State, LRSD officials hope low test scores lead to education reform

By Matt Johnson

LITTLE ROCK - A recent report by The Department of Education shows nearly 45 percent of Arkansas schools have not met expectations on state exams.

Nearly 80 percent of schools in the Little Rock School District and almost 90 percent of Jefferson County schools made the list. The exams are a result of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act, which was create to improve the test scores of disadvantaged students nationwide.

The exams used in the report were issued in the spring and tested for proficiency in math and English.

Although Arkansas education officials criticize No Child Left Behind, which many local school officials agree places unrealistic expectations on students, it still would like to see improvement from schools.

"We want to keep pushing schools even though they make thing they're doing fine, schools can always do better," said Seth Blomeley, a Department of Education spokesperson.

The Little Rock School District saw 35 of its 45 schools fail to meet requirements. Despite criticisms of the system, the district vowed to make improvements in curriculum to attempt to meet expectations in the future.

The state's Adequate Yearly Progress report, analyzed by KATV, lists the following LRSD schools as successful under current standards.

  1. Booker Arts Magnet Elementary
  2. Carver Magnet Elementary
  3. Forest Park Elementary
  4. Gibbs Magnet Elementary
  5. Otter Creek Elementary
  6. Cloverdale Tech Charter School
  7. Don Roberts Elementary
  8. Fulbright Elementary
  9. Williams Magnet Elementary

10. Jefferson Elementary

"The public thinks that the schools are failing, "said Dennis Glasgow, LRSD's associate superintendent for accountability. "The schools aren't failing.

Glasgow believes the report is not a completely accurate reflection of his district. He says to try and meet the expectations from No Child Left Behind is a losing battle.

"More and more schools are not going to meet standards," he said.

Currently, No Child Left Behind aspires to bring all students to proficient testing levels. The system separates student subgroups at a school by ethnicity and economic disparity. If any one of the school's subgroup tests below what's legally proficient, the entire school is considered below proficiency.

"Some of our best growth is among the lowest performing students," said Glasgow. "They're performing by leaps and bounds over all but they're not hitting the mark."

He says students have been making steady gains at LRSD. However, it's been tough for teachers to reach the designated threshold.

For this school year, No Child Left Behind requires nearly 80% of all of a school's students to demonstrate proficiency in their math and English testing. By the 2013-14 school year, schools that do not have 100% of its students meeting standards will be considered failures.

These are benchmarks that a growing number of educators agree need to be scaled back.

"[Schools] are getting a label that in a lot of cases just really isn't fair," said Blomeley. "That's one of the reasons we really think No Child Left Behind needs to be reworked."

The state has shown interest in applying for a waiver that would no longer make Arkansas bound by some of No Child Left Behind's most unpopular provisions.