Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More rural school travails

The February 22, 2012 issue of the Newton County Times reports on steps the Jasper School District has recently been compelled to take in relation to its tiny Oark campus and a course it is no longer offering there. The lede for the story provides perspective:
Members of the Arkansas Board of Education learned a little about the problems of efficiencies of smaller schools during its regular monthly meeting Monday, Feb. 13. Jasper School superintendent Kerry Saylors was on the meeting's agenda to request a waiver of the rules governing standards for accreditation by allowing the school district to stop offering a required word processing class at its Oark campus.

Last semester only one student was enrolled in the class. In October the student moved and enrolled in another school district leaving no other students to take the class.
Under such circumstances, Arkansas law apparently permits the school not to offer the course (presumably for just this year). To qualify for this waiver, however, the school district must jump through various hoops. First, the local school board must petition the State Board of Education regarding the matter. The school district must also provide proof in writing that the course is on the district's master course schedule and that the district has a teacher employed to teach the course. In addition, state school officials must make an on-site visit, and the school district must appear before the State Board of Education--which is what happened on February 13.

This seems to me an excessive amount of paperwork and--in particular--travel to and from Little Rock by local school officials and State Board members. Perhaps these requirements have been deemed necessary out of concern that, without such checks and balances by the state, rural schools may be tempted to avoid the statewide curricular requirements in light of the the very lack of economies of scale that are so obvious from this story.

At that February 13 meeting, Saylors fielded questions from the State Board, including questions related to the size of the school and the lack of enrollment in several upper division classes. Saylors reported that the Oark campus has 65 students total in grades 7-12. When a Board member noted that several courses at Oark have a capacity for 25 students but have only 1-2 enrolled in each, Saylors responded, "That's a common situation when you have more classes than students. That's the problem of the efficiency of that size of school."

Board Chairman Ben Mays then commented on Oark's "AP courses and ACT scores," but the newspaper did not report the substance of those comments.

Earlier posts about the Oark school are here and here.

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