “D”, just two and half points away from earning a “C”.
The principals at Yocum Schools and Retta Brown Elementary said going up almost two letter grades in one year is tremendous growth.
“It made me really proud of my staff who worked tirelessly and the kids that worked tirelessly but it’s just not the test that goes into our ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) score,” Retta Brown Elementary School Principal, Bethanie Hale said.
The letter grades are also based on graduation rates, discipline and absenteeism. Hale said her school focused on student attendance because that’s the first step in helping a student achieve in the classroom.
“Having kids at school in the classroom being able to get the instruction from their teacher is the best thing we can provide each kid to get them where they need to be to be successful in their education,” Hale said.
The school’s Retta Buck Program is a way to encourage attendance. The school also a partnership with Cross Life Church where they award parents for their child’s perfect attendance each semester.
“We understand that doctor’s appointments happen but a lot of time parents wouldn’t come get their kids if it was something that they could postpone or do later because they knew their kid wanted to be at school all day,” Hale said.
The principal at Yocum Elementary and Yocum Primary Schools, Michelle Henry, agreed that attendance was also a target issue they focused on.
The main area both principals made sure teachers and staff spent a lot of time working on was making sure students were reading at grade level.
Both schools were strategic on pulling students out of class and ensuring they wouldn’t miss important work. Yocum Schools implemented the R.I.S.E (Reading Intervention for Students to Excel) Classroom program that focused on helping students that were two grade levels below where they needed to be.
They saw 60 student graduate from the program last year. So far this year, five students have tested out.
“We think that attributed to tons of our success,” Henry said.
While these report cards are important to the state, the Superintendent and many other schools aren’t huge fans of it.
“I’ve always said I don’t like the approach the ADE is taking on school grades because it’s not an accurate representation on what a school district is,” Tucker said.
Every school in the district has unique programs and initiatives to meet the needs of their students. In addition, the district said they provide quality training for their students and staff to feel confident going into the classroom every day.
The schools did see improvements but administrators and staff don’t want parents to compare schools based on these annual letter grades.
“Some of those things that we do as educators, you can’t measure,” Hale said. “I don’t know if they can actually measure a school based on all of the things that they do.”
Henry agreed saying “Our school is so much more than a grade. Our teachers show up everyday just for our students. We are mothers to some. We are counselors. We are teachers, probably last and that’s what we are graded on the most.”
Parents can see how their child’s school ranks in testing results, graduation rates, absenteeism and discipline. They can also compare their school to other schools in the state.
You can view a school, district or the state report card here.