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Greenwood Schools Report Steady Growth, High Test Scores

The Greenwood School District has experienced steady enrollment growth, and its students can boast high academic and athletic achievement in the 2012-13 school year, Superintendent John Ciesla told the school board in an annual report to the public.

For the past school year, the district enrolled 3,592 kindergarten through 12th-grade students and 60 pre-kindergarten students, a 51-student increase over the 2011-12 school year. For the current year, Ciesla noted, the district enrolled 3,596 kindergarten through 12th-grade students and 92 pre-kindergartners, an overall 36-student hike. In the past decade, the district has grown by 13 percent or 415 students, he said Thursday.

The 270-student graduating class of 2012-13 was Greenwood’s largest, Ciesla said.

School awards in the past school year include a National Merit Scholarship winner; nine Governor’s Distinguished Scholars; $5.57 million in proffered scholarships with $3.2 million accepted, including $2.74 million in lottery-funded Arkansas Challenge Scholarships.

Ciesla said last year’s Greenwood High School Choir received eight superior ratings at the All-State competition; the Junior ROTC program ranked among the top 5 percent in the nation; and the Greenwood High School Band garnered 13 All-Region Concert Band, one All-State Jazz Band and three All-State Concert Band awards.

Westwood Elementary students garnered their share of awards. Ciesla said Westwood fourth- and fifth-graders ranked No. 1 nationally in the SUMDOG Math Competition. Westwood placed third regionally in the Stock Market Game, the third-graders took second place in the regional Quiz Bowl while the East Pointe Elementary fourth-graders grabbed first place.

Greenwood Junior High’s Chess Team ranked first in the region, and the high school EAST/Environmental and Spatial Technology students received a superior rating at their national competition, Ciesla said.

The high school Girl’s Golf team was the 6A East Conference and State champions.

High school wrestling garnered two All-State and one All-American selection. High school football won the 6A Conference and State championship, while the baseball team were the 6A/7A co-champions and a 6A State runner-up, Ciesla said.

Greenwood teachers won their share of awards, too, according to the report.

Football coach Rick Jones was chosen as National Coach of the Year.

Westwood teachers Kristi Langley, Amy Barker, Karen Benjamin and Cindy Koeth achieved National Board Certification.

Mary Beth Whipkey, Amy Barker and Tammy McDaniel received Mrs. Baird’s Teacher on the Rise awards.

And high school teachers Joann King, Jason Bridges, Nikki Adams, Alan McDonald, Michael Skaggs, Laurie Young and Angela Jones produces exceptional marks on students’ Advanced Placement tests, Ciesla said, grinning.

According to the College Board, AP exam scores range from 1 to 5 with a 5 being the equivalent of an A in the course and a 1 being the equivalent of an F. Students must score a 3, 4 or 5 to qualify for college credit for the course. In Arkansas, scores of 3 and above increased 8.6 percent for test takers last spring.

According to U.S. News and World Report, which listed Greenwood as “unranked” in its Best High Schools listing, 38 percent of Greenwood High School students took the 2013 AP tests and 57 percent received college-ready grades on them.

Ciesla noted that the district’s average ACT composite test score among its 2013 graduating class was 22.7, surpassing the state average of 20.2 and the national average of 20.9. ACT tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 36.

And, Ciesla said, although the district was ranked as needing improvement under the old No Child Left Behind annual improvement rankings for the year, a ranking that frustrated Greenwood teachers, Greenwood students’ average scores on the annual benchmark exams were at and above 90 percent.

East Hills Middle School Principal Beth Dixon agreed that the teachers are disheartened by the ranking. Dixon said 89 percent of the middle school teachers showed more than 50 percent growth in student achievement.

Ciesla said the state’s new student growth labeling process will better reflect actual district academic growth.

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