No on Forest Heights, But Hope Remains for Excellent Public Middle School

Education is about progression, constant improvement.

Last night (10.4.12), I joined fourth and fifth grade parents at Dr. Don R. Roberts Elementary School to hear the new principal of Forest Heights Middle School – the zoned middle school for Roberts, members of her team, and former Roberts parents with students enrolled at Forest Heights make the case for attending their school.

However well intentioned, all of their information shared was anecdotal. When presented factual, state-required and reported data on performance, they seemed alternately unaware and/or dismissive of their validity.

Here are the facts on Forest Heights, directly from the Arkansas Department of Education’s NORMES (The National Office for Research on Measurement and Evaluation Systems) site. The system empowers parents to compare performance of all 1,080 schools in Arkansas, including 211 middle schools.

School Information

Accredited-cited – Among Lowest 38 in Arkansas (Lowest 18%)

No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress

Achieving Standards – No; But in fairness, only 32 middle schools in Arkansas are, which makes all the other stats look even worse (Lowest 75%)
State Directed – Yes; Among Lowest 38 in Arkansas (Lowest 18%)

Gains and Status

Gains Index – 1-Schools in Need of Immediate Improvement; Among Lowest 46 in Arkansas (Lowest 22%)
Status Index – 3-Schools Meeting Standards; Among Lowest 42 in Arkansas (Lowest 20%)

Teacher Quality

Percent Teachers Completely Certified – 84.7%; 200th out of 211 in Arkansas (Lowest 5%)

Forest Heights is in School Improvement: Year 7, and yet its Percent of Teachers Completely Certified has steadily declined from 100% in 2008-09, to 90% in 2009-10, to 84.7% in 2010-11.

By contrast, Roberts Elementary 1) is Accredited, 2) is Achieving Standards, 3) is Not State Directed, 4) has a Gains Index of 5-Schools of Excellence for Improvement; 5) has a Status Index of 5-Schools of Excellence; and 6) has 96.4 Percent Teachers Completely Certified.

When asked if the principal and/or her team had any experience in turning around under or non-performing schools and how long it took, she and they positively cited their experience at Mabelvale Middle School, but again, anecdotally.

A quick look at NORMES for Mabelvale, however, didn’t instill confidence in the team’s abilities: 1) Accredited; 2) Not Achieving Standards; 3) State Directed; 4) Gains Index of 1-Schools in Need of Immediate Improvement; 5) Status Index of 3-Schools Meeting Standards; with 6) 95.5 Percent Teachers Completely Certified.

Further, Mabelvale is in School Improvement: Year 8, a track record hardly worth emulating.

There is an alternative. With no public middle school proximate to our neighborhoods and our zoned middle school continuously performing among the lowest 20% in Arkansas, parents can organize and rally to create an open enrollment charter middle school, run by one of the nation’s top charter management organizations.

The strong first step in seeing that to reality is to join Arkansas Learns, a new, private sector alliance dedicated to excellent education for all students. There is no fee for supportive parents, teachers, citizens and employers to join in making their individual and collective voices heard in demanding excellence for their and all students.

For more information, visit or contact Gary Newton at 501.804.2048 or [email protected].

Previous Post
The Case for (or Against) Forest Heights Middle School
Next Post
Little Rock, State Education Boards on Wrong Side of History