- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Board of Education has decided to keep the “academic distress” labels on two school systems and 15 schools, meaning those institutions will be monitored for another year.

The board voted unanimously Thursday to maintain academic distress classifications for Little Rock’s Covenant Keepers College Preparatory Charter School, the state-controlled Dollarway School District and 15 schools across Arkansas, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2ndI1Hd ) reported.

Less than 50 percent of the school’s students scored at proficient or better levels on state-required literacy and math tests over the last three academic years. Academic distress requires schools to be monitored and guided by the Department of Education.

The board also denied an appeal from the Helena-West Helena School District to remove the distress label from the district’s Central High. The board also voted to remove “focus” labels from 14 schools that had closed large achievement gaps among students groups.

The board directed the Education Department’s charter authorizing panel to review the Covenant Keepers Charter School to determine whether the school can correct long-standing academic challenges. The panel’s decisions to approve, renew, amend or revoke a school’s charter go to the education board for a final decision.

“We know how challenged the student population is at Covenant Keepers, but we also know that other charter schools and other districts working with similarly challenged populations have shown real improvement,” said Jay Barth, a member of the education board. “No matter how warm and inviting and community-minded that school is, it is really a difficult problem.”

The school’s charter will expire in June 2019, but charter schools are subject to state review and action at any time if they’re given notice and a hearing about their operations.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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