Superintendent's Blog

Economic Development & the A-F Grading System

Posted 4/24/2015

*The following letter was sent to members of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce regarding the recently released A-F school grading system.

April 24, 2015

Dear Chamber of Commerce Members,

As business leaders and community members, I know you love and care about our students and school district just as much as I do. I also understand you want to know what’s happening not only in Cabot but across the state, especially when it has to do with our children. 

You may have seen in the news recently, the Arkansas Department of Education released its school performance report cards. For the first time, Arkansas public schools received A-F letter grades. Sound simple? Believe me, it’s anything but simple. In fact, it’s confusing, misleading and very frustrating.

As superintendent of the Cabot School District, I want to assure you that our priority has and always will be to provide an excellent educational opportunity for our students. We have some of the best high-performing schools in the state, top-notch educators leading our children, yet a school rating system that doesn’t make sense at all can take those achievements away unless you truly understand there is much more to this story. 

The A-F letter grade for schools is calculated using an extremely complex formula.  The formula includes: Benchmark/EOC proficiency rates, gaps between non-TAGG and TAGG groups, annual improvement, and graduation rates (if applicable). TAGG stands for Target Achievement Gap Group, which means a student is a member of one of the following subgroups:  Economically Disadvantaged, Students with Disabilities, and English Language Learners. 

According to the 2014 State Report Card, 366 of the state’s 1052 schools were assigned a grade of “C.”  Seven of our schools received a “C” letter grade (4 received A’s, 3 received B’s). Here’s where you’ll start scratching your heads.

It is extremely difficult to understand how a school can receive more funds than any other school in the state from the Arkansas Rewards and Recognition Program and also be rated a “C” school. That’s exactly what happened at Cabot Junior High North! It was recently awarded $111,833.61 for its performance on the 2014 Benchmark and End of Course exams. In total, five of Cabot’s seven “C” schools earned $327,112.68 and were recognized as performing in the Top 10% or Top 20% of schools on the Benchmark and End of Course assessments! 

And that is not all, just about every one of these “C” schools far exceed the state average in math and literacy. For example, Cabot Middle School South’s 5th graders scored 20% higher than the state average in math. Twenty-percent higher! Cabot Middle School North’s 6th graders scored 19% above the state average in math as well; in literacy, they scored 16% higher than the state average.

Still, these schools received a “C” grade. A “C” grade suggests average, and these schools’ records in no way indicate they are performing at an average level. 

School Receiving Letter Grade "C"

School % On Level Literacy

State % On Level Literacy

School % On Level Math

State % On Level Math

Awards, Rewards, Recognition, & Other

Central Elementary

3rd - 81
4th - 86.6

77
84

3rd - 87.3
4th - 77.6

85
82

Title I

Northside

3rd - 71.1
4th - 90.8

77
84

3rd - 86.6
4th - 84.6

85
82

Title I
Top 20 %
$16,377.50

Westside

3rd - 76.4
4th - 83.1

77
84

3rd - 82.0
4th - 78.5

85
82

Title I

Middle North

5th - 87.9
6th - 84.9

82
69

5th - 84.5
6th - 91.2

68
72

AR Diamond School Schools to Watch
Top 10%
$77,073.06

Middle South

5th - 92.9
6th - 82.3

82
69

5th - 88.6
6th - 88

68
72

AR Diamond School Schools to Watch
Top 10%
$69,535.49

Junior North

7th - 81.8
8th - 85.3

77
77

7th - 78.8
8th - 78.6
Alg - 85.3

69
63
75

Top 10%
$111,833.61

Junior South

7th - 83.6
8th - 82

77
77

7th - 70.9
8th - 75.6
Alg - 85.1

69
63
75

Top 20%
$52,293.02

 


Here’s another example that will leave you even more baffled. Three of our elementary schools that received A’s (Stagecoach, Eastside and Mountain Springs), according to the 2014 School Performance Report Card, they were categorized as “Needs Improvement.” What? Needs Improvement? These schools received A’s but the state says they still need improvement? And get this, even though they were listed as “Needs Improvement,” students’ scores ranged from 88.5% to 94.6% proficient in math and literacy and that included scores from students with learning disabilities.

Could you imagine getting an “A” but being told you still need to improve? That does not make sense at all! It is difficult to understand the discrepancies between all these school rating systems. Nothing seems to be consistent except my frustration and I hope you can see where it all stems.

Now, despite this confusing and misleading new grading system, I want you to know that our staff is very proud of our schools and we want you to be as well. We may not be perfect, in fact, we can do even better, but we are certainly not average at all!

We fully understand that the Cabot School District has a huge impact on the economic development and growth of our community. I want to assure you we are doing an outstanding job! Our faculty, staff and students are working hard and it’s disheartening that the state has developed another arbitrary, contradictory, deceiving set of criteria with which to rate them.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me any time. My number is 501-843-3363 or you can email me at tony.thurman@cps.k12.ar.us 

Additional information can be found at the following links: 

1.) Report Card page: http://www.arkansased.gov/divisions/public-school-accountability/school-performance/report-card

2.) Parents page: http://www.arkansased.gov/im-looking-for/parents

3.) YouTube (Video): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO_a5SM0kwrHZPrzXBa_ZKQ


A-F Grading Scale for Cabot Schools

Posted 4/15/2015

Are you confused by the A – F Public School Rating System?  We are, and here is why…..

It is difficult to understand how a school can receive more funds than any other school in the state from the Arkansas Rewards and Recognition Program while being rated as a “C” school.  Cabot Junior High North did exactly that!  Recently awarded $111,833.61 for its performance on the 2014 Benchmark and End of Course exams, CJHN along with six other Cabot schools, has been rated as a “C” school by the Arkansas Department of Education.  In total, five of Cabot’s seven “C” schools earned $327,112.68  and were recognized as performing in the Top 10% or Top 20% of schools on Benchmark and End Of Course assessments! These schools’ records in no way indicate they are performing at an average level as the assigning of a “C” grade would suggest.

The A-F letter grade for schools is calculated using a complex formula.  The formula includes:  Benchmark/EOC proficiency rates, gaps between non-TAGG and TAGG groups, annual improvement, and graduation rates (if applicable). TAGG stands for Target Achievement Gap Group, which means a student is a member of one of the following subgroups:  Economically Disadvantaged, Students with Disabilities, and English Language Learners.

The Rewards and Recognition system is also based on Benchmark/End of Course performance and annual student growth.  It is difficult to understand the discrepancy between these two systems.

According to the 2014 State Report Card, 366 of the state’s 1052 schools were assigned a grade of “C.”  There are so many wonderful aspects of our schools, it is frustrating that the state developed another arbitrary set of criteria with which to rate them. We are very proud of our schools and know that we are focusing on what is important.  After all……..It’s about kids.

Cabot Schools Receiving a Letter Grade “C”

School Receiving Letter Grade "C"

School % On Level Literacy

State % On Level Literacy

School % On Level Math

State % On Level Math

Awards, Rewards, Recognition, & Other

Central Elementary

3rd - 81
4th - 86.6

77
84

3rd - 87.3
4th - 77.6

85
82

Title I

Northside

3rd - 71.1
4th - 90.8

77
84

3rd - 86.6
4th - 84.6

85
82

Title I
Top 20 %
$16,377.50

Westside

3rd - 76.4
4th - 83.1

77
84

3rd - 82.0
4th - 78.5

85
82

Title I

Middle North

5th - 87.9
6th - 84.9

82
69

5th - 84.5
6th - 91.2

68
72

AR Diamond School Schools to Watch
Top 10%
$77,073.06

Middle South

5th - 92.9
6th - 82.3

82
69

5th - 88.6
6th - 88

68
72

AR Diamond School Schools to Watch
Top 10%
$69,535.49

Junior North

7th - 81.8
8th - 85.3

77
77

7th - 78.8
8th - 78.6
Alg - 85.3

69
63
75

Top 10%
$111,833.61

Junior South

7th - 83.6
8th - 82

77
77

7th - 70.9
8th - 75.6
Alg - 85.1

69
63
75

Top 20%
$52,293.02

Additional information can be found at the following links:

1.) Report Card page: http://www.arkansased.gov/divisions/public-school-accountability/school-performance/report-card.
2.) Parents page: http://www.arkansased.gov/im-looking-for/parents.
3.) YouTube (Video): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO_a5SM0kwrHZPrzXBa_ZKQ


Superintendent's Blog: What is all this about PARCC?

Posted 1/29/2015

PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. PARCC is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers. PARCC is made up of the following states:  Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island.  

The PARCC assessments will replace the Benchmark assessments which have been used in Arkansas public schools since 2000.  The data from these assessments is important.  Students, parents, teachers and administrators use the data to make decisions regarding instruction.  The information helps school leaders identify areas that may require additional instruction or teacher training.  Data is also used in the identification of students for services such as Gifted and Talented.  

Many forms of data are used by school leaders to guide decisions.  Assessment data is one piece of information which enables school leaders to better serve their students.  This data also provides students and parents valuable information regarding individual student progress.

Who can see a student’s assessment results?  All student information is protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  Individual student results may only be viewed by the student, that students’ parent or guardian, or a person with an explicit educational interest in that student (e.g., teacher, counselor, administrator).  

School and district results are combined to provide stakeholders information about the performance of their local schools.  These results are published in newspapers and websites.  However, no individual student data is reported. 

Which courses have PARCC assessments?  All mathematics and literacy courses in grades 3 – 8 will be assessed via  PARCC.  Additionally, high school math (Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II) and high school English (English 9, English 10, and English 11) will have PARCC End of Course Assessments.

What is the test like?  PARCC is comprised of two components:  the Performance Based Assessment (PBA) and the End of Year Assessment (EOY).  The Performance Based Assessment will be administered in the early spring. The End of Year Assessment will be administered the last few weeks of school.  Both tests will be computer-based.  The assessments are downloaded onto the district’s secure server and delivered to the student through a secure login.  Students are not on the internet during testing. The tests are comprised of various question types, including multiple choice, short constructed response, and research simulations.  You may view a sample PARCC assessment by visiting this website: http://parcc.pearson.com/practice-tests/  

The teachers and administrators of the Cabot School District will continue to be committed to providing the best educational opportunities for our students.  We believe that if we keep our focus on teaching and learning, test scores take care of themselves.


Superintendent's Blog: A Crash Course in Understanding the AR School Accountability System

Posted 11/13/2014

When you first look at the 2014 School Performance Report for Cabot schools, you may be confused or even puzzled.  Especially when you see literacy and math score scores in the 80’s and 90’s and then realize all of our schools, except one, are listed as Needs Improvement Schools.

Why?  Well, here’s some background that will hopefully help you understand it a little better. 

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind, was enacted in 2001. The federal legislation required all schools to reach grade level proficiency for all students in both literacy and math by 2014.  The fact that children develop and learn at different rates makes the requirement virtually impossible to achieve.

As 2014 approached and lawmakers recognized the impact the law would have on public schools, they allowed the Department of Education to grant waivers for flexibility from the NCLB requirements.  Arkansas was granted one of these waivers from the U.S. Department of Education in 2012.

At that time, new Annual Measurable Objectives (AMO’s) were set for each school based upon their individual performances. The better the school had performed on the state’s Benchmark and End of Course Assessments, the higher the AMO’s were set.  Cabot schools had high test scores so we received high AMO’s.

Additionally, the waiver initiated the use of the Targeted Achievement Gap Group, or TAGG. This group is comprised of students who are considered most at risk of failing to meet grade level proficiencies.  The TAGG group consists of special education students, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students.  

The waiver outlined a new system in which schools would need to meet the AMO targets for both the “All Students” and “TAGG” groups in both literacy and math.  For high schools, the graduation rates must also be met for both groups.

The Arkansas ESEA Flexibility Waiver identifies the following performance categories.

Achieving:  School meeting the AMO targets in all areas for All Students and TAGG

Needs Improvement:  School fails to meet AMO target in one or more categories

Needs Improvement Focus:  Schools identified in 2011 with the largest gap between the performance of the All Students and TAGG groups

Needs Improvement Priority:  The lowest performing schools in the state in the All Students group

It’s important to note there are 1066 public schools in Arkansas that are assigned an accountability performance level.  For this year, Arkansas has 67 Achieving schools; 877 Needs Improvement schools; 85 Needs Improvement Focus schools and 37 Needs Improvement Priority schools.

Many high performing districts have no schools rated as achieving.  In fact, some districts comparable to Cabot in Central Arkansas do not have any achieving schools. 

On the other side of this, some schools have scores significantly lower than Cabot schools and are rated Achieving.  One school in particular is 69.49% proficient in literacy and 60.87% proficient in math. They are an Achieving school because their initial testing scores, at the time of the AMO setting, were quite low.

Here’s a summary of how our scores breakdown.  

Cabot has one Achieving school (Southside Elementary - 90.81% literacy and 92.23% math) and 15 Needs Improvement Schools, but here’s where it can get confusing.  While Southside has outstanding scores, so does Stagecoach Elementary.  In fact, Stagecoach has an ever so slightly higher score (91.02% literacy and 92.81% math, almost 1% higher), yet Stagecoach Elementary is considered a Needs Improvement School.  

In fact, Eastside Elementary, Magness Creek Elementary and Mountain Springs Elementary Schools all have scores in the low 90’s and high 80’s.  Central Elementary, Northside Elementary, Ward Central Elementary, Middle School North, Middle School South, Junior High North, Junior High South, and Cabot High School all have literacy and math scores in the 80’s, but they have all been placed on the Needs Improvement list.  Westside has a literacy score in the high 70’s and a math score in the low 80’s.  

Click HERE to see the full 2014 School Performance Reports for the Cabot School District.

Still baffled? Well, we have to remember higher standards were set early on for Cabot schools because we performed so well on the state’s Benchmark and End of Course Assessments.  

Despite the report, our priority in Cabot has and always will be to provide an excellent educational opportunity for our students. Our teachers and administrators continually work to improve our schools to make them the best they can be.  Unfortunately, that hard work is being overshadowed by a complicated and often misunderstood accountability system.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions. You may use the “Contact Superintendent” tab or email me directly at tony.thurman@cps.k12.ar.us

 

Superintendent’s Blog: New A-F Grading System for AR Schools

Posted 11/4/2014

I always want to make sure parents, patrons and students are informed about any changes in Arkansas’ education system. This new change, which involves a new letter grading system for Arkansas schools, may be somewhat confusing, so I wanted to address this subject because you’ll be hearing more about it very soon.

In about a month, schools will receive A to F grades regarding their performance last year.  The detailed report is expected to come out in late November or early December and will be distributed to school districts and posted online through the Arkansas Department of Education Data Center. The grade, which is based on accumulated points, will then be placed on each school’s report card next spring.

A – 270 or Higher

B – 240-269

C – 201-239

D – 180-200

F – 179 or Lower

This is all part of Act 696, which was established in the 2013 legislative session and is intended to help parents better understand how their child’s school is performing. In fact, Arkansas is joining some 14 other states, including Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma, in using letter grades to measure performance.

Here’s how it works.  The calculation is based solely on data in relation to student achievement.  For example, individual schools will be awarded points based on test scores, the school’s progress meeting annual performance and growth targets, graduation rates and the size of achievement gaps.

School size, poverty rates (as measured by the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals), facilities, athletic teams and district wealth are not included in the calculation.

While some feel this model is fair and solid, there are some concerns about the timing of the release of the grades. 

For the past two years, teachers have been focusing on Common Core State Standards.  Students were tested on the previous standards last year and those scores will determine a school’s letter grade this year.

The letter grades for this school year will catch up next spring because in 2015, the assessment will be aligned with Common Core standards.

Some feel this could be very confusing to parents and patrons because we’ve changed to a different curriculum focus for teaching our children, but the first letter grades schools receive will be based on the previous curriculum standards. 

As of right now, we don’t know what letter grade the Cabot School District will receive. What we do know is that our main focus is providing an excellent education for our students and we will continue to do that.

As more information on this new letter grading system becomes available, I’ll be sure to share it with everyone.

Our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Tammy Tucker, is currently working on a presentation for our next school board meeting that will be held November 18th, 2014.  It starts at 6:00 p.m. in the Central Administrative Offices.  The public is encouraged to attend.  

As always, please let me know if you have any questions. You may use the “Contact Superintendent” tab or email me directly at tony.thurman@cps.k12.ar.us


Cabot Public Schools

Elementary Schools (Grades PreK-4)

Central Elementary
36 Pond Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3564
Fax: (501) 843-4503
Eastside Elementary
17 Bellamy Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3563
Fax: (501) 843-5619
Magness Creek Elementary
16150 Arkansas Hwy 5, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3565
Fax: (501) 843-7567
Mountain Springs Elementary
3620 Mountain Springs
Road, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3575
Fax: (501) 605-1300
Northside Elementary
814 West Locust Street,
Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3568
Fax: (501) 843-6032
Southside Elementary
2600 South Pine Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3567
Fax: (501) 843-6229
Stagecoach Elementary
850 South Stagecoach Road,
Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3574
Fax: (501) 605-1221
Ward Central Elementary
1570 Wilson Loop Road,
Ward, AR 72176
(501) 743-3569
Fax: (501) 843-9744
Westside Elementary
1701 South Second Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3566
Fax: (501) 843-5802

High School (Grades 10-12)

Cabot High School
401 North Lincoln Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 843-3562
Fax: (501) 843-4231

Academic Center of Excellence
(Grades 7-12)

Academic Center of Excellence
21 Funtastic Drive, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3520
Fax: (501) 843-0283

Cabot Freshman Academy

Cabot Freshman Academy
18 Spirit Drive, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3576
Fax: (501) 941-1505

Cabot Learning Academy

Cabot Learning Academy
813 West Locust, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3540
Fax: (501) 843-3138

Special Programs

404 North 2nd Street, Cabot, AR 72023
(501) 743-3543
Fax: (501) 941-2613

Central Administrative Office

602 North Lincoln Street, Cabot, AR 72023
(501) 843-3363
Fax: (501)843-0576

Middle Schools (Grades 5-6)

Cabot Middle School North
1900 North Lincoln Street, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3571
Fax: (501) 605-0413

Cabot Middle School South
2555 Kerr Station Road, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3570
Fax: (501) 941-7432

Junior High Schools
(Grades 7-8)

Cabot Junior High North
38 Spirit Drive, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3572
Fax: (501) 605-8472

Cabot Junior High South
38 Panther Trail, Cabot, AR
(501) 743-3573
Fax: (501) 941-7746