by Max Brantley
Here are the "official" enrollment numbers for the Little Rock School District for this year. Essentially the same as last year -- up about a dozen in K-12, but down some in the pre-K classes for a net loss of 11 in the nearly 26,000-student district.
Later this morning, I'll try to post an interesting string of e-mails about the district's unsuccessful effort to appeal Central High School inclusion on the state's list of schools not making sufficient academic progress as measured by standardized test scores. This might seem a minor controversy, but it's not, particularly to those involved. But it's also a small example of how screwy this rating system can be. Central would not have made the list but for the failure to test 36 students who didn't attend Central. They were enrolled in alternative schools, but they were "coded" to Central because of their home addresses. So Central is punished for non-performance of students who never attended. Some, in fact, were in jail.
The district's own practice helped create this Catch 22, but still .... The state harrumphs that rules are rules and deadlines are deadlines, even if the school wasn't informed about assignment of these students to its record until it was too late.
School Board member Melanie Fox comments on the significance:
I take issue with the Central ayp status as a minor controversy and here is why…
Under Smart Accountability WSII 4 states the following:
III. In addition to the required interventions for Whole School Intensive Intervention and the ADE technical assistance, the LEA shall select at least one restructuring action from the following list for their school in a manner consistent with Arkansas law. Planning for their restructuring shall take place in WSII Year 4 and implementation shall take place in WSII Year 5.
· Extend the school year or school day for the school
· Restructure the internal organization of the school
· Reopen the school as a public charter school or multiple charters
· Replace all or most of the school staff, including the building administrator
· Enter into a contract to have an outside entity operate the school (must be approved by the ADE)
· Arrange for the ADE to take over operation of the school
· Any other major restructuring of the school’s governance arrangement (approved by the ADE)
Not to mention all of these improvement processes will be costly to the district.
This is acting Education Department director Diana Julian's response to Central's appeal of the designation:
I know everyone is upset about the designation of Central High School. We plainly ask that principals not share the designations until final appeals and data corrections have been made. I understand that the status change was due to the assignment of the students from an Alternative Learning Environment to Central. Mr. Coy and Dr. Potter explained this to your Superintendent and Central Principal during the meeting we had with them.
I am sorry that there is no more time for appeals for status changing. There is a possibility that Hamilton, Felder, and ALP could be designated as entities for AYP purposes for next year. However, there are several issues to work through. This will have to be done with Mr. Coy and Dr. Potter. These designations, if made, cannot become retroactive.
Principal Nancy Rousseau commented:
This is a travesty. We didn’t see – until last Wednesday - the list of 36 students from the alternative schools who did not test. Consequently, we were not afforded the opportunity to question these students’ status or to appeal the last minute [Annual Yearly Progress] AYP decision. The students and teachers at LRCH who worked so hard together to achieve AYP/Safe Harbor are being denied the recognition they deserve. The entire population of Central now faces unnecessary additional academic sanctions and requirements. This is wrong.
This is the LRSD appeal that Julian summarily rejected:
I am inquiring on behalf of Dr. Linda Watson, Superintendent, about the options that might be afforded to us in regard to Central High School’s SI status changing from TI-A-3 to WSII-4 when the final AYP results were announced. Obviously, the principal, teachers, parents and community members were all shocked when the final status was announced. As you already know, I’m sure, the change in status was due to the assignment of 30+ students from an Alternative Learning Environment (Hamilton and Felder) to Central’s population when the match/mismatch files were corrected. The vast majority of these students did not test. We now know that there were legitimate reasons that some were not tested, such as incarceration. Since Central had the preliminary status of TI-A-3, the district did not file an appeal for percent tested. Normally, districts file appeals for schools that did not meet AYP in the hopes of correcting some issues so that an “achieving” status can be reached. For Central the preliminary designation was favorable, and the Central community had no clue about what was about to happen.
We would like to know if any of the following options are available to us to assist Central High School:
May we receive an extension of time so that we can correct the status for some of the ALE students who were assigned to the Central? As I mention earlier, we have found that there were valid reason that some of the students did not test. A correction might allow Central to meet the 95% tested requirement.
May we establish Hamilton, Felder, and our Accelerated Learning Program (at Metro Career Technical Center) as separate entities for AYP purposes? Each of these schools has their own LEA number. Even though we chose as a district to code these students back to their attendance zone high school, we see that that process is not fair to the home high schools.
If #2 is possible, may this action be backdated to cover the 2008-09 school year?
Thank you for your consideration.
Interim Associate Superintendent for Accountability
School Board member Micheal Daugherty commented on larger issues:
There appear to be a few more glitches in the State’s method of calculating a school’s designation of meeting AYP than they had originally thought. I think there should be a different designation for student who transition from their school of record to an alternative setting and vise-versa during the school year. The school of record should not be penalized since they have little or no control of the student’s day to day academic instruction during that time.
Dr. Watson, how many of the other high schools in our district did this effect?