Superintendent's Blog

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


New information: ACI Trusty in Cabot Schools Three Times

Posted 9/30/2014

As Superintendent of the Cabot School District, as always, I want to be very transparent with our parents, community, and students.  You may recall, nearly two weeks ago we discovered prison trusty, Glen Green, had been sent to our district by the Arkansas Correctional Industries to install safety mats in the Junior High North Gym. In fact, most Arkansas schools use ACI.  

While we were never told who would install the mats when they were ordered by our athletic department, we never would have imagined they would send a trusty like Green to our campus.  Unfortunately, to our surprise and disappointment, we found out Green was convicted of murder in Lonoke County in 1975.  

Green was supervised while on our campus but we find this highly unacceptable.  We also found out last Friday (Sept. 26th), according to ACI, Green has been given gate passes to work in more than 50 Arkansas schools and 5 churches within the last twelve months.  Green has worked with ACI for the last 17 years.  

I’ve diligently reviewed our invoices from ACI since the first purchase in 1997.  While doing that, I asked the Arkansas Department of Correction to provide me with the dates, times and locations of all the schools in which Green was given a gate pass to work in last year.  I have found by reviewing invoices and comparing those with gate passes from ACI that Green had been in our school district two other times.  The first time was in January 2014.   ACI sent Green and an ACI employee to the high school gymnasium to install mats.  They came on a Wednesday and the mats didn’t fit.  They returned the next week to finish the installation and according to the gate pass information, Green was with them both times.  We have verified no students were around during the time of installation.

I want to strongly reiterate that we “do not” employ or allow prisoners to work in or near our schools.  The Arkansas Department of Correction changed its policy last week and no longer allows individuals convicted of murder to serve in this type of trusty role. Arkansas Correctional Industries also changed its policy and says it will now notify school superintendents in advance when a trusty may be sent to their district.  However, this new policy is irrelevant to us since we will not allow trusties in our district at any time.  We have notified ACI that since they use prisoners as part of their program with providing products and installations to schools, we will not do further business with them.  Again, we will not allow anyone to send trusties to work in our schools, regardless of the time of year.

I want to share our invoice history, including the date the invoice was processed with Arkansas Correctional Industries:

Arkansas Correctional Industries

Invoice Date

Item

Invoice Amount 

8/29/1997

Street/Road Signs

$1,216

1/30/1998

Street/Road Signs

$44

7/23/1998

Basketball Pads

$214

1/15/1999

Wall and Beam Pads

$5,329

2/28/2001

Landing Pad  

$702

2/28/2001

Pole Vault Pit

$2,575

2/28/2001

High Jump Pit

$1,917

2/28/2001

Pole Vault Landing Pad

$782

4/11/2001

Picnic Tables

$1,200

12/8/2003

Street/Road Signs

$302

12/22/2003

Street/Road Signs

$148

2/11/2004

Street/Road Signs

$148

6/22/2004

Street/Road Signs

$1,656

12/13/2004

Street/Road Signs

$138

8/20/2008

Binders

$307

2/4/2009

Track Supplies

$609

1/11/2012

Gym Pads

$173

4/25/2012

Track Supplies

$907

5/9/2012

Folders

$158

5/29/2012

Folders

$181

5/30/2012

Track Supplies

$907

6/20/2012

Folders

$3

9/10/2012

Folders

$140

9/25/2012

Beams and Outlets

$327

12/19/2012

Folders

$150

3/28/2013

Bball/Sball Supp

$519

2/19/2014

Arena Safety Pads

$1,716

9/16/2014

Gym Safety Pads

$210

*Invoice date is the date we received the bill for the item

I apologize for the concern this has caused our parents and community. I am a parent of two children in this district and want to assure you that having this trusty on our campus was never approved by the district.  

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


Congratulations to our 12 CHS National Merit Semifinalists

Posted 9/25/2014

No matter how long I am in this profession, I continue to be amazed by the abilities of many of our students. No matter which building you visit in our district you can see students working hard and striving to grow to their maximum potential. Perhaps no better example of this can be found than in our 12 CHS seniors whom were recently recognized as National Merit Semifinalists: Robert Andrews, Maxim Applegate, Payton Binns, Olivia Fredricks, Caitlin Harty, Ashley Holt, Rachel Hunt, Annalise Jirik, Sooyoung Matthews, Jon Dale Nichols, Alexis Weeks, and Vanessa Weidling. They have made our entire district proud by their efforts as students.

National Merit Semifinalist recognition is given from the National Merit® Scholarship Program, which is a national academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. High school students from around the country enter this program by taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) prior to their senior year of high school and by achieving a particular score on the exam. Around 1.5 million eligible students take this exam every October; and of those students, about 16,000, or 1% of that total class, have scores which qualify them as semifinalists.  

For Arkansas, the selection index for recognition is a score of 206 out of a possible 240. There are 132 semifinalists in the state this year, and 12 of those are from Cabot. We are the 7th largest district in our state, and one of only a handful in the top 10 with one high school, yet our total award recipients is the 2nd highest for any school or district in Arkansas. This is a great honor for not only these students, but for our district and our community. These 12 students have truly made us proud.

As a district, we have put a number of curriculum components in place to support students as they strive for National Merit recognition or for success on high stakes exams such as the ACT, SAT, and even AP exams. Students who take Pre-AP courses in the 7th, 8th, or 9th grade are pulled for monthly G/T seminar lessons taught by a certified G/T specialist. The lessons are designed to improve students’ creative and critical thinking skills, and to expose them to a number of test taking strategies. Also, our 7th through 9th grade Pre-AP Language Arts teachers make use of PSAT vocabulary questions and grammatical prompts for bell-ringer assignments. Several of the Pre-AP extensions our Pre-AP and AP Language Arts teachers use with their classes also address the same content.

Our high ability students are also encouraged to take two years of G/T Seminar electives we offer at CHS. These courses, taught by G/T specialists, Sarah Cantrell and Christi Waller, provide a much needed environment for our students to further develop their creative and critical thinking skills, as well as learn more about themselves. How do they best study? How can they best learn? What are their goals in life? What college do they wish to attend? Our faculty help them answer these questions, as well as, provide them with a solid curriculum on high-stake test preparation. So many of our students have the content knowledge they need to be successful, but we want to ensure they have the ability and the confidence to put that knowledge to use.

We also understand that no matter how academically strong students may be, they are going to need some assistance as they delve deeper into the more difficult secondary curriculum. With that in mind, in the fall of 2009, we established the only AP Academy in the state of Arkansas. Our AP Academy, which is overseen by our Secondary G/T Coordinator, Melissa Elliott, is designed to support our students as they move through their secondary coursework, as well as provide them with much needed guidance on course selection, test preparation, and college admission. As students get closer to their graduation date, they must be prepared for the various educational and vocational opportunities that await them. I am extremely proud of the work our staff does in this regard and the time and energy they put into helping our students to be their very best.

Our district and community delights in seeing our students succeed. Congratulations are due to everyone who had a hand in this success, but especially for these 12 incredible students.

 

ADC/ACI Trusty in Cabot Schools: Follow-Up

Posted 9/22/2014

I received notification this morning from the Chairman of the Board of the Arkansas Department of Correction that the policy allowing trusties with a first or second-degree murder conviction to work in or near schools, regardless of their rating, has been terminated effective immediately.  This was already true for sex related crime offenses. 

I apologize to our parents and patrons that this occurred but I am pleased that such a positive change will be made in the system based on what happened in our district last Monday morning.  

Arkansas Correctional Industries has installed products in 45 Arkansas schools in the last four weeks.  I'm thankful that there wasn't an incident in any of those districts or our district for a change to be necessitated. 

We are reviewing our requirements for having visitors on every campus and we will internally implement what is necessary.  We have made changes to policies and procedures in recent years to ensure a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff.  Unfortunately, there are circumstances we can’t foresee and happen without warning. 

The trusty that was on our campus last Monday should have never been here.  Now I can assure parents, that he, nor any other trusty, will ever be allowed to work at our schools in the future.


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