Little Rock Central High

The school board is elected by citizens to set goals for the district. That board then hires a superintendent to implement those goals. The board follows up from time to time to assess how well the superintendent is doing.

On Thursday night, the school board heard a report on how much progress Superintendent Jermall Wright and his team are making on the goal of offering more Advanced Placement and other classes that can qualify for college credits, and boosting the number of minority students in those classes. Prioritizing this goal shows that the board understands our past failures to encourage Black and Latino kids to take our AP and other advanced courses.  


An evaluation of the Little Rock School District’s Advanced Placement courses found that we rely on counselors to place students and don’t offer open enrollment for all academically prepared students who might be interested. The evaluation revealed the district is weak at recruiting minority students for these advanced classes, and  that we have no academic structures in place to help students who might take advanced classes but are underprepared. 

And finally, the evaluation notes that the district had inequitable distribution of AP classes in our different schools. For example, Central has 37 AP classes on offer.  Southwest only has 15.


We have always justified this difference in the number of classes by saying that we only offer classes students demand. What this report shows us is that we have not encouraged African-American and Latino kids to take advanced classes. It is not the responsibility of kids to demand classes that will make them richer humans, it is the responsibility of the adults in the district to create excitement around these classes and encourage all of our kids to take them.

In terms of hard data, the district reports that we have 3,454 African-American students in grades nine through 12 and that only 745 of them are in AP courses. That is 21.56%. We have 1,020 white students in grades nine through 12, and 525 of them are in AP classes, which is 51.47% You can see the inequity in these numbers. When we look at the 1,085 Hispanic kids in LRSD’s high schools, only 225 of them are in AP classes, which is 20.73 percent. We can see what years of academic neglect by the district has done to our minority students.  


To end this inequity, students will soon be able to enroll in AP classes and concurrent credit classes that are not offered on their own campuses. The district is going to identify students who would benefit from advanced classes a require each school to include tutoring for kids in all advanced classes. The district will set enrollment goals in advanced classes for each campus.  

It looks like we are going to begin to hold schools accountable for making sure underrepresented kids are placed in these classes and supported. Years ago, we had a similar initiative to place African American kids in advanced classes. We did not offer support systems for them and most of them failed or opted out. These tutoring support systems will be crucial for this plan to succeed.  


Board members also heard about high-impact tutoring. Not everything in the LEARNS Act is bad. One of the items that has the potential to help kids in our district is the High-Impact Tutoring (HIT) Grant Program.

High-impact tutoring is one of those fancy education terms, but it simply is a type of tutoring that supplements core instruction and meets the following criteria: There must be three or more tutoring sessions each week, it must be in a small group setting with a maximum of four students per tutor, it must have a consistent set of tutors assigned to students for the year and it has to occur during the school day.


The exciting news is that the Little Rock School District was awarded $782,550 through the HIT Grant program. Wright wants to use virtual HIT providers BookNook and Varsity Tutors.

The LRSD will employ BookNook to provide one literacy tutor per two students, and they will serve 500 students in grades three through five at Carver, Mabelvale, Otter Creek, Terry and Wakefield.


Varsity Tutors will provide one tutor for every two students. They will serve 300 ninth and 10th graders at the Accelerated Learning Center, Hall and Parkview and will tutor in algebra, geometry, English 1 and English 2.

This is a good move forward and I hope that the administration will monitor these programs and their implementation closely. We must make sure we are analyzing the data and getting reports on what is working.