The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen SCHOOL RECOGNITION: Arkansas Learns President and CEO Gary Newton speaks to a group gathered Monday at The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce to recognize five Garland County schools that received funding from the Arkansas Department of Education.

The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen SCHOOL RECOGNITION: Arkansas Learns President and CEO Gary Newton speaks to a group gathered Monday at The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce to recognize five Garland County schools that received funding from the Arkansas Department of Education.

Arkansas Learns recognizes schools

By Beth Reed
This article was published May 16, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

Five Garland County schools were recognized by Arkansas Learns this week for being awarded funding through the Arkansas School Recognition Program.

Park Magnet Elementary School was recognized in the top 5 percent of schools for performance, and received $25,472.16. Gardner STEM Elementary was recognized in the top 5 percent for growth and was awarded $41,368.32.

In the top 6 to 10 percent of schools for performance are Lake Hamilton Intermediate and Lakeside Primary and Intermediate schools. Lake Hamilton Intermediate was awarded $32,233.24 while Lakeside Primary and Lakeside Intermediate were awarded $24,131.52 and $38,926.44, respectively.

President and CEO of Arkansas Learns, Gary Newton, was on hand to present checks and letter grade displays to each school in attendance during an event hosted at The Greater Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce on Monday. Arkansas Learns, according to the organization's website, is a voice "for excellent education options -- including industry-relevant career pathways -- for all students" to ensure Arkansas is able to compete economically.

"All we are stage managers; we're here to help you celebrate your own community and with Eric's (Jackson) help, our members simply pay for creating the big presentational checks and the grade displays for schools so that your communities can celebrate your good work," Newton said. "The reason we did that was this originally was our initiative, our bill at the Legislature."

Newton said there are several measures to hold schools accountable, that "essentially could punish schools in some way or another."

"So the purity of this initiative is the big checks reward very pure standards," he said. "The highest performance of the top 5 percent and the top 6 to 10 percent, simply academic performance. And then the highest growth. So you may have a school that doesn't perform as well on a performance basis, but they're one of the highest growers in Arkansas."

Newton said Arkansas is one of the leading states in data collected in reference to education and "our leaders are very informed about the performance not only of individual schools, districts, but the state as a whole."

"You can go to the Department of Education's website and see the high level A, B, C, D, F, and then dig deeper to find out how the schools actually received those respective grades," he said. "It will reveal a lot about your schools. Arkansas is a national leader in data when it comes to education."

Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe said that the national focus on education often only shows the negatives, but Hot Springs and Garland County can celebrate the positive activities within the community under the banner of education.

"I've had the opportunity this year to go to two groundbreakings and go to an information session that Lakeside School District put on their new goals for their campus, and I'm always impressed at the manner at which each of the different school districts measure the needs within their community, and strive to meet those needs," McCabe said.

"There is not one cookie cutter program amongst the various school districts in Garland County. They all reach out, understand their community, and set programming and facilities designed to meet the needs of that specific community."

State Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-District 24, who chairs the House Education Committee, said the Legislature is proud of Garland County's schools, and how they are competing within the state and with other states.

"Anytime we can help and that you have questions, you know our doors are open," he said.

Local on 05/16/2018
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