John Hillman and Ronald Schafer spoke to the Carlisle School Board during Monday night’s meeting, to address concerns with testing scores represented on the website schooldigger.com.
According to it, the Carlisle School District is ranked 223 of 264 high schools in the state of Arkansas. The test scores and ranking presented on the site, are based solely on the testing scores of the ninth and eighth grades or the future graduating classes of 2019 and 2020.
Although Carlisle is a 7-12 school district, not all 7-12 scores are represented on the website. The middle school which are ranked independently, was ranked 105 of 315 middle schools in Arkansas, a significant jump from the high school ranking. Middle school scores are compiled of seventh and eighth grade testing scores, or the future graduating class of 2021 and 2022.
According to schooldigger.com, as a whole, the Carlisle School District is ranked as at 158 out of 248 school in Arkansas.
“There is a lot of talk in town, and rumors, there is even a website that is showing our grades are really suffering,” Hillman said. “Are those grades accurate? On schooldiggers.com”
“Our scores are what they are,” Superintendent Jason Clark said. “They are objective. We get our scores from the department of education and they give you comparisons to district around us in the region. We take a look at those and present each year. Our scores, typically in the area we are in, Des Arc is leading the pack. The Hazen, Lonoke, England corridor we are in, we win some, we lose some to them. We do have some grades that are not as good as we would like, but overall, we’re not at the bottom by any means. I’m not familiar with the data this [site] is showing, but I can provide you with lots of data that will you show you exactly. The way it is measured now is readiness. But what percentage of our students that are ready in five different areas. Math, science, reading, writing and English. We are knocking the top out of some, some we are at the bottom on. But consistently, we’re right there with the neighboring schools in this area. Now what data they’ve got on [that site], who authorizes that site or where it’s coming from, I’m certain it’s not sanctioned by the Department of Education, but I’m not familiar with the site. I’ll have to do some research on it.”
Clark said the State has the scores available to the public for years back. He added that some of the scores have changed, based on the testing that has changed on what the district is mandated to test on.
“Traditionally, we’ve been just about average, Clark said. ” When we’ve gotten letter grades, we’ve gotten B’s and C’s and other schools around us have gotten B’s and C’s and D’s. To be honest with you, Des Arc got some A’s. We’re not proud, we want to get better. But I don’t know what your hearing about we are scraping up the bottom of the barrel, but that is certainly not the case.”
“Is someone researching this, so we can challenge these number,” Hillman asked. If parents pull this stuff up and decide, that’s what they are going to look at.”
CJ Parker said after being contacted by Hillman, he began researching both schooldiggers.com and greatschools.org. In his research, he found some information was being left off the website, such as zero percent of students passing Algebra I, which is a graduation requirement.
“It’s like this independent agency left something out, well that’s going toward our score at the end,” Parker said. “Yes we’ve got kids testing not as high as we would like them to and yes we’ve got kids testing as high as we can expect them to, but what I was most frustrated with about the website, was there were somethings that were unfinished being filled out. Like AP participation was one of the things that helped rank your school, well they didn’t have it. Then on one of them, they were using test scores from biology and some other stuff, and I’m terrible about this stuff, but I could look it up and show you John. Those aren’t even things we have testing on in three to four years.”
“Well I want to challenge y’all, because we need to figure this out,” Hillman said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we don’t need to improve,” Parker said. “ I always want to do better, but I did find things that were going into the overall scores that were completely left out. It’s an independent deal and I’ll go back to what Clark said on the Arkansas Department of Education. It is what it is there, because it’s straight from the horses mouth there.”
“They had this state wide ranking, that made some comparisons,” Ronald Schafer said in regards to the schooldigger.com website. “ Des Arc in the 91.6 percentile, Hazen 54.8, Brinkley High School 16.9 and Carlisle High School 15.7. That’s disgusting y’all. I’m disappointed in y’all.”
“What I would like for you to do is look at the Department of Ed number we get and the report to the public we do every year and I think you will see those numbers, there is something about those numbers that is not correct,” Clark responded.
“I think you’re wrong,” Schafer said. “According to the data here, we dropped 49 places. In 2016, we were in the 39th percentile. We’ve been on bottom. If ya’ll are not familiar with that in this school, then you don’t know what is going on. That’s from schooldiggers.com”
Kim Friedman, s spokeswoman for the state Department of Education wasn’t familiar with schooldiggers.com but said, “we stand by our data. If you want official data, go to arkansased.gov.”
“On school diggers, they break it down to middle school and high school,” Parker said. “And they way the test scores are, or the way the classes are tested. We rank 107th in the middle school that teach the seventh, eighth … The way we do things at Carlisle, you’ve got the same teachers who are having to teach 10th graders, that are having to teach seventh graders, a lot of times. And we ranked 107th in the middle school and 220th [in the high school], on the schooldiggers. So the same teachers and the same administration had a 107th ranked class and a 220th. We went up 60 on the middle school and we went don’t 50 on the high school. No one wants to go down 50, but I will say there was some tragic stuff that happened to the community right before that [testing] happened. That’s not an excuse, but this is a standardized testing situation. My opinion, but there is a lot more that happened with these test scores.”
“How do we figure out what happen to fix this, if this is broke” Hillman said. “If it’s not broke, then we need to fix us, is what we are saying.”
“I think first we need to find the validity in this,” Carlisle Preschool Director Lindsey Thaxton added. “With all the scams out there, there has got to be someone that can tell you if it is legit or if it’s not legit. I’m going to speak on behalf of the teachers, because I’m here. There are a lot of really good teachers at this school. They care about our kids and work hard, every single day. I mean they work their tails off. Now there are some people that come and go, but your going to have that everywhere.”
“I don’t think these people are lying that put this out there,” Schafer said. “If you can’t read that with your own eyes, you’ve got to be stupid.”
“I know for a fact they are leaving stuff off there,” Parker said. Like our AP scores, it’s all part of an equation.”
“No it doesn’t,” Debbie Reid said. “They are basing it off test scores, not who offers the most AP courses or what percentage passes those.”
“The bottom line is we are concerned,” Oliger said.
“We are proud of our schools, and want to be the best,” Hillman said. “That’s what we are asking about.”
“We do look at the report to the public every year and like Mr. Clark said, there are some that we really did well in,” Oliger said. “ Obviously there are some areas we didn’t do so well in, but when you base what we do looking at the schools around us. That information your seeing on that website is not what we are seeing from the department of Education. That’s news to us. I’d never even heard of it. But we will look into that, it’s obviously very concerning.What you said yesterday to me about projecting a positive image, that’s what we’ve got to do. We know we have work to do, we’re always going to have work to do, but I just ask that everybody work together and try to be positive while we work towards a solution. There has got to be data missing, because we are not that far off, I don’t think. ”
“You don’t agree with the state’s score,” Cliff Schafer asked Oliger.
“That’s not what I said,” Oliger replied. “I’m just not sure we are as far off as that website says we are.”
Parker added that for those wondering what action the district is taking to increase scores, the board approved the high school’s “back on time” for second period. This is a period for student who are not understanding the content taught in class or applying themselves, to receive additional help to complete assignments and understand the curriculum taught. He said there is a correlation with incomplete assignments and testing scores. For instance, Parker said if a student is taught the skill, but not doing the work provided, they may not be able to accurately test on that skill.
“I’m not saying that’s going to fix everything, but that is something we are already doing to get our test scores up,” Parker said. “We want to get them up just like your talking about.”
Oliger said absenteeism has also become a problem, but incentives for attendance is something the district is also looking into.
“I’m so glad all of you are here,” Adam Ellis added. “It’s so rare to have people from the community, so I’m just glad to see your concern. I’m not from Carlisle. So as someone from the outside looking in, there are so many great things about Carlisle and about our district. Test scores and student achievement are first and foremost, but I do believe we’ve got great campuses, great teachers. There are a lot of things about our district I believe still will draw people in. Hopefully by working with parents, peacefully, we can see if we are doing all that we can do.”
“Hopefully by the next board meeting, we can decide where this information came from, and maybe get it fixed if it is wrong,” Hillman said. “Because this is the stuff people use and we want people coming here.”
“I hate to get up here and point fingers at people,” Ronald Schafer said. “I don’t like controversy. I like Jason, I like y’all, but that’s an insult. When I saw Brinkley ahead of us. It shows two years. I don’t think there is no one out to get us with these low scores. I don’t think there is a conspiracy. All I’m talking about is the high school. I don’t look at the middle school, I didn’t look at the elementary. Looking from the outside, it don’t look good.”
“We just ask that you work with us,” Oliger said. “Give us positive input, give us time to get this stuff together. We’re all here for the same common goal.”
Information about the district, including testing scores, is available at myschoolinfo.arkansas.gov
Also during the meeting, the board unanimously approved to:
- Accept the resignation of Candance Roberson as Dance Team Coach effective Jan. 22
- Hire Tammy Morgenstern as Dance team coach for the remainder of the school year, effective Jan. 23
- Extend the contract of Jason Stuart as elementary school principal for the 2017-18 school year
- Extend the contract of Rachel Horn as assistance principal for the 2017-18 school year
- Authorize the use of the elementary school playground for a circus, weather permitting, sponsored by the Carlisle Chamber of Commerce
- Adopt the proposed budget of expenditures for the 2019-2020 school year
- Accept the cheer constitution changes as presented
- Accept the dance team constitution changes as presented
The next Carlisle School Board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. March 12 in the administration building.