An Ashley County School is one of six in the state to increase its overall school performance score and letter grade. 

The Arkansas Department of Education recently released the 2019 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Index Scores and Letter Grade reports. Last year only three schools were able to increase their scores, one elementary and two high schools increased their overall ESSA Score by more than five points and improved by two letter grades.

Portland Elementary School spent the year working hard, and school officials said they were astonished when they received a call from Superintendent Tracy Streeter to share that they had earned an ‘A.’

During the 2018-2019 academic year, six schools in the state — four elementary and two high schools — increased their overall ESSA Score by more than seven points and improved by two letter grades.

Portland improved its letter grade from a C to an A. Serving grades PK-5, the elementary school saw its weighted achievement increase from 66.74 to 83 last year. The overall ESSA Score went from a 70.28 (C) during the 2017-18 year to a 79.31 (A) in 2018-19. 

Principal Cristy West said that the letter grade improvement is to the credit of the hard work of the teachers, staff and students. Portland Elementary School worked with a viable and reliable curriculum to move students forward in the ESSA School Index. West said that high expectations were set for all students. Their weighted and that achievement points increased because the school moved more students into Ready and Exceeding.

Student Growth points increased for white students, economically disadvantaged students, and even more so for the school’s Hispanic population. Their SQSS points increase due to growth in their science achievement and grade level reading. West said that their success was a result of the teachers and students being engaged in learning with the expectation that everyone contributes, and that the systematic approach has over time moved those learners forward. 

West said teachers went through year-one professional development and implementation of Arkansas A+ and a partial implementation of Project Lead the Way.

Both programs have been documented to increase student engagement, which typically impacts achievement and can too improve attendance.

Other schools that increased their scores include Eudora Elementary School in Lakeside School District in Chicot County; Sparkman Elementary School in Harmony Grove School District  in Ouachita County. Ward Central Elementary School in Cabot School District, Kingston High School in Jasper School District and Monticello High School in Monticello School District. 

ESSA gives districts the opportunity to redefine accountability for their schools and utilize evidence-based strategies best designed to meet their specific needs.

Under ESSA, Arkansas created a plan with input from all stakeholders, including educators and community members.

Arkansas’ ESSA School Index contains five indicators for success, which include weighted achievement; growth; progress to English language proficiency; graduation rate and school quality and student success.

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