A report recently released by the Arkansas Department of Education showing letter grades for Arkansas schools gave eight schools in Jefferson County, including Dollarway and Pine Bluff high schools, an “F” rating.

The grades are based on the Every Student Succeeds Act. Arkansas is among 34 states with an approved plan that complies with the law.

The 2017 School Performance Reports show more than 380 schools received a “C” grade and nearly 300 campuses earned a “B.”

Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key says the letter grades are intended to “generate conversations at the school and district level.” He says they aren’t meant to define a school or district.

The report comes after a National Assessment of Education Progress analysis found a disparity in reading and math scores between black and white students in fourth and eighth grades.

In addition to the “F” rating given to Pine Bluff High School, Broadmoor Elementary, Southwood Elementary and Thirty-Fourth Street Elementary in the Pine Bluff School District were also given “F’s.”

Jack Robey and Belair middle schools both received “D” ratings, along with W.T. Cheney Elementary.

In the Dollarway School District, Dollarway High School received an “F” rating, along with Matthews Elementary and Robert F. Moorehead Middle School.

In the White Hall School District, White Hall High School received a “C” rating; White Hall Middle School received an “A” rating, the only school in Jefferson County to score that high; Taylor, Moody and Hardin elementary schools all scored a “B”; Gandy Elementary scored a “C.”

In the Watson Chapel School District, Watson Chapel High School, Watson Chapel Junior High School, Coleman Elementary and Edgewood Elementary all scored a “D.” L.L. Owen Elementary scored an “F.”

Connie Hathorn, Watson Chapel School District superintendent, said in response to the report cards:

“The school report card has 24 performance indicators relative to student achievement. A review of our report card shows that we’ve made progress in 17 of the 24 student performance indicators. I am proud to see that the literacy program we have implemented is showing a positive impact on student learning. Our teachers deserve the credit for the progress we’ve made over the last three years. They used student data extensively to drive classroom instruction which has proven to be the key to the gain in student achievement.

“In regards to the report card’s letter grade for each school, I am disappointed but do believe that we will keep improving. We will find out the things we are doing well and do them better. The things that are not working, we will stop.”

Dorothy Welch, White Hall School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said of the report cards that “We are extremely proud of the grades our schools have received. We will continue to do what we have been doing, making sure we address the areas that need attention.

“We have an excellent staff and they are diligently working with the students to improve their learning and grades. The commitment is there, so I’m confident we will bring those C’s up. We have good kids who are already planning for college and as teachers, we are supporting their goals. Each campus has a team that studies the report cards and areas needing improvement. The groups cater to the areas needing improvement and work to meet the needs of our students. We love our children and we love our schools, and that’s why they do so well because they know we care.”

Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Michael Robinson and Barbara Warren, superintendent of the Dollarway School District, did not respond to questions before press time.

Statewide, the majority of high schools — 122 — received a “C” rating, while 86 high schools received a “B,” 50 a “D” and 34 an “A.” Nine high schools received “F’s.”

The majority of middle schools — 66 — received “C” ratings, with 58 receiving “B’s,” 46 “A’s” and 32 “D’s.” Two middle schools received “F’s.”

The majority of elementary schools — 196 — received “C” ratings, with 146 receiving a “B.” Eighty-eight schools received “D” ratings, and 22 received an “F.”