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VOL. 125 | NO. 9 | Thursday, January 14, 2010

58 Ark. High Schools Cited for Grade Inflation

CYNTHIA HOWELL | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas Department of Education says 58 public high schools inflated Algebra I and geometry grades of 20 percent or more of their students during the last year.

The states action has immediate ramifications for those school's 2010 graduates, including those who took Algebra I and geometry before last year. Graduates of those schools who have taken the states recommended curriculum will now have additional requirements to qualify for the new lottery-funded Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship.

The scholarship amounts, which will be set by the Arkansas General Assembly, could be as much as $5,000 a year. Graduates of the 58 schools will now have to do more than earn a minimum 2.5-grade point average in the state's preferred Smart Core curriculum or a composite score of 19 on the ACT college-entrance exam to be eligible for the scholarships, said Tara Smith, coordinator of financial aid in the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

The Smart Core curriculum includes four years of English, four years of upper-level mathematics and at least three years of upper-level science, as well as courses in social studies, career education and other subjects.

Now graduates from the 58 schools will have to earn the minimum 2.5 grade-point average, and either a 19 ACT composite score or score at a proficient or better level on all three of the states End of Course exams, Smith said.

Those End of Course exams are in Algebra I, geometry and biology.

The inflation report compares the grades of high school students who took Algebra I and geometry in the 2008-09 school year with their scores on the 2009 End of Course tests in those subjects.

High schools identified as inflating grades were those in which 20 percent or more of students made an A or B in math courses but scored at below-proficient levels on corresponding state exams.

"One of the main reasons for standardized tests is to make sure that the same level of rigor is being taught in classrooms across the state," Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said.

The state report had at least one high school principal calling foul Tuesday.

Tracy Allen, the new principal at North Little Rock High School-West Campus, said he was disappointed with the report, which showed that 50 students at his school earned grades of A’s and B’s, but only 21 earned a proficient or better score on the End of Course tests.

"We’re a campus of more than 1,400 students," Allen said. "The vast majority do not take Algebra I or geometry on this campus. Yet for the 50 classified in the report, the other 1,350-something students we have are negatively impacted by those results. It’s not a fair evaluation."

Statewide, the grade-inflation rate for the 2008-09 school year was 10.8 percent. There were 16,532 students who made A’s and B’s in Algebra I and geometry, 1,788 of whom did not score at a proficient or advanced level on state exams and thus had "inflated" grades.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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