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Districts Focused on Continued Academic Improvement

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August 26, 2011 by wcobserver

By Susannah Swearingen

COUNTY – While the school year just began for Greenland and West Fork students, district officials have already started focusing on improving their schools’ test scores.

Both Greenland and West Fork school districts showed overall improvement on the 2011 Arkansas Augmented Benchmark Exams, with most grades scoring above the state average on the math and literacy segments of the exams.

Exam results, released in July by the Arkansas Department of Education, provide scores for all districts for grades 3 through 8.

The results show an increase over 2010 in the percentage of Greenland students scoring either proficient or advanced in math for grades 5, 6 and 8.

In literacy, the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced increased for grade 6 and decreased in all other grades.

The percentage of West Fork students scoring proficient or advanced in math increased for grades 3 and 5 and the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in literacy increased for grades 5, 6, and 8.

Dr. Charles Cudney, Superintendent for Greenland School District, said he’s excited about the district’s scores.

“We have seen, among many of our grade levels, a lot of growth in the last three years,” he said. “We have some scores that we want to improve, as all schools do, and we have some that we’re very proud of.”

Cudney is particularly proud of the district’s math scores:

In third grade math, 76 percent of students scored at the advanced level, compared to the 60 percent state average.

The district’s math scores improved for all grades expect sixth and eighth. Cudney said the district is going to focus on those areas and has challenged all faculty to continue to work to improve student achievement.

“As an educational team, we are collectively focusing on student engagement this year as a top priority,” he said.

West Fork students improved their Benchmark test scores in math in third, fifth, seventh and eighth grades and improved their scores in literacy for all grades.

In third grade math, 69 percent of students scored at the advanced level, compared to the 60 percent state average.

In the high school end-of-year exams, Greenland students improved scores in geometry, with 58 percent of students scoring at the proficient level and 26 percent scoring at the advanced level, compared with 34 percent proficient and 8 percent advanced in 2010.
West Fork High School students improved their literacy scores, with 35 percent scoring advanced, compared to two percent scoring advanced in 2010.

West Fork Superintendent John Karnes said overall, he is pleased with district’s scores.
“Many of our scores were above the state average, which we’re very proud of,” he said.
The district’s primary areas of concern this year, he said, are the special education and economically disadvantaged students.

Karnes said he also wants to make sure that the students who scored proficient or advanced continue to make progress.

“We can’t forget the kids that are already there,” he said. “But for the kids that are so close to being proficient, we want to get them over the hump.

“Obviously we want to raise the scores of all of the kids.”

Both West Fork and Greenland school districts had some schools placed on the alert status or in some phase of school improvement, according to the state’s 2009-2010 adequate yearly progress (AYP) list, required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Achieving status is determined by students’ performance on the Benchmark exams, with more than 64 percent of students required to score proficient or better on the exams to meet adequate yearly progress.

West Fork Elementary School was placed on alert status, meaning the school did not meet adequate yearly progress this year after meeting it last year.

West Fork Middle School was classified as a targeted improvement school, meaning the school has been identified as being in school improvement status because one or more, but fewer than 25 percent, of its student subgroups failed to meet adequate yearly progress for two or more consecutive years.

Karnes said under the No Child Left Behind Act, every student will be required to score proficient or above by 2013-2014, which he said is not a realistic goal.

“I think we need to start looking at students’ growth and have a standard for growth,” he said. “That would be a much more realistic goal.”

Greenland High School and Greenland Middle School were both placed on alert status.
Cudney said the district is going to work to improve student achievement regardless of its AYP status.

“The issue is that we need to be focused on improving student achievement,” he said. “We’re going to do that whether or not we have a school on alert or school improvement.”

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