Monday, May 2, 2016

School report cards trouble Bentonville School Board

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2016 at 10:12 AM

click to enlarge MIKE POORE Can he do for Little Rock what he's done for Bentonville? - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • MIKE POORE Can he do for Little Rock what he's done for Bentonville?
The Bentonville School District has been much in the news for its fight against non-discrimination protection for LGBT staff and students; recent talk of revival of a Bible class proposal, and the hiring of its superintendent, Mike Poore, by the state to run the Little Rock School District while in state receivership.

I follow the Bentonville Public Schools United page on Facebook, for its progressive outlook on local school matters. A recent thread covered the School Board's unhappiness with the latest school report cards.

Of the district's 18 schools, nine, or half of them, declined in grades this year from last year, including an elementary school that dropped by two letter grades, to a D. It had no A-graded schools, against five last year. Only one school improved its grade — Bright Middle went from a C to a B.

This prompted some Board comment, as reported on the Facebook page during its "live" report on a school board meeting. Quotes from the page:

* [Joe] Quinn had asked for a one-page handout that they can give parents coming [into] the district. That is what he is presenting now.

* [Travis] Riggs says the state report cards are confusing to parents and he wants to leave the grades off the one page data sheet. [Rebecca] Powers wants to leave the grade on but make it less noticeable.

* [Grant] Lightle wants to leave the grade on but add a line that says "x school ranked better than x% of schools in the state"

* [Willie] Cowgur wants to be transparent with the grades but define it in their terms.
The Board discussion drew some comments from followers of the Facebook page. For example:

*  "With all the talk tonight about offending people, I have to say I'm a little offended they all seem to think parents aren't smart enough to understand what the grades mean and represent. And saying a C school is in the top whatever percent of the state, to me, sends the message that schools in this state are not great overall."

* "So, here's the thing. All this talk about how to disguise the fact that the grades weren't what they were hoping for and explaining it for us or defining it in their own terms seems pointless to me. The grades are readily available public information. The grades show up in the Zillow listings when people consider buying homes. People will learn that information without the district filter anyway, so hiding it seems deceptive. We can debate the merits of the system or make excuses for the test all we want, but in the end, it is what it is. And I wish they'd spent more time talking about how to improve the grades than on how to hide or downplay them. The test scores might be questionable but other factors such as graduation rates, TAGG graduation rates (which we saw Monday are abysmal), FRL all factor into the grades too. Solve the problem; don't try to hide the results or assume parents are too dumb to figure it out. In a district with a public trust problem this whole conversation pissed me off.

* "TRANSPARENCY. It is what it is. Don't play hide the ball. Immature and amateurish."
Single-letter report cards for schools, particularly schools with widely divergent populations, are silly. But the Bentonville Board discussion seems relevant given Little Rock's takeover for "failure" of six of 48 schools and for the state's choice of a Bentonville superintendent to save the district. Or at least run things until the Walton Family Foundation of Bentonville can achieve its aim of privatizing the entire district — farming out operation to private management companies with public dollars.

For the record, in Little Rock, 12 schools improved their report card grades this year and eight declined. Three schools lost A status and one retained it.

PS: Speaking of that request for a Bible course in Bentonville. Here's the document by which Board member Brent Leas proposed the addition.

When they says it's not about religion .....

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