- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Department of Education has identified 46 schools around the state with consistently low performance on state tests.

The “priority” schools had scored in the bottom 5 percent on the exams given over three years, in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1igq7jy ) reported.

They include eight in the Little Rock district, four in Pulaski County Special, four in Pine Bluff, three in Forrest City and two in Fort Smith. Four independently operated public charter schools also are on the list.

The schools, along with an additional 105 schools identified as having the largest academic achievement gaps between student groups on the tests, must now hire either full- or part-time school improvement specialists. They also must evaluate their school and district leaders, submit to state monitoring and take other steps over time to raise student performance.

“I like to put it to the positive: We now know, so how are we going to help?” said Elbert Harvey, the Arkansas department’s coordinator of school improvement/standards assurance.

His agency will partner with schools and districts to change how they operate. Many of the schools also will be eligible for federal grants to support their efforts.

“It’s all about changing the systems so we can produce better outcomes for students,” Harvey said. “Now that we have a focus to it, we can prioritize our resources to help those districts and those buildings.”

The state Education Department identified the priority schools and the achievement-gap schools - called “focus schools” - for the first time since November 2012 to comply with the state’s federally approved school accountability system.

The plan was intended to tailor achievement goals to each school and is a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. The law called for 100 percent of students to achieve proficiency, or grade level, in math and literacy by the 2013-14 school year.

The federal Education Department, partly in recognizing that schools couldn’t meet that requirement, began approving state waivers to the federal law in 2012.


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

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