Batesville School Board meeting: Test scores decrease from 2017 for grades 3-6; board also hears about proposed “big box store” tax loophole

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IMAGE: Katelyn Langston (middle) received the Arkansas Hands and Voices Rachel Sievers scholarship from the executive director Liana Robbins (left) and Rachel Sievers (right) at last night’s Batesville School Board meeting.
Article by Madeline Pyle

At last night’s Batesville School Board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Douglas noted in her curriculum report that the percentage of students in grades 3-6 ready or exceeding in English, reading, math, and science has dropped in 2019 compared to 2017 percentages.

For example, English dropped an average of seven percent for grades 3-6 from 2017 – 2019, while science dropped an average of 9.25 percent. Reading increased by one percent for third grade, but it decreased an average of six percent for grades 4-6 from 2017 – 2019. However, test scores for grades 8-10 generally increased in all four areas.

When members of the board asked about the decreases, Douglas explained this may be due to teachers adjusting to several changes, including new lesson units and intervention computer platforms. She said Central Magnet Elementary moving also contributed.

“I wish I had a definitive answer for you, but we changed a whole heck of a lot this past year,” she said. “We had a lot of turnover at a lot of our campuses…Anytime you teach a new curriculum, it just takes teachers a little bit to get used to it.”

To improve these results, Douglas says teachers will go through more training, and she thinks percentages will rise after teachers have another year to familiarize themselves with the curriculum.

“We will be looking at this with our campus teachers and going over these scores,” she added.

In other board news, the board adopted a resolution choosing the date to hold 2020 annual school elections on Nov. 3, 2020.

Batesville Superintendent Dr. Michael Hester addressed the board about the “Walmart Dark Store Loophole” and asked for members to spread awareness. The loophole refers to “big box stores” such as Walmart proposing to only be taxed for “the value on a store that has no product in it.” Hester said there will be a hearing for Walmart in Pulaski County on July 17 and July 18.

“They don’t want to be taxed on the products, just the building, and basically that cuts their corporate property taxes in half. We get $22,000 a year from our local Walmart and that [would be] cut in half.”

Calling the loophole a “big threat to the funding of education,” Hester added that if the loophole were passed, funding could “be passed on to the taxpayers.”

In other business, Board Director Dr. Wesley Beal was elected as the board’s 2019 – 2020 legislative liaison. The board also voted to appoint the following board designations: Superintendent Dr. Michael Hester as ex-officio financial secretary; Pam Gipson as district treasurer; Kristi Cox as the district’s 504 coordinator; and Drew Sandage as the district’s equity coordinator.

Towards the end of the meeting, Batesville High School graduate Katelyn Langston was presented with the first-ever Arkansas Hands and Voices Rachel Sievers scholarship. The scholarship goes to an Arkansas high school graduate who is deaf or hard of hearing pursuing a higher education.

Rachel Sievers presented the award to Langston and said Langston’s application “was definitely the strongest” of the applicants due to her academics and community service.

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