University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Student Growth, Declining Enrollment & ELL: Topics from the Capital

In AR Legislature on October 7, 2015 at 10:51 am

ar legislature

The Arkansas House and Senate education committees met jointly this week and discussed reports of issues related to student growth, declining enrollment, and English Language Learners funding and expenditures. Reviews of these three topics are among the required elements of the state’s ongoing evaluation of education adequacy.

Student Growth and Declining Enrollment Funding

The state provides additional funding to help school districts with the financial aspects of rapidly changing enrollments. The number of districts receiving student growth funding has increased gradually since 2010, while the number receiving declining enrollment funding has decreased.  Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR) analysis showed that regular instructional programs and operations/maintenance accounted for most of the expenditures of both types of funding, and fund transfers to debt service was also a significant portion of districts’ expenditures of student growth funding.

Though they may receive only one type of funding per year, some districts are eligible for growth funding and declining enrollment funding in the same year. These shifts in student population are usually tied to family employment, according to BLR Assistant Director Richard Wilson.

English Language Learners Funding

In Arkansas, about 64% of school districts receive additional funding to support students who are not proficient in English. ELL funding may be used for salaries for ELL instruction, professional development, counseling services, instructional materials, and assessment, and BLR analysis indicates that per-student expenditures exceed per-student ELL funding by about 30%. Asked if the state is underfunding ELL programs, BLR Legislative Analyst Mandy Gillip said districts can carry over funding from one year to the next and can transfer funds from other categories such as NSL state funds. Overall, state assessment scores for ELL students have improved over the past six years, and NAEP scores show less of a gap between ELL and non-ELL students in Arkansas than in other states.

Links to BLR reports:

Student Growth    Declining Enrollment      ELL

OEP researchers are finalizing an in-depth analysis of public school funding. Watch for it!

OEP ‘Beating the Odds’ Awards

In The View from the OEP on September 30, 2015 at 11:52 am

Achievement Award_BTO in Science JPEGIn last week’s blog post, the OEP launched this year’s Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards), highlighting for the first time High Achieving schools in Science. This week we are awarding schools that are “Beating the Odds”, putting the spotlight on schools that serve low-income communities and are high-achieving in science.  Only schools where at least 66% of students participate in the free/reduced lunch program are considered for this award, and the achievement of these schools are again based in the 2014-15 Benchmark Science examination at the 5th and 7th grade level, and the EOC Biology exam.

Thirty-four schools were awarded for “Beating the Odds”, and twenty-two of them stem from the Northwest region of the state.
Springdale School District deserves a special mention as four of its schools have been deemed high-achieving schools in this category, ranking in the top 10 statewide in both the 7th grade Benchmark Science exam and the EOC Biology exam. Southwest Junior High has performed exceptionally well this year. Not only has it been ranked among the top ranking junior high schools in this category, but at 96% of students performing proficient/advanced in Biology it has been ranked the second high-achieving junior high school in EOC Biology even though 67% of students are enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program. Congratulations go out to you!

Norfork High School has also performed well this year as it has been ranked one of the top ten in the 7th grade Benchmark Science exam and the EOC Biology exam in this category. Norfork high has also been among the top 25 high-achieving high schools, despite the fact that 81% of its students participate in free/reduced lunch.

“Beating the Odds” schools

The highest achieving school in 5th grade benchmark science serving low-income communities is Alpena Elementary School in Alpena School District. A whopping 94% percent (vs 60% statewide) of students scored Proficient or Advanced (vs 60% statewide) with a school science GPA of 3.43.

The highest achieving school in the 7th grade benchmark science serving low-income communities is Atkins Middle School in Atkins School District. Fifty-nine percent of students scored Proficient/ Advanced (vs 34% statewide) with a school science GPA of 2.65.

The highest achieving high school in EOC Biology serving low-income communities is Des Arc High School in Des Arc School District. Fifty-nine percent of its students fall in the Proficient/ Advanced category with a school science GPA of 2.75.

The highest achieving junior high school in EOC Biology serving low-income communities is Southwest Jr. High School. Ninety-six percent (96%) of Southwest’s students scored Proficient/ Advanced, with an overall school science GPA of 3.40.

Congratulations go out to all of you for “Beating the Odds” and doing a job well done.  This is particularly impressive given that Science scores are not used in accountability determinations, and yet these schools continue to support high achievement for their students.

We at the OEP recognize that schools serving communities where students face academic challenges often receive lower proficiency rates performance on statewide examinations. This edition of the OEP awards is of great value to us as it gives us the opportunity to recognize schools that overcome those obstacles and succeed. It is our honor to esteem them and again offer our congratulations!

OEP Awards for High-Achieving Schools in Science

In The View from the OEP on September 23, 2015 at 11:03 am

OEP loves to celebrate schools across Arkansas with our Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards)! While we anticipate the results of the Math and English Language Arts PARCC exams, we are excited to announce the release the first of this year’s OEP awards: High-Achieving Schools in Science

Achievement Award_Science JPEG


We are awarding high-achieving schools for performance on the fifth and seventh grade science Benchmark exams and the Biology End-Of-Course exam. As we have discussed before, science proficiency varies by grade level, with fifth grade students much more likely to be proficient than the other groups. In light of this trend, we decided to divide the report into three sections: Fifth grade high achievers, Seventh grade high achievers, and Biology EOC high achievers. The top 25 performing schools in the state are recognized for each assessment, as well as the 5 highest achieving schools from each region.

The awards are based upon OEP’s GPA measure, as they have been for several years. The OEP calculates a GPA for schools in each subject based on the number of students that perform at each level on the Benchmark exam (advanced is assigned a “4”, proficient a “3”, basic a “2”, and below basic a “1). This provides more information than simple % proficient scores, rewarding schools for students scoring at all performance levels.

Schools represented in the high-achieving lists hail from every region of the state, although the Northwest region stood out with 36 schools represented for high achievement in science. Fifty-seven different districts are represented in the top rankings, and five school districts boast schools ranked in the top 25 on every science assessment:




Springdale and

Valley View.

Congratulations to these five school districts for reaching such high achievement levels in science throughout their systems!

Highest Achieving Schools

The highest achieving school in fifth grade science is Salem Elementary, in Salem School District! At Salem Elementary, 98% of students scored proficient or advanced on the science exam, with a GPA of 3.8. Statewide, only 60% of fifth graders scored proficient or advanced. Congratulations to the students and teachers of Salem Elementary!

The top achievement in seventh grade science goes to Lead Hill High School, which serves students from seventh to twelfth grades. At Lead Hill High, 73% of students scored proficient or advanced on the seventh grade science exam, earning a school GPA of 3.06. Statewide, only 34% of seventh graders scored proficient or advanced. Congratulations to the students and teachers of Lead Hill High!

The top achievement in Biology EOC is awarded to one High School and one Junior High. Biology EOC awards present a unique challenge because the assessment is taken by students at different grade levels, so we present two! The highest performing High School was Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville, where 95% of students scored proficient or advanced on the Biology EOC exams, earning a school GPA of 3.62. The highest performing Junior High was Ramay Junior High in Fayetteville Public Schools, where 96% of students scored proficient or advanced and earned a school GPA of 3.42.   Statewide, only 47% of students scored proficient or advanced on the Biology EOC exam. Congratulations to the students and teachers of Haas Hall and Ramay Junior High!

Sometimes awards for high-achieving schools are criticized for rewarding schools for the demographics of their students (schools serving fewer at-risk students receive the awards).  We are pleased to report, however, that many of our high-achieving science awards are to schools with substantial populations of students on Free/Reduced Lunch.  For example, Lead Hill has 72%,  Salem Elementary reports 65%, and Ramay Junior High has 55% of students participating in FRLP.   In our next release, we will award Arkansas schools that are “beating the odds”in science–that is, schools that are high achieving in science while serving high percentages of low-income students. Following that, we will highlight schools that are Most Improved in science.

As data from the PARCC assessments in English Language Arts and math become available, we will award schools for performance in those subjects as well. Until then, congratulations to all the high-achieving schools highlighted in the science awards!


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