State releases school report cards with letter grades | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

State releases school report cards with letter grades

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 1:11 PM

The state Education Department today released the so-called school report cards, for the first time with letter grades rather than numerical grades, though the old system was analagous. The legislature required letter grades.

The Education Department provided this explanation of the grades, based on tests in math and literacy. The top grade isn't based on a school wide average alone, but also on scores of subgroups, such as racial and economic. The handout comments:

*It does not measure how well an individual student or teacher is doing.

* It does not take into consideration other things the school may be doing well, such as meeting students’ nutrition and health needs or how well students are performing in other subject areas. 

It also doesn't adequately take into account schools with high, if not complete, concentrations of at-risk children — impoverished, minorities with historically lower test scores, transient families, homeless, non-English speakers, concentration of disabled and more.

The state has a landing page that includes a video link here.

Here's the link to the report cards, an alphabetical list by school district.

It's full of data and not immediately easy to access. But here's a tip: If you download a PDF of a district's full report, open it and scroll to page 16 and it will give you the number of schools in each district scoring at which grade level. For example, 2 B schools, 1 C and 1 D in the KIPP Delta Public Schools, the highly lauded charter school outfit. They target poor minority students and so I'd conclude they are making progress. The Little Rock School District has 4 As, 6 Bs, 10 Cs, 14 Ds and 8 Fs. About what I'd expect. Not a wholly failed district, as Education Commissioner Johnny Key has intimated, but a district with plenty of problems. One tidbit: Baseline Elementary, one of six schools previously judged in academic distress that was a reason the state took over the whole district had a D grade in 2013-14, not an F.

Statewide, the grade totals among the schools were A, 162; B, 322; C, 365; D, 158, and F, 43.

Lie, damn lies, statistics Dept: Little Rock school haters will note that it has a higher percentage of failing schools than the state as a whole. They won't also tell you it has a far higher percentage of minority and impoverished students than the state as a whole. Regrettably, those circumstances here and everywhere tend to track test performance.

There's wonkery galore here. The trick, not easily reachable from this report, is to find the schools that don't perform well despite rich student raw material and those that defy expectations of demographics. That's the chart I'd like to see and perhaps some number crunchers up at Fayetteville will rise to that task before long.

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