Quarterly reports from the Fort Smith Public Schools administration to the Fort Smith Board of Education on each school’s progress were requested Tuesday in hopes of avoiding a repeat of two schools getting Ds in April from the Arkansas Department of Education.
The Arkansas Department of Education gave A-F grades to each school in the state based on data from the 2016-17 school year. In Fort Smith, five schools, including Chaffin Junior High, Cavanaugh Elementary, Cook Elementary, Euper Lane Elementary and Woods Elementary, received As. Six schools received Bs. Twelve schools received Cs. Two schools, Kimmons Junior High and Northside High School, received Ds. No school received an F.
“I believe we were all kind of caught by surprise when the last round of testing scores came back, especially with regard to Northside, and it would be nice if we could get some regular reports as to how the school is doing throughout its improvement plan,” school board member Wade Gilkey said.
Barry Owen, Fort Smith Public Schools assistant superintendent, has established a benchmark schedule for the year to determine if schools are achieving their goals, Kellie Cohen, director of Student Achievement & Accountability for Fort Smith Public Schools, told the school board.
Each school has different goals. Northside High School, for example has its’ No. 1 goal set to improve each Aspire Assessment by 2 percent to 4 percent. So, the school’s score in English proficiency is expected to increase from 48 percent to 51 percent and its math proficiency is expected to increase from 18 percent to 21 percent, according to the 2018-19 Improvement Plan.
“I don’t think anybody wants to get caught flat-foot like we were when the last grade reports came out,” Gilkey noted when requesting more details of how to keep track of Northside’s progress.
Doug Brubaker, Fort Smith Public Schools superintendent, said the 2017-18 school year was the first year under a new system, and he was confident the administration would be able to do quarterly reports to the board in the 2018-19 school year.
Monday, the school board also discussed approval of the 2018-19 Migrant Education Program, which is funded by $208,000 from a Title 1 Part C grant. Last year, there were 212 students in the school district supported by the U.S. Department of Education program to help migrant students graduate with a diploma or obtain a General Education Development certificate.
Also Monday, students lobbying for a nomination of Southside High School Assistant Principal Travis Biggs as principal following retirement of Wayne Haver stood around the board with T-shirts that stated "Go Biggs or go home."
The districts improvement plans and other items, such as next year’s milk and bread contracts, will be voted on by the board June 25. The board will also elect officers at its next meeting.