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STRONG — Strong-Huttig School District Superintendent Jeff Alphin laid out the district’s goals and progress at a public Title I meeting Monday night.

Title I is a federal program that gives schools, based on census poverty estimates and a state’s education cost, with a large low-income population financial assistance, according to a handout provided by the district.

“Our goals for the Title I program are to increase parent and community involvement, maintain highly qualified teachers and improve reading comprehension and math fluency,” he said. “The community involvement, the Facebook page is helping us there. This is a small thing, but the cafeteria started serving an alternate meal. Instead of just the main line, we’re having a choice and we’ve got increased participation in the cafeteria from the kids.”

The superintendent said the federal funds are used to pay two remediation teachers and a district parent coordinator, buy technology and computer programs to promote retention and provide other programs.

“We have materials if we have any students who are declared homeless. We do not right now. We have the retention bonus to maintain highly qualified teachers. The after school program, that’s based on Dr. Colen’s program (from) last year. This year, it’s already started. It’s five days a week and it’s from 3 to 6 everyday,” Alphin said.

To comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Arkansas Department of Education is doing away with the “academic distress” label. Schools who under-performed on standardized tests bore this label, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. ESSA is a federal law that gives administrations a holistic approach to measuring school success and growth.

Gardner Strong Elementary, labeled a focus school, is one of the Title I schools with the largest achievement gap among targeted groups. Strong High School, currently a priority school, is one of the Title I schools with the lowest performance over a three-year period, according to the department of education.

“We’re still going to fix it, but it’s going to be a more supportive role from the ADE, which we’re looking forward to,” he said.

The district will continue to use the Diagnostic Reading Assessment to determine K-6 reading levels, Edmentum to determine growth in 3-12 students and ACT Aspire interim testing to determine progress before the state mandated test. Strong-Huttig will work with El Dorado teachers to ensure that they’re interpreting ACT Aspire data in the best way, he said.

“The DRA, that’s the one that we’ve been using and the state has asked that we put reading levels on report cards twice a year … The Renaissance Star is the new state requirement for K-2 and we’re working with the representative, but they have not rolled out the materials we’re going to use yet.”

Because the school board was unable to make a quorum, the board meeting has been rescheduled at 6 p.m. Sept. 25 in the high school library.

Brittany Williams can be reached at 870-862-6611 or Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook @BWilliamsEDNT.

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