Education notebook

Posted: November 20, 2017 at 1 a.m.

State wins plaudits for U.S.-policy plan

Arkansas' plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 won praise last week from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education policy advocacy and research organization in Washington, D.C.

The Natural State's plan was one of eight state plans to receive across-the-board "strong" marks for its efforts in the three areas that were scrutinized. Those components were:

• Annual ratings of schools that are clear and intuitive for parents, educators and the public.

• Encouragement to schools to focus on all students, not just on low performers.

• Fair measure and judgment of all schools, including those with high rates of poverty.

Besides the plan by Arkansas, plans from Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Washington also received "strong" ratings in each of the categories. In all, 21 states had plans that were good or strong. California, Idaho and North Dakota received "weak" ratings in each of the three areas.

Arkansas' plan has not yet been approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Two districts begin building projects

Two central Arkansas school districts held ceremonial groundbreakings last week for campus construction projects.

Three years to the week after the Arkansas Board of Education created the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District, the district is beginning construction of a new Jacksonville High School.

The two-story, 283,000-square-foot high school for 1,400 students will be easily visible to drivers on U.S. 67/167.

The Sheridan School District is building a $25 million, 148,000-square-foot, two-story addition to Sheridan High School.

The work will provide space for career-technical education classrooms, including a robotics laboratory; a gymnasium that can host tournaments; a library; a 750-seat cafeteria; special education classrooms; and classrooms to house ninth-graders.

The district is receiving $7.57 million of the cost of the building from the state through the Arkansas Partnership Program.

LR, NLR schools ask for earlier '18 start

Both the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts took steps last week to attain state approval of an Aug. 13 opening day of school for the 2018-19 school year.

The proposed opening date will require the Arkansas Board of Education to waive a state law that sets the first day of school as the Monday of the week that contains Aug. 19. For the coming school year, based on that law, the first day of school can be no earlier than Aug. 20.

Little Rock School District leaders said last week that the Aug. 20 date is five days later than the start of school this year and puts the district in jeopardy of having to schedule high school semester exams for dates after winter vacation.

The 20 school districts that make up the Guy Fenter Education Service Cooperative -- including Fort Smith -- received a state waiver of the law earlier this month.

NW News on 11/20/2017