District Tries to Hide Magnet School Scores
Our Concerns with the Implementation of the Magnet Schools and IB program at Jonesboro/Debbie Pelley's Presentation Before the Jonesboro School Board, February 13, 07
(See Transcript of TV coverage and link to video online below by channel that reaches 370 thousand households and covers Northeast AR & Southeast MO.)
I am going to talk fast because my time is short [I was allowed five minutes to speak], but I do have my remarks and the documentation to give to anyone that wants it. My name is Debbie Pelley. I have lived in Jonesboro for 35 years, my only daughter graduated from Jonesboro, and I come tonight representing myself as a retired teacher and as a representative of the Arkansas Family Coalition state organization.
I hope you won't mistake my concerns for criticism of Jonesboro schools which has numerous good, dedicated teachers, and a good school system; I would just like to see it stay that way.
I know many people in the community and teachers are very concerned that Jonesboro is implementing magnet schools. I talked to school officials at Pine Bluff who implemented magnet schools back in the 80's. The Deputy Superintendent told me they received a federal grant (mega bucks – our taxes) and thought they had everything they wanted, but it just didn't work for them. They are going back to neighborhood schools this year. He said the busing problem had been a nightmare, and that students wanting to change from one school to another had been a nightmare. (Nightmare was his word) Another problem was that when the grants ran out they could not get the funds to continue their programs.
Both Pine Bluff and Hot Springs school officials told me they started their magnet schools in order to draw students from other districts because of declining enrollment. One Jonesboro school official told me pretty much the same thing. That doesn't seem like a noble reason to scramble an entire school system to me.
Hot Springs is one of the models Jonesboro is using for the magnet schools. Many Jonesboro teachers, board members, and administrators have visited that school. The paper also reported they were looking at Hot Springs as a model.
Based on the latest performance records on the Arkansas Department of Education website in 2005, Jonesboro's performance scores are better than Hot Springs in about 35 categories out of 40, ,and by many points, as much as 28 points higher in 11th grade literacy. The 2006 scores won't be out until March according to three ADE personnel with whom I spoke.
Hot Springs' graduation rate was only 56%. That is right, 56% graduation rate, 30% lower than Jonesboro's graduation rate which was 86%.
Sixty-seven percent of Hot Springs students had to have college remediation in 2005, 22% more of their students needed remediation than Jonesboro's students. Jonesboro had 45.8% remediation rate, better than the state average. Hot Spring's ACT score in English was 17.8 and Jonesboro's a 22.
However, a Jonesboro school official told me a few weeks ago that Hot Springs had great scores. I finally found one Hot Springs school with very good scores. It was the magnet school that had the IB program. That led to research that shows the magnet schools there have been set up pretty much like a social caste system.
The school with the highest scores has only 12% of the Hot Springs elementary students and has 75% white and 25% minority students. The magnet school with the lowest scores has 71% minority and 29% white. I don't think we want an elitist education system like that in Jonesboro.
At Batesville one magnet school has 35% minority and another magnet school has 4% minority. Research shows that although integration was supposed to be a goal for starting magnet schools, in practicality it has led to more segregation.
When the Hot Springs scores were sent by email to most of the staff at Jonesboro by a citizen in the community, that person was blocked by the district so the teachers could not receive more emails. I find it shocking that school officials would do this in order to keep the teachers and community from the truth.
Hot Springs per pupil spending is almost $1400 more than Jonesboro (Hot Springs $8,688 per student and Jonesboro $7,348.) Instead of improving after implementing magnet schools, Hot Springs' scores have fallen in numerous areas. For example, in 2005 the graduation rate at Hot Springs was 56%, but in 2004 it was 69.8% and in 2003 74.1%.
The International Baccalaureate) program (also called IB) is another concern of mine. IB is a United Nations program that has been thrown out of some school districts because of its far left and anti Christian agenda. Hot Springs is the only school in Arkansas that has implemented IB district wide.
In November it was posted on the web that Jonesboro would apply for this IB program "as soon as possible" - just as Hot Springs had done. One significant Jonesboro administrator pointed out to me that the IB had been deleted from the website; but when I asked if he could point blank tell me that they would not be doing the IB program , he said no he could not tell me that. I spoke personally with another school official just after that who had no idea they were backing away from this program. Shortly after that another school official in central office sent out an email to teachers saying they would not be doing an IB program. Shortly after that another influential school official said in a message to me that he certainly hoped they were not backing away from the IB program.
For rest of this presenation, see this link: