By LANA CLIFTON
On Monday, Sept. 21, the Bryant School District presented its annual report to the public just prior to the regularly scheduled School Board meeting.
The annual report covered topics from enrollment trends to test results and detailed the status of academic programs and the promise of new ones. Jessica Norris, Director of Communications for the district, conducted the presentation.
Norris highlighted a new program the district will be implementing this year. Named Response-to-Intervention (RTI), the program will be used to identify students who are struggling and use different methods to help them catch up to their classmates. Norris connected the program to the first of seven district goals listed in the report.[more]
“’The Bryant School District will develop and implement a comprehensive academic program to meet the diverse needs of all students,’” quoted Norris. “This is one goal that (Superintendent) Dr. (Richard) Abernathy and the administration have chosen to specifically invest in this year.”
She defined students to be addressed by the program as, “those that are at risk of failing, or not showing proficient academic performance, in other words falling behind or slipping through the cracks between the speed and demands of general instruction and the intense individual instruction of Special Education.”
Norris said the RTI team had met and made decisions, and the program would be funded by stimulus funds. She added that all the program’s supplies had been purchased and teachers were beginning to train in the new program.
Student enrollment was also covered in the report. Although current numbers will still not be official until Oct. 1, the enrollment totals at the time of the report showed 7,368 students, up from 7,163 at the same time last year.
The report also announced graduation, dropout, attendance and home school rates for each school year between 2003 and 2008. While the 2007-2008 totals showed a lower percentage of graduation than 2006-07, the dropout rate decreased and attendance increased. Home school enrollment within the district showed only a slight variation between the last few years, but a jump from 167 students home schooled in August of 2003 to 257 in May of 2005 was recorded.
Norris also went over Arkansas Benchmark and Augmented Benchmark test results.
“Bryant students surpassed state averages in every single category,” she noted.
For example, last year’s third graders scored, on average, better than 73 percent of other third grade students nationally on the Math portion of the test, compared to the state average of 58 percent.
The report also touched on several areas of high school academics. At Bryant High School, students completed 3,220 concurrent college credit hours. According to Norris, this showed an increase of over 160 percent from the previous year and earned the equivalent of $653,660 in tuition and fees, money the students would have had to pay had they taken the courses on a college campus after graduation.
According to the report, the high school also celebrated its average ACT composite score, 21.4, which topped the state average of 20.6 and the national average of 21.1.
Information on college remediation, grade inflation and academic performance among subpopulations were also contained within the report.
The district’s Gifted and Talented (GT) program was another subject covered. Norris announced a new GT supervisor for the district, Lynn Harrison.
“She has definitely hit the ground running and is doing a wonderful job,” said Norris. “We’re very excited to have her on board.”
The report also describes another district academic program that is gaining in importance for the district. The English as a Second Language Program (ESL) is designed to assist students whose primary language is not English. Norris explained the growing need for ESL in Bryant.
“Our number of English Language Learners, or ELLs, has increased drastically over the past several years, from 12 students in 2000 to 302 for this current year,” she said. “That ranks us 19th in the state of districts growing with ESL populations, up two spots from 21st just last year.”
She added that the district had a new ESL supervisor, Marsha Ives.
Norris said copies of the 2008-09 Annual Report would soon be available at all school campuses and would be posted on the school district website, www.bryantschools.org, for further review.