Black Caucus says state needs to address school problems at the source

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The black caucus met Wednesday to speak about the inequity of labeling the schools and how the is reinforcing a racial divide.

“What happens to a school when it gets an ‘F’ label on it,” says Senator Joyce Elliot.

Senator Elliot and other members of the caucus say the state’s method of labeling schools does more harm than it helps.

“Once a school is labeled it is a candidate for closing,” says Elliot. “It is a candidate for bringing in charter schools.”

Elliot says the state board’s proposed framework is divisive and is blatantly racist in effect. She points out that the majority of the failing or poorly graded schools are South of the 630 in predominantly African American neighborhoods.

Elliot adds that because Arkansas is not looking at the source of the poorly performing schools it’s not going to fix the underlying issue.

“You cannot have a framework built on three separate categories of schools and not understand that that is segregation,” says Elliot.

Ivy Pfeffer with the Arkansas Department of Education says the school letter grades are an important part of the state and federal accountability system.

“It’s a very good indicator that what we’re doing as a state is working and we’re moving the needle,” says Pfeffer.

According to Pfeffer, the most recent letter grades show more “A” rated schools and fewer “F’s”, but Elliot says just because you see some improvement it doesn’t mean long term success.

“You might have some success but it is pretty clear that you cannot simply just turn around a school that is struggling and not have them address the sources and maintain it,” says Elliot.

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