Watson Chapel School Board members reacted to students’ low scores on recent standardized tests Monday as part of the principals report to the public. Superintendent Connie Hathorn provided a copy of the report to board members Ronnie Reynolds, Alan Frazier, Goldie Whitaker, Sandra Boone, Donnie Hartsfield, Kevin Moore and Mack Milner.
Hathorn said about half of students who graduate from high school in the community of Pine Bluff do not advance to college.
“Most likely they are going to end up doing something wrong, [but] not all of them,” Hathorn said. “You’re accumulating a group of students who are not attending college and who are working for minimum wages each year. That grows. When you do not have jobs, most people find a way to make it whether it’s illegal or legal.
“Either we pay for it now or we pay for it later. They are going to do drugs, they are going to rob, and they are going to kill.”
Hathorn said his district suffers from a lack of parental involvement. He cautioned that his district could be taken over by the Arkansas Department of Education as it used to be. He said he is not worried about charter schools opening in Pine Bluff, provided Watson Chapel students improve their scores.
“When it comes to education, you have to be better than your competitors,” Hathorn said.
Outgoing School Board President Donnie Hartsfield decried the low scores as sad. He called for parents to prioritize the education of their children.
“I am not blaming anyone here,” Hartsfield said. “We can’t even get 50 percent of kids passing these tests. We’ve got to come up with some kind of solution to get more parents involved. We can do everything we can think of. … Until we get parents involved, we are not going to see an increase in our performance. Parents have to care before kids care.”
Fellow board member Ronnie Reynolds said people place too much pressure on churches and schools, who are blamed for students’ shortcomings. He agreed with Hartsfield on calling for parents to show that education is important for the children to succeed now and as adults.
“But charity begins in the home, and then it spreads,” Reynolds said. “There is only so much we can do. We have them for so many hours of the day. The rest of the day, they are home or wherever they are. But we are to blame — the churches and the schools — for the shortcomings.”
Reynolds is a security guard in the Pine Bluff School District. He shared his dealings with disruptive students.
“Our hands our tied,” Reynolds said. “You teachers can agree with me. You can’t teach a 55-minute or an hour class period when you’ve got behavior problems. Someone is interrupting. … Doesn’t that make it difficult? What happened to respect? We did it. Now there’s no respect. They do whatever they want to do, say whatever they want to say in front of whoever they want.”
Board member Sandra Boone alluded to teachers dealing with students not meeting expectations.
“You see a lot of stuff that they did not learn in school, and they have perfected it,” Boone said.
Coleman Intermediate School Principal Ronnie Johnson wrote that her students took the ACT Aspire 1 in September 2017 and October 2017. Fourth-graders achieved proficiency at the rates of 42 percent in literacy, 36 percent in science and 22 percent in math.
Fifth-graders achieved proficiency at the rates of 51 percent in literacy, 44 percent in science and 26 percent in math.
Sixth-graders achieved proficiency at the rates of 42 percent in literacy, 38 percent in science and 23 percent in math.
Watson Chapel Junior High School Principal Henry Webb gave the results of last year’s ninth graders on the ACT Aspire Assessment. Ninth-graders exceeded expectations at 20 percent in science, 13 percent in math, 56.5 percent in English, 29.7 percent in reading and 20.5 percent in writing.
Eight-graders exceeded expectations at 25 percent in science, 25 percent in math, 67.2 percent in English, 27.2 percent in reading and 32.8 percent in writing.
Seventh-graders exceeded expectations at 27 percent in science, 38 percent in math, 57.4 percent in English, 27.1 percent in reading and 50 percent in writing.
Watson Chapel High School Principal Kristy Sanders gave the results of the 11th graders’ scores on the ACT Aspire Assessment. She wrote that the 11th grade class enrolls 218 students. The number of those students who scored “in need of support” on the ACT Aspire in science is 149, in math is 151, in English is 57, in reading is 120 and in writing is 56.
Edgewood Elementary School Principal Rose Martin wrote that kindergartners and first-graders showed strength in reading-craft and structure/integration of knowledge and ideas and in math-geometry numbers and operations. They showed weakness in reading- information text, language, vocabulary acquisition, and in math measurements and data.
Second-graders showed weaknesses in reading and vocabulary. Third-graders showed weaknesses in reading and writing, L.L. Owen Elementary School Principal Annie Shaw wrote.
In board election of officers news, the board voted to make Mack Milner the president, Goldie Whitaker the vice president, and Kevin Moore the secretary.
In other news, Watson Chapel High School teacher and Personnel Policies Committee Chairperson Frankie Hemphill discussed a proposal to pay $100 per month to any Watson Chapel School District employee who attends work every day in the months of January through May. She said that even if all employees have perfect attendance for those five months, the district would spend less money than it is currently spending on substitute employees.
The board did not vote on her proposal. Hathorn said he will meet with Hemphill to discuss the issue.
In other news, Reynolds congratulated Hathorn on his upcoming induction into the Arkansas AM&N/UAPB Letter “A” Club Sports Hall of Fame. Teachers and board members gave Hathorn a standing ovation and chanted his name in conjunction with a cheer for UAPB. Hathorn played quarterback for the Arkansas AM&N Golden Lions football team.
“I believe in giving people flowers when they are still here,” Reynolds said.
Hathorn will be inducted at a banquet at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Pine Bluff Convention Center Ballroom as part of UAPB’s homecoming activities.