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The Arkansas Department of Education on Monday released its annual school and school district performance report, which is expanded this year to comply with state and federal requirements for information to go to the public.

In addition to grade-by-grade and subject-by-subject ACT Aspire test results from the spring of 2018 and from previous years, the report card includes information about growth over time on those exams, high school graduation rates, teacher qualifications, college-entrance exam results, per-student expenditures, property-tax rates and more.

This year's report card includes information on students affected by homelessness, students in foster care, students from military families, and gifted and talented students.

Each individual school report, if printed from the Education Department's My School Info website, is about 50 pages long. Each school district's report exceeds 100 pages.

The website is https://myschoolinfo.arkansas.gov.

Also included within the performance report is a list of the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state on the 2018 Aspire exams. Those 43 schools are identified for comprehensive support and improvement.

The schools include eight in the Little Rock School District and five in the Pine Bluff district. Others are in districts such as Pulaski County Special, North Little Rock, Jacksonville/North Pulaski, Jonesboro, El Dorado, West Memphis and Fort Smith. There are six charter schools among the 43, but three are now closed.

"The School Report Card is designed to provide a communication framework to encourage dialogue and to inform decisions within each school community," Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key said in his letter introducing the report. "The updated report card has more detailed information about your school and is available from three points of view: school, district, and state," he said.

Key said the information should be used "to guide conversations regarding continuous school improvement."

Deborah Coffman, the Arkansas Department of Education's assistant commissioner for public school accountability, called the latest edition of the school and district performance report "truly comprehensive" and "an invitation to be engaged."

In describing the report to the Arkansas Board of Education, Coffman acknowledged that focus groups have in the past advised Education Department leaders to scale back the annual reports. Instead, the latest report includes some 19 modules of data -- 10 of them new to the annual document, she said.

"These are the result of state and federal requirements -- a little state and a lot of federal," Coffman said in reference to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. "Trimming is not an option," she said.

Coffman urged that schools, districts and their communities use the information to make wise decisions about moving forward with school improvement -- to continue with their successes and identify areas for improvement.

She said the facts provide an opportunity for schools and districts "to tell their stories."

"Click every button in there," she said. "Open up everything," she said, adding that she doesn't think it's possible to "break" the reporting system.

Some of the information in the annual report -- such as the state letter grades given to schools and the ACT Aspire test results in grades three through 10 -- was publicized in the last half of 2018.

But the new online report dives deeper into the test results, reporting them by demographic groups, such as the results for female students with disabilities or Hispanic female English-learners without disabilities.

New pieces of information in the report card include the 2018 graduation rates for individual high schools.

The Education Department announced the statewide four-year graduation rate of 89.2 percent earlier this month but not the school-by-school graduation rates by demographic groups.

The Little Rock School District, for example, had an 82.3 percent average high school graduation rate for its five high schools. That rate was 70 percent for Hispanic students, 82 percent for black students, 90.8 percent for white students, 80 percent for students from economically disadvantaged families and 71.4 percent for students who were learning English as non-native speakers.

The Pulaski County Special district graduated 85.2 percent of its students, including 89.1 percent of black students and 81.7 percent of white students. The eSTEM Public Charter Schools, also in Pulaski County, had an overall graduation rate of better than 95 percent, according to the data.

In regard to the 43 schools identified for comprehensive support, the state is required by the federal law to make that determination based on their being among the 5 percent of schools earning the lowest Every Student Succeeds Act index scores in the state. The index scores are based largely on the results of the 2018 ACT Aspire exams, including any gains made over previous years' test results.

The schools are eligible to apply for federal planning and implementation grants to help with their improvement efforts.

Schools can exit the comprehensive support category by showing an upward trend on the index score for two or more years and meeting or surpassing the index scores that initially led to their identification.

The state also identifies in the newly released performance report the more than 140 schools that are receiving "targeted" assistance because they have one or more consistently underperforming subgroups of students.

Jim Tucker, superintendent of the El Dorado School District, said Monday that some of the information in the newly released performance report has been known in that district for months and was the basis for school improvement plans and adjustments in instruction -- particularly in elementary literacy and middle school math.

"We knew the low areas," Tucker said.

"We know what we needed to improve on," he said about the planning that was done in a very public manner at School Board meetings and was put on the district website.

"I don't know if parents will see anything new," Tucker said about Monday's release of information. "It's possible that they might. There is some new data, but most of it is familiar to us. And I think we are on track to make some pretty good gains."

The state Education Department annually prepares the school performance report for each public school and public school system in the state and makes the report available to schools, parents and the public, as required by Arkansas Code Annotated 6-15-1402.

Further, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act -- passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in December 2015 -- calls for the report card to be presented in an understandable and user-friendly format.

A Section on 04/16/2019

Print Headline: Arkansas Department of Education provides annual report on state's schools

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