Apples-to-Apples Accountability of Little Rock School District

While status quo apologists debate the validity of state’s accountability measures – ESSA scores, A-F Grades, Reward Schools – here’s how the Little Rock School District ranks among its in-state peers.

262 Public School Districts and Open-enrollment Public Charter Schools of Arkansas

 Free and Reduced LunchSpecial Ed Limited English ProficiencyHomeless Gifted & Talented Minority Math Readiness/Growth English Readiness/Growth Reading Readiness/Growth Science Readiness/Growth 
State Average 63% 12% 8% 2% 8% 39% 47% 70% 41% 40%
LRSD 140th (67%) 193rd (11%) 23rd (13%) 116th (2%) 1st (23%) 23rd (82%) 190th (36%)/-1 221st (58%)/0 193rd (32%)/0 203rd (29%)/0

The district may have reasons for its underperformance, but it has no excuses. In fact, it over-identifies Gifted & Talented (qualifying nearly a quarter of its enrollment for Central High), while under-identifying Special Education, denying essential services to our most vulnerable learners. Thankfully, a state audit of the district’s special education and dyslexia services is on the way.

The district’s Free and Reduced Lunch percentage, though four points higher than the state average, is among the lowest half in the state.

Its Limited English Proficiency (13%), while five points above the state average, is dwarfed by much higher performing districts such as DeQueen (46%), (Springdale (45%), Rogers (31%), and Fort Smith (25%).

That leaves only its minority percentage, which by the way, is decreasing under the state’s watch. If, as apologists claim, percentage of minority students correlates to overall academic performance, then the district’s academics should be improving instead of declining or staying the same.

Folks may not like how public school performance is measured, but when all public schools are measured the same, the four-year state-controlled district’s performance is not at all acceptable, particularly when factoring its demographics.

Mike Poore, the longest serving superintendent in the Little Rock School District since Linda Watson (Interim August 2007 – July 2008; July 2008 – January 2011), opposed every Act 930 measure proposed at the December 20th Arkansas State Board of Education meeting, though all were supported by his “board,” Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key. Mr. Poore, with more authority and autonomy than any superintendent in Arkansas, now wholly owns the district’s performance or lack thereof.

The only question is if his “board” and the Arkansas State Board of Education will hold him and themselves accountable for results on the statewide accountability measures. Future Little Rock School District reports to the State Board should be strictly apples-to-apples, data-driven accountability measures of performance and growth, with all anecdotal discussion checked at the door.

And speaking of apples-to-apples, the district’s new interim assessments – NWEA MAP (the assessment long used by most of the state’s charter schools) – should be available now and will provide quantifiable insight into if the district, as the superintendent claims, is on the right track.

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