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Regional session hosted by Hope Public Schools

Above- Dr. Tony Prothro, executive director of the Arkansas School Boards Association, and Dr. Michael Hernandez, deputy commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education, keynoted the regional ASBA workshop and dinner hosted by the Hope Public Schools at Hope High School here Oct. 22.  Dr. Prothro discussed the outlook for the next Arkansas General Assembly and Dr. Hernandez reviewed the ADE ratings report of schools from the 2019 ACT Aspire. – Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools

Regional session hosted by HPS

HOPE – School board members from southwest Arkansas public school districts learned about improving academic growth relative to the ACT Aspire and state ratings, as well as how to maintain “high reliability schools,” and they got a glimpse at key issues in the upcoming Arkansas General Assembly in a regional workshop of the Arkansas School Boards Association hosted Tuesday by the Hope Public Schools.

The dinner and workshop meeting featured presentations by Dr. Michael Hernandez, deputy commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education, and Dr. Tony Prothro, ASBA executive director, and was hosted by HPS Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart and HPS board members.

Dr. Hernandez walked some 50 attendees through the ADE’s ratings card for Arkansas public schools with an emphasis upon how local districts can improve their rating grades. He said the ADE is working to better communicate information on ACT Aspire testing and accountability through the myschoolinfo.arkansas.gov web portal.

Hernandez said the website provides keys to understanding student academic growth.

“How are you doing compared to the rest of the state?” he posed.

The report also provides valuable information about “special populations” and their impact upon academic growth.

Hernandez said the ADE wants districts to understand its emphasis upon supporting them.

“We are about the department, the co-ops continuing to support the districts,” he said.

But, Hernandez said school boards should realize they must embrace planning which can be supported by monitoring, a vital component to the ratings concept.

Pursuing perfection is not the intent, but rather creating a high level of reliability within a school district, he said.

“What that means is no organization uses their plan simply to prevent a major catastrophe,” Hernandez said.

Board members need to work toward creating a safe, supporting, collaborative culture; effective teaching in every classroom; a guaranteed and visible curriculum; standards referenced upon responding to student progress; and, competency-based education.

Using known standards and the information generated from “leading indicators” and “lagging indicators” much like a driver uses the windshield of a car and the rear-view mirror, school boards should set goals and plans going forward and be aware of what has happened, Hernandez said.

Dr. Prothro, a former superintendent of the Arkadelphia Public Schools, presented an overview of key issues in the next Arkansas General Assembly with a particular emphasis upon school board activism.

“I had a legislator tell me one time that if he got phone calls from fifty superintendents, he didn’t pay much attention because superintendents, he said, are hired guns,” Prothro said. “But, he said, if he got phone calls from five school board members, he listened; because, school board members are elected.”

He said school board members should not only be aware of issues forthcoming from Little Rock, but they should be active in either their support or opposition to those issues that affect public schools.

“When you see a legislator who has done something to help public schools, tell them ‘thank you,’” Prothro said.

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