As you know, the Arkansas Department of Education compiles data on school performance to derive an annual Public School Rating Score. These ratings are based on a combination of factors that include 1)Weighted Student Achievement based on ACT Aspire performance in Mathematics and English/Language Arts, 2) Value-Added Growth based on ACT Aspire performance in Mathematics and English/Language Arts, 3) School Quality and Student Success (SQSS) scores based on a combination of additional factors including Student Engagement/Attendance, Science Performance and Growth on ACT Aspire exams, Reading Performance on ACT Aspire exams, and 4) for high schools, 4-Year and 5-Year Cohort Graduation Rates. High schools are accountable for additional SQSS factors including On-Time Credits, Student GPA, ACT Composite and Readiness scores, and Advanced Placement/Concurrent Credit/Computer Science/Community Service Learning credit completion.
Based on the factors listed above, eStem's schools have achieved the following letter grade ratings for 2019:
eStem Downtown Elementary School - C
eStem Downtown Junior High School - C
eStem East Village Elementary School - C
eStem East Village Junior High School - C
eStem High School - B
While there are bright spots in the data (eStem High School continues to be a top-performing high school in the city of Little Rock), we can all agree that these ratings are not at the level we expect of ourselves. Given the enormity of changes to our schools as we have undergone a dramatic expansion the past few years (increased overall enrollment from 1,462 to more than 3,000 students, relocated the high school campus in 2017, opened two new campuses last year, hired more than 100 additional classroom teachers), these results are not surprising. I want to assure you that we are committed to producing high levels of achievement and growth for all our students, and that, moving forward, enrollment growth will be limited to students working their way through the eStem system from our elementary schools to our secondary schools. This will allow us to use 2019 data as a new baseline for performance as we set goals for moving all our schools to A status.
As the majority of our school ratings are based on the performance of our students on ACT Aspire exams, we have spent time examining that data for the past few years for all our schools. A consistent factor that has contributed to our overall ratings is based on our students' reading performance. In 2019, 40% of our students performed at a "Ready/Exceeding" level system-wide on the ACT Aspire Reading exam while roughly one-third of our students were rated as being "In Need of Support." We have undertaken an intensive review of our reading programs to ensure that we are offering our students the highest-quality of instruction in phonics, phonemic/phonological awareness, and comprehension strategies. We believe the continued implementation with increased fidelity of the Wilson Reading Program, Heggerty curriculum, and additional comprehension strategies will provide the necessary foundation for our students to develop the skills to become successful readers. This will prove beneficial not only to our students on the ACT Aspire Reading exam, but on the ACT Aspire Mathematics, English, Writing, and Science exams, as well.
You can be confident that we are committed to providing high quality instruction and support for all our students to provide the opportunity for every child to succeed on the state-mandated standardized assessments and to become College Ready, Career Ready, and World Ready!
John Bacon, Ed. D.
Chief Executive Officer