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Paris district listed as ‘needs improvement’

The Paris School District was classified as “needs improvement” by the Arkansas Department of Education when it released its latest report card on districts statewide last week.

Paris Elementary School and Paris High School were also listed as needs improvement on the report. Paris Middle School was one of only 137 schools statewide listed as “achieving.”

The number of schools classified as “needs improvement” under the state’s accountability system increased from 581 last year to 793 this year.

State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said the numbers should not be interpreted to mean that more schools are failing.

“These are not schools that are failing their children. These are schools that typically have … difficult targets,” Kimbrell said at a news conference announcing the release of the department’s 2013 school accountability data.

Paris School Superintendent Wayne Fawcett said something similar when asked about the district’s rating.

“It tells parents that, when you study the report, the Paris School District sets the bar pretty high and in some categories, we are very close to meeting that bar or exceeding that bar,” Fawcett said.

Districts and individual schools are scored in four categories on the report — percentage of students tested, literacy status, math status and graduation rate status. Scores in literacy and math are based on annual test results. The system requires districts and schools to meet or exceed their Annual Measurable Objective. That means the school or district is competing with itself, based on the previous year’s score.

“We’re not competing with anyone else,” Fawcett said. “We started with scores in the 80s. So, our AMO is pretty high, in fact it’s exceptionally high.”

Of the four areas graded, the Paris School District reaches achieving status in percentage of students tested, literacy status and graduation rate status. It is listed as needing improvement in math status.

“If you need improvement in one category, the entire district is listed as needing improvement,” Fawcett said. “We didn’t hit our AMO in math district-wide. That one category puts us in needs improvement.”

As for being close to achieving status, Fawcett pointed to the district’s score in third grade literacy as an example.

“We had 77.5 percent of our kids score proficient or advanced in third grade literacy,” Fawcett said. “Our AMO is 81.18 percent. We missed our goal by 3.68 percent. There are probably 75 kids in the third grade. That means probably two kids didn’t make proficient or advanced. We were short of our goal by probably two kids. We were that close in a lot of areas.”

The Paris district wasn’t alone among area schools on the needs improvement list. The Scranton School District and the County Line district were also listed as needs improvement.