Eureka Springs among many on state's school improvement list

Friday, October 24, 2014

EUREKA SPRINGS -- All three schools in the Eureka Springs School District are on the state's "school improvement" list, Superintendent David Kellogg said at the board's Oct. 21 annual Report to the Public meeting.

But he went on to qualify that by saying that out of 241 school districts in the state, all but 11 are on that list.

High school principal Kathryn Lavender, giving more detailed specifics, said there is an Annual Measurable Objective every school has to meet, begun in 2011 when the state opted to go with the AMO system as an alternative to the No Child Left Behind Act, which required every student at every level, including special education, to be at 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

She said the AMO is obtained by a formula using test scores to get a percentage factor by which the school must improve each year.

Eureka's test scores have been consistently high, often in the 90s, at proficient or better.

"The closer you get to 100, the harder it is achieve that growth," Kellogg said.

"Now one year, I could have a stellar year ... but the next year, drop down a level and still be a 'needs improvement' [school]," Lavender said.

She said last year's scores are not final because the district has to file appeals each year and get documentation about which students actually took the tests, based, for example, on whether some moved away or changed to being home-schooled. Those scores have to be culled and corrected numbers sent to the state.

Unfortunately, the final scores are not available when the district has to give its report to the public.

Lavender said the corrected report will come out the week of Nov. 1 and will give a truer picture than what they were able to present at the annual report meeting.

Other highlights of the report are that Eureka's high school graduation rate "has grown substantially," Lavender said, and the school district has "no grade inflation." There are no basic or below basic scores; everyone is at proficient or above.

She then discussed dollar allocations to various programs and actions the district has taken under Title I and II in various areas, such as Common Core, Rachel's Challenge and the Rural Education Achievement Program.

Kellogg noted that under the Free and Reduced Lunch program, which provides funding for free breakfast and lunch for students from families with economic hardships, the school district is under 70 percent.

"If we were over 70 percent, we could get more money, if we could get people to sign up for it," he said. "If we're over 70 percent, there's a school lunch program, Priority 2, which means we can serve free breakfast and lunch to all kids."

He encouraged parents to consider signing up.

Lavender said later that some parents, even though they would qualify, don't want to sign up because they either don't want the school district knowing their business or feel ashamed of being poor.

Kellogg said that as far as school finances are concerned, "if the funding formula stays like it is, and the state doesn't try to recapture URT money, we will be very stable."

The board adjourned the report to the public and then convened its regular meeting. During the meeting, the board:

* Approved officer positions as Jason Morris, president; Chris McClung, vice president; and Gayla Wolfinbarger, secretary.

* Approved adding Candace Spaulding as a check signer.

* Approved continuing to hold monthly meetings the third Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m.

* Approved the financial report.

* Approved the Assurances for Programs document for the school to receive federal funding under Title I and II.

* Approved the district's Parental Involvement Policy.

* Approved a new three-year contract with the Arkansas School Boards Association for $2,850.

* Heard Lavender report that Eureka Springs students came in overall in third place at the Beaver Lake Games, finishing first in five events: the logo contest, archery, bait casting, kayak slalom and the regatta. The event was to raise environmental awareness about the lake and watershed.

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