Thursday, June 9, 2016

Little Rock School District report; good news marks Kurrus' farewell

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 10:56 AM

click to enlarge LOOKING UP: Test scores rising in Little Rock School District.
  • LOOKING UP: Test scores rising in Little Rock School District.

click to enlarge BAKER KURRUS: In a sometimes emotional appearance, Kurrus talked about achievements in the district during his year as superintendent.
  • BAKER KURRUS: In a sometimes emotional appearance, Kurrus talked about achievements in the district during his year as superintendent.
Outgoing Superintendent Baker Kurrus reported to the state Board of Education on the Little Rock School District this morning.

He had good news on performance in the district, taken over by the state a year agop for low scores in six of 48 schools. Kurrus was fired by Education Commissioner Johnny Key because of his objections to the continued expansion of charter schools that drain higher income and already achieving students from the Little Rock District, which has a far higher percentage of black and poor students, plus more special ed and non-English students.

Kurrus said test scores were "uncommonly good." He spoke at length about many topics — from a new middle school in western Little Rock to the achievements notched at several elementary schools, including Bale and Rockefeller. He became emotional at teams for the spirit that was being developed from students to staff. Sen. Joyce Elliott spoke afterward and commended the district and urged the board to return control of the district to voters.

Key has hired a new superintendent from Bentonville, nominally because Kurrus' skills were organizational and not academic. The results presented today indicated results in the academic arena, too.

Kurrus supporters have felt all along that, in addition to charter expansion opposition, Kurrus was doing entirely too well in leading the district, and thus presenting a disincentive for people to flee to charter schools and an obstacle to the Walton Family Foundation's desire to see the district taken over by private management corporations to become a lab for all their school theories. Kurrus has shown what can be done with old-fashioned technique and teamwork. He was asked, too, about absenteeism by teachers — a hobby horse of the Little Rock School District haters. Kurrus gave a remarkable talk that concluded that, while the situation had improved, he didn't have all the answers. But he said teachers took days off in part for mental health reasons — a pressure cooker of tough classrooms, high expectations and, often, lack of broad support. It was that kind of empathy that made him a successful and popular. Reward: He was fired for ideological reasons.

AND SPEAKING OF THE CHARTER SCHOOL AGENDA: The state Board voted today to review the departmental staff denial of a charter school expansion to Haas Hall Academy, the targeted-at-upper-tier students charter school in Northwest Arkansas. With Asa Hutchinson appointees now in control of the board and Republicans in NWA whining about the Haas Hall denial, I like the chances of future affirmation, despite the schools' lack of diversity,past funny business with admissions and the complains I've heard from parents about barriers (expensive lunch and uniforms, difficult access to computers) to low-income students.

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