Conway Public Schools received an A grade from the Arkansas Policy Foundation in its annual ranking of school districts for the 2007-2008 school year. This is the third year in a row Conway has received an A ranking from the nonprofit agency.

Conway is one of nine districts in the state to receive an A ranking and one of 17 to receive either an A or an A minus. It is ranked fifth in the state, following Lake Hamilton, Bentonville, Pottsville and Fayetteville.

Greg Kaza, executive director of the Arkansas Policy Foundation, said, "Our nonprofit organization would encourage the study of successful districts … the idea being that those instructional methods could be used by the administrators, teachers and students in struggling districts."

Dr. Greg Murry, superintendent of Conway Public Schools, said, "I truly believe our staff puts out a tremendous effort to educate each and every child of this district. That’s where the credit really needs to go."

He said he learned about the ranking about three weeks ago.

"It’s tremendous," he said. "It’s a testimony to the great work that our folks do and the great school district that Conway has that has been developed over time. Over time our district has performed well, and it’s something that our district can be very, very proud of."

Asked about any specific programs the district does well, Murry said, "I think it really is not a program as much as quality people in the classroom and focusing on what those kids need to know and need to be able to do. We’ve been able to focus our efforts over the past few years and hone our skills to make sure we’re teaching our kids exactly what they need to be able to know and to be successful in the future."

The Arkansas Policy Foundation was formed in 1995. Kaza said after three years of study, in 1998, the group’s education subcommittee made a series of recommendations about K-12 education in Arkansas.

"We don’t lobby. We’re in the idea business. We make recommendations. We give away our research. We spur discussion," he said.

One of the committee’s recommendations in 1998 was that every school district in the state receive a letter grade so the best districts could be recognized and their teaching methods identified. In this way, best practices could be shared with those that are not A districts and with struggling districts, he said.

The Legislature decided in 2003 to start a number system of rating schools, and that will begin this school year, Kaza said.

"We applaud their going ahead with this and actually starting a grading system," he said.

Also in Faulkner County, Greenbrier and Vilonia received B plus ratings. Mayflower received a B. Mount Vernon-Enola and Guy-Perkins received C plus ratings.

According to a report from the Arkansas Policy Foundation, districts earning A and A minus grades are performing at a level significantly higher than average. Those receiving B plus, B or B minus are performing somewhat above average. Districts ranked C plus, C or C minus grades are performing at an average level. Those with grades of D plus, D or D minus have significant room for improvement. Districts receiving F grades are considered failing.

In the state, 72 districts received grades of B plus, B or B minus; and 117 districts earned grades of C plus, C or C minus. D plus and D grades were assigned to a total of 15 districts. Nine districts in the state received an F grade. 

To view the report and the rankings chart, go to arkansaspolicyfoundation.org.

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)