Elizabeth Adetiba, the eighth-grader at Mansfield's James Coble Middle School who won local spelling competitions to get into the Scripps National Spelling Bee, is competing this morning in Washington D.C.
It's her second trip to the national bee.
You can follow the action on Twitter @scrippsbee. Elizabeth, number 253, already spelled annoyance correctly (the picture is from Scripps).
While most Texas districts have received results on how their students did on state tests, Fort Worth officials are still waiting. Some results are in, but the unexpected school closure due to swine flu concerns interrupted the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills testing. Fort Worth schools should be getting the rest of their results by the end of this week, officials said. At tonight's board meeting, superintendent Melody Johnson was hopeful that they would show improved student performance. But some trustees expressed frustration that the gains may not be as significant as they want. They briefly discussed the forthcoming results as they asked staff questions about renewing a contract with the College Board for a program aimed at improving math performance. "We're not gaining at the rate we should with the money we have," trustee Christene Moss said. "It doesn't seem as we're moving quickly." Trustees did approve renewing the $394,346.51 contract for SpringBoard, which was put into all high school and middle schools this year. Administrators said they expect it to increase the number of students taking advanced placement courses and improve test scores over time. Full implementation of the program is expected to take three years.
The numbers crunchers at Arlington schools are predicting that this year's state testing results will earn the district a near doubling of the number of campuses that are rated exemplary and recognized by the state.
The district, along with others in the county, recently received preliminary Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) results. According to Arlington, those preliminary results show the number of exemplary campuses will go from three to five when school accountability rankings are released in August. The number of recognized campuses will go from 15 to 30, they said.
The Texas Education Agency expects to release state-wide preliminary TAKS results early next week, according to a spokeswoman there.
Arlington Superintendent Jerry McCullough credited the preliminary results to the hard work that's been going on at Arlington campuses. He said gains were particularly strong in science.
"That was a weak point for us, but all the schools got in there and did a lot of activities that emphasize science," he said. "We focused on it and we saw results."
McCullough has set a goal of attaining recognized status for the district. That will not happen this year. Officials said the district's science scores were not high enough to be considered for recognized status. Also, for a district to be recognized, no campus can be ranked academically unacceptable and one junior high in the district will miss the mark this year, McCullough said.
"We're going to get there," McCullough said. "Our focus is on instruction and we're going to keep that focus."
Arlington is currently ranked academically acceptable.
A teacher, a parent and eight children snapped in the last ten pieces into the World’s Largest Jigsaw Puzzle, a 24,000 piece behemoth that Principal Danny Greenfield ordered last fall. It is about 14 feet long and about five feet high. (picture courtesy of parent Ann Beck)
“I just thought, ‘Well, that would be fun,” he said. “My vice principal thought I was crazy.”
Throughout the year, students who had good behavior and were caught up on their assignments could work on the puzzle as a reward. Greenfield said it was a popular pass-time with teachers too.
The school held an assembly Friday to finish the colorful puzzle. Now, they plan to send their results into a Web site that has blog entries from people around the world who have completed the puzzle.
“We decided we wanted to try to be the first school in the world to complete it, and it looks like we’ve made,” Greenfield said.
Cindy Powell, Arlington's associate superintendent of finance, had some unhappy news for trustees Thursday night.
The financially pinched district has been counting on legislators in Austin to make significant changes to the state's school funding structure by the time the session ends June 1. HB3646, which went before the Senate Education Committee Thursday, seems like the most likely legislation to get passed. But, the version that came out of the Senate committee, left trustees less than enthusiastic.
According to Powell, the version to be considered in the Senate drops the amount of additional funding Arlington could expect to receive next school yearfrom $20.1 million to $12 million. The reason, Powell said, is that the new version raises the minimum increase guaranteed to districts from $100 per weighted average daily attendance to $135 per weighted average daily attendance.
With everybody guaranteed more money, it leaves less to spread around to districts like Arlington that are on the lower end of the state's current target revenue funding system, Powell said. About half of the funding increases would have to be spent on yearly raises for teachers and some other school professionals.
Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, said earlier this week that he shaped the bill to stay within the $1.9 billion education spending increase in the proposed budget. He said he wanted to help all school districts and especially those hit hard by 2006 changes to the funding system.
Trustee Jim Ash said he was frustrated and discouraged by what he was seeing. He complimented local legislators like Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, but pointed out that they can't do it alone.
"We've got two weeks," he said. "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst."
A residents group established to reward Arlington teachers who excel held its annual banquet recently and awarded checks to 10 teachers. The AWARE Foundation, which stands for Arlington Will Award and Recognize Excellence, has been around since 1989. The winners of its yearly Award of Excellence get $3,000 to spend however they like; runners-up get a $1,500 check. Funds come from private and corporate funding, according to the group’s Web site.
This year’s winners (pictured, thanks to AISD) were: Debi Roberts, a Webb Elementary kindergarten teacher; Jessica Hall, a fourth-grade teacher at Miller Elementary; Valarie Yurkunas, a sixth-grade teacher at Pope Elementary; Kat Wells, an eighth-grade teacher at Bailey Junior High; and Susan West, a teacher at Arlington High School.
The runners-up were: Cynthia Johnston, a kindergarten teacher at Sherrod Elementary; Dawn Zdrojewski, an instructional facilitator at Short Elementary; Jennifer Hammonds, a fifth-grade teacher at Short Elementary; Pam Hodges, a teacher at Shackelford Junior High; and Barbara Applequist, a teacher at Sam Houston High School.
A student at Legacy High School in the Mansfield district has tested positive for Tuberculosis and county health officials are providing free screenings for about 275 students who had contact with the student, according to information released by Mansfield officials.
A letter went out Wednesday to parents of Legacy students, notifying them of the situation and telling them that there is a low risk of contracting the disease because significant exposure is required. The Tarrant County Public Health Department is identifying anyone who may have had close contacts with the student. They are receiving additional notification and opportunities for testing, the letter said.
Legacy has a student body of 2,256.
“Let me assure you that the health and well being of our students is our top priority and we are doing everything possible to address the situation,” Principal David Wright wrote. Anyone with questions was asked to call the health department at 817-321-4900.
A teacher linked to a 2002 student death in Killeen was put on administrative leave in Virginia this week after her past was discussed during congressional hearings, according to the TheWashington Post's LoundounExtra.com. The hearing discussed a recent report that found hundreds of allegations of improper classroom restraint, some of which led to student deaths. A 14-year-old special education student died from an extreme amount of pressure on his chest after being restrained by his teacher in the 2002 incident, according to Star-Telegram archives. Dawn Marie Hamilton did not face criminal charges in the incident but a Texas judge put her on a state registry of persons found to have abused or neglected children, according to this Leesburg Today story. Virginia school officials told that newspaper her background check came back clean.
Getting a full lunch tray at Arlington schools could lighten students' pockets a little more next year if trustees approve changes to school lunch prices Thursday night.
The proposed increase of 25 cents would be the first since 2004. District officials say increased food and operating costs are to blame. Trustees at the neighboring Mansfield district approved a similar increase last month.
If the increase at Arlington is approved, lunch at an Arlington elementary school will cost $2. At junior highs and high schools, the new price would be $2.25. Students on free or reduced-price lunch programs would not be affected by the price increase. That's more than half of the district's approximately 63,000 students.
Arlington school trustees meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night at 1203 West Pioneer Parkway. They'll hold two other functions before the meeting starts - at 5:30 p.m., a swearing-in for two re-elected trustees and new board member Aaron Reich and, at 7 p.m., a retirement reception for departing Trustee Sherri Wade (at left).