The state Education Department this morning released the final school grades for 2018-19 and Education Commission Johnny Key said results indicate improvement.

There was an increase in “A” schools and a decrease in “F” schools, the state release said. (It didn’t mention the total of “D” and “F” schools dropped by one.) I haven’t plunged into the numbers yet. But here’s the state release, remembering that grades are largely a product of a single standardized test, with some weight given to growth in scores, but still test-based.

The release:

The Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education released today the 2019 federal and state accountability reports for public schools. The reports include data from the 2018-2019 school year, including 2019 ACT Aspire results. Results of both reports show positive movement in multiple areas, including an 11 percent increase in schools that earned an A, and a 14 percent decrease in those earning an F.

Available on the division’s My School Info website (https://myschoolinfo.arkansas.gov), the Every Student Succeeds Act School Index (federal accountability report) includes students’ weighted achievement and growth on state-required assessments for grades three through 10, as well as graduation rates and school quality and student success indicators. The School Rating (Accountability At-A-Glance) report provides each school’s rating or letter grade (state accountability) and a quick overview of the school’s overall ESSA School Index score and the score for each subgroup of students.

“These results demonstrate that we are making progress toward our goals for student learning,” ADE Secretary Johnny Key said. “The reports reflect growth and improvement in some areas, while also identifying areas that need continued attention. The Arkansas plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act is focused on continuous improvement and equity for all students, and these results show our plan is working. Additionally, the division’s release of these reports earlier in the school year than ever before gives educators the chance to evaluate their data and make the adjustments necessary for improved student outcomes. Through our continued collaboration with school districts and a focus on student learning, we will lead the nation in student-focused education.”

This year’s reports reflect three years of trend data for the All Students category, as well as student subgroups (Black/African American, English Learners, Hispanic/Latino, Low-Income, Special Education, and White). The user may click on the year to hide or show the data.  Trend data give schools a sense of how students are performing academically over time as well as whether schools are improving access and opportunity for success within the School Quality and Student Success indicator.

The 2018-2019 reports include additional new features. The Student Engagement indicator, which is located under School Quality and Student Success, is broken down by subgroups and identifies student attendance percentages that meet low risk, moderate risk, or high risk criteria. This new chart gives schools the opportunity to review student engagement and develop plans for improvement.

School Rating (Letter Grade) Results

Below are the total number of schools that earned school ratings or letter grades ranging from A to F for 2018-2019 compared to 2017-2018.

In addition to releasing the ESSA School Index and School Rating reports today, DESE updated its Schools on the Move Toward Excellence webpage, located at https://bit.ly/2SYnhFZ. Some of the highlights of that report are listed below.
  • A total of 557 schools improved their overall ESSA School Index Score (all students).
  • A total of 505 schools improved their Weighted Achievement Score.
  • A total of 576 schools scored 80 or more points on Value Added Growth Score.
In addition to these positive changes, the 2018 graduation rates for all students and multiple student subgroups, as reported earlier this year, continued their upward trend for the third year in a row.

Each school’s state and federal accountability reports can be found on the My School Info webpage under the School Rating and Report Card tabs. To learn more about how to access the reports for each school, visit https://bit.ly/2Oso93y. Videos also are available on the My School Info website: https://myschoolinfo.arkansas.gov.

All stakeholders, including students, parents, educators, and community members, are encouraged to review their schools’ data and have conversations about how education needs for all students can be met. Informational documents are linked to each page (look for a colored button near the top) to provide the user additional information about that page of the report.

Schools are encouraged to utilize these reports to revisit their school-level improvement plan. Districts may also review their district support plan and reallocate resources as needed to ensure successful implementation of school plans.

Additional information about Arkansas’ ESSA plan and informational documents are available on the DESE website at https://bit.ly/2aN1zjI.