University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

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Science and ITBS Results: Not great news…

In The View from the OEP on August 26, 2015 at 12:01 pm


While the majority of test scores for Arkansas students won’t be released until later this fall because of PARCC standard setting, scores are currently available for:

  • Science Benchmark (grades 5 and 7)
  • Biology End-of-Course and
  • ITBS scores (grades 1 and 2)

Here at OEP we took a look at student performance on these assessments and shared the results in today’s Policy Brief.

In a nutshell – it doesn’t look very good.

science graph

While there was a slight increase in 5th grade science proficiency over the scores from 2013-14, the 7th grade proficiency rates continue to decline.  Only 34% of Arkansas students scored met proficiency expectations in science this year.

Biology EOC scores remained consistent with 2013-14 performance, but only 46% of Arkansas high school students demonstrated proficiency in 2014-15.  This is consistent with the ACT results released today showing only 32% of Arkansas’ graduating class met college ready benchmarks in Science, and it is interesting to note that this percentage also remained consisted with the ACT science scores for 2014 graduates.

Scores also declined for first and second grade students in reading, language and math on the norm-referenced Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).  In some cases the declines are substantial (first grade language scores falling over a dozen percentile ranks), while in other subject areas the decline of one or two national percentile ranks may seem slight. The 2014-15 results, however, continue a downward slide in all subjects since the ITBS was reinstated in Arkansas in 2010-11.

ITBS reading

What are we to make of these disheartening results?

Some folks may be wondering, are Common Core Standards (CCSS) to be blamed?

Science performance should not be impacted by CCSS. CCSS are English Language Arts and math standards. Arkansas science standards and science assessments have not changed due to CCSS.  It is possible, however, that schools are spending less time on science instruction as they implement CCSS.  Another possibility is that schools are focusing more on literacy and mathematics because those subjects “count” in accountability calculations.

ITBS declines, however, may be due to the implementation of CCSS.  Arkansas students are being taught CCSS in ELA and math, but the ITBS was not developed to measure those standards.  This disconnect, between what teachers are teaching and what the ITBS is measuring, could be a factor in the declining scores for our first and second grade students.

What’s Next?

Such a disconnect between standards and the assessment being used to measure student performance may occur next year in science. Although new science standards have been adopted, teachers will continue to teach the Arkansas standards during the next year, but Arkansas will be using the ACT Aspire to assess student performance in science instead of the Benchmark Science Exams that we have been using. ACT Aspire does not measure the Arkansas science standards, so there will be a lack of alignment between the standards and the assessment which may lead to deflated scores.

ITBS will continue to be the assessment for students in first and second grades until a new test is selected. Although a new, more aligned assessment is needed, it is important that Arkansas continue assessing students in these early grades so interventions can help them get back on track before they fall too far behind their peers.  While some teachers and education leaders may dismiss the declining results due to a lack of alignment between the standards they are teaching and the ones being measured by ITBS, these results are all we have to tell us how our young students are progressing, and it’s not great news.

Here at the OEP we hope kids don’t get lost in the shuffle of assessments.  We suggest districts use a high quality interim assessment to consistently track student progress as the new assessments and new standards are implemented.  Unless you have multiple valid and reliable data points, there’s no way to determine if students are on track for success.

Find detailed school and district benchmark assessment results here, EOC Biology results here, and ITBS results here.

Recap: House and Senate Ed. Committee August Meeting

In The View from the OEP on August 17, 2015 at 9:20 pm

The education committees of the Arkansas House and Senate met jointly last week and heard updates on TESS implementation, Arkansas Teacher Corps, and the new “panic button” emergency alert system.

TESS Implementation Feedback

 tess logo

Teachers, staff, and administrators shared their opinions about TESS design and implementation in 29 focus groups last spring. ADE Assistant Commissioner Ivy Pfeffer and Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Vice President Andy Baxter reported participants’ overall view that TESS is a good system with room for improvement. Among the key findings were the advantages of TESS in clarifying teaching standards and providing a paperless platform, while the time involved and the need for structural and cultural changes in schools were cited as opportunities for growth. Focus groups were conducted in eight locations with 197 participants from 91 school districts. Read the full report.

Arkansas Teacher Corps

Arkansas Teacher CorpsTeacher Corps logo (ATC) is an accelerated teacher-training program for highly qualified individuals who want to apply their education and career experience to classrooms in economically disadvantaged communities. ATC Faculty Advisor Gary Ritter and Executive Director Benton Brown told legislators that the program’s 48 teachers working in 26 schools and 19 districts have backgrounds in engineering, biology, business, music, languages, and other fields. In its three-year history, ATC has received more than 500 requests for teachers, and the presenters asked legislators to help spread the word about ATC to prospective applicants in their districts.

Panic Button Alert System

 A spokesperson for Rave Mobile Safety gave education committee members a progress report on implementation of the company’s “panic button” alert system in public schools as provided in the 2015 School Safety Act. Because the panic button feature allows a caller to notify 911 and school officials simultaneously, the system initiates security measures more quickly and reduces emergency response time. More than 600 school personnel participated in a July training webinar, and more training opportunities will be available. The planned launch date is September 1.

[Documents presented at education committee meetings are available through the Past Meetings link on the House and Senate education committees’ web pages.]

Summer Summary

In The View from the OEP on August 12, 2015 at 9:37 am


As teachers and students throughout the state return to classrooms, here at the OEP we wanted to be sure everyone was up to speed on the significant events in Arkansas education that occurred over the summer.

  • Common Core is here to stay (at least for now):  The Governor’s Council on Common Core released its Findings and Recommendations.  The Council recommended that Arkansas keep the Common Core State Standards in place but conduct “a comprehensive review of the standards with the goal of revising, improving and replacing, as warranted, both the Mathematics and ELA [English Language Arts] standards.”  As Commissioner Key noted, ADE was already scheduled to review the ELA and mathematics standards as part of the annual standards review process.
  • ACT Aspire is the new test:  Students in grades 3-10 will complete the ACT Aspire in ELA [English Language Arts], Mathematics, and science beginning in April.  After some controversy, the State Board approved the new assessment system in early July.  ACT Aspire replaces the PARCC tests that were administered for the first time last spring, as well as the 5th and 7th grade Benchmark science exams, and the Biology End Of Course exam. For more information about ACT Aspire, see our policy brief and the ADE’s resources. New assessments are expected to be implemented next year for students in grades K-2, but 1st and 2nd graders will still be taking the ITBS this spring.
  • ACT free but not required: Although the reputation and national comparability of ACT were key points in the move to a new assessment system, the ACT is not a required assessment.  The test will be FREE for any 11th grader who chooses to take it, however, and can be used for all scholarship/ admission purposes. OEP suggests that all districts take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate their students’ readiness for College and Careers and promote the ACT for all students. We also hope that parents and students would take full advantage of this opportunity and sign up for the FREE ACT in March.
  • Science Standards approved: New science standards for Kindergarten through 8th grade were approved by the State Board in June.  Current Arkansas science standards remain in place for the 2015-16 school year, with the new standards being implemented next year for Kindergarten-4th grades and in 2017 for 5th-8th grades.
  • Arkansas granted one-year renewal of ESEA waiver: One immediate implication for Arkansas schools is that ADE will identify Needs Improvement Priority, Needs Improvement Focus, and Exemplary schools.  The Needs Improvement Priority schools include schools with the lowest performance over 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14.  The Needs Improvement Focus schools include schools with the largest TAGG/Non-TAGG achievement gaps. PARCC results will not be used for these determinations this year.
  • Computer Science development:  Under Act 187, schools must offer at least one computer science course at the high school level beginning this school year.   ADE is reimbursing the $120 fee for the first 200 Arkansas educators who pass the Praxis™ Computer Science assessment and add the area to their Arkansas Educator’s License. While more teachers may be preparing to take advantage of this great opportunity for themselves and their students, 25 teachers attempted the test in July, and only 5 passed it. Many schools will still have to rely on virtual instruction options since they don’t have a teacher certified to teach Computer Science.  For more information about this issue, check out the ADE’s FAQ.
  • Broadband improvements: Improvements to the APSCN system are underway, with Ft. Smith School District the first to be connected into the new high speed broadband fiber optic cable.  All schools are expected to be connected by July, 2017.

OEP is looking forward to a great year for Arkansas students and educators!

OEP/OIE 2015 Conference Recap and Resources

In The View from the OEP on June 17, 2015 at 1:53 pm

While many teachers and students alike hail summer as a time to relax and renew (as they should), we also recognize that the time away from school presents an excellent opportunity to develop ourselves as educators and education policymakers.

That is one reason why the Office for Education Policy, along with the Office of Innovation for Education, hosted its annual conference last Wednesday at the beautiful Heifer International in Little Rock. Over 100 educators and policymakers came together to discuss “Student Learning and Assessment: Helping Students Gain the Knowledge They Need for College and Careers.”

Thank you so much to our conference guests and presenters for making the 2015 conference a huge success! In this post, we recap the information presented and share resources from our presenters.

Dr. Gary Ritter, Faculty Director at the Office for Education Policy, welcomed conference attendees and framed objectives for the day. He reminded us that strong education policy promotes strong educational outcomes and encouraged conference-goers to collaborate, to ask and answer difficult questions about the achievement gap, and to continue pushing themselves, their schools, and students in the state of Arkansas. To see his presentation from the conference click here: (Spoiler alert… there is a funny joke in the presentation, so you really should check it out!)

Morning sessions included an update on assessment by Hope Allen, Director of Student Assessment with the Arkansas Department of Education and “TESS/LEADS Updates” with Sandra Hurst, Director of Educator Effectiveness with the Arkansas Department of Education. Dr. Allen discussed the uncertain fate of the PARCC assessment in Arkansas, and stated that the decision to replace PARCC with ACT and ACT Aspire assessments was pending. Regardless of the assessment decision, however, Dr. Allen stated, “Continue good quality teaching and the test will take care of itself.” Dr. Hurst’s presentation focused on changes to teacher evaluation systems in Arkansas. She discussed the addition of the PGP (Personalized Growth Plan) that will focus on teacher’s unique areas for professional development as opposed to a blanket development plan that is less likely to target a teacher’s specific talents and areas of improvement.

Denise Airola, Director of the Office of Innovation for Education at the University of Arkansas, and Alan Lytle, ELL Assessment Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Education, hosted the next sessions. During her presentation, “Innovation in Education: What’s New and What’s News,” Dr. Airola stated that the goal of the Office of Innovation is to “create a statewide learning community and build relationships to support innovative education.” You can learn more about the Office of Innovation here. Dr. Lytle provided a brief history of English Language Learners in the state of Arkansas and shared information about the ELPA21, a new assessment system that will be available next year for to measure English Language Proficiency.

The panel presentation, “The Impact of Next Generation Assessment on Accountability, Awards and Recognition Programs,” included Senator Jim Hendren, Annette Barnes the Assistant Commissioner of Public School Accountability with the Arkansas Department of Education, and Barbara Hunter-Cox the Director of Teaching and Learning with the Arkansas Public School Resource Center. Scott Smith, Executive Director of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, moderated the discussion. The panel provided an in-depth analysis of the A-F school rating system, discussed how the system accounts for “proficiency and growth” in schools, and also answered various questions from audience members. Megan Witonski, Assistant Superintendent for Innovation, Accountability and STEM at Springdale Public Schools and Joe Rollins, Principal at Springdale School of Innovation, reminded us in their presentation “Innovative Education” that “…students want relationships with their educators, personalization, 21st Century skills, and multiple pathways to careers.”

Conference guests listened to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s keynote address and posed many evocative and important questions about the future of education in Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson opened his address stating, “I want to be known as the ‘jobs governor of Arkansas.’ That starts with education,” and his presentation included updates on the push for computer science education and improved internet quality and access in our public schools, in addition to pre-K funding and college remediation rates in the natural state.

Following lunch, Katy Seifritz, Instructional Facilitator with Fayetteville Public Schools, discussed “Using NWEA MAP for Secondary Student Success” and Haley Weaver, a second grade teacher also with Fayetteville Public Schools, presented on the “PK-2 Assessment in Arkansas.” Ms. Seifritz suggested early screening for students and both sessions highlighted the importance of using standardized testing results to differentiate instruction and push students who are at different levels. Tracy Tucker, Superintendent with Hermitage School District, also posed the question “College and Career Readiness Standards: Why Not?” in her afternoon presentation.

The Office for Education Policy and Office of Innovation for Education are so glad that educators and policymakers were able to come together and discuss student learning and assessment.  We are already planning our conference for next year and look forward to seeing you there!

While we hope you continue taking advantage of all the summer fun, make sure you check out presentations from the conference listed above and don’t forget to come back to our blog!

Full Agenda Available for June 10th OEP/OIE Conference!

In The View from the OEP on June 3, 2015 at 2:18 pm

The full agenda is now available for the 2015 Office for Education Policy (OEP)/Office of Innovation for Education (OIE) Conference Student Learning and Assessment: Helping Students Gain the Knowledge They Need for College and Careers. The conference will take place one week from today on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at Heifer International in Little Rock. Register now

OEP/OIE Conference

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Heifer International

9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Policymaker-Focused Sessions and Lunch: 9:00 AM to 12:45 PM

Educator-Focused Sessions and Lunch: 11:45 AM to 3:00 PM

Registration begins at 8:30 AM

There is no cost to attend, but space is limited. Register now


conference agenda 1


conference agenda 2





OEP and OIE Conference on June 10th – Register Now!

In The View from the OEP on May 20, 2015 at 11:48 am


The 2015 OEP Conference will be on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at Heifer International in Little Rock!

We are very excited about partnering with the Office of Innovation for Education on this year’s theme of Student Learning and Assessment.

We will have speakers and panels that focus on understanding current landscape and policies relevant to student learning and assessment. In addition, you will find perspectives regarding where learning and assessment may be headed next!  The conference will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions targeted toward specific audiences: policymakers in the morning and educators (school administrators, principals and teachers) in the afternoon. Morning sessions will start at 9am and afternoon sessions will start at 1pm.

The list of presenters includes:

  • Governor Asa Hutchinson
  • Denise Airola, Director, Office of Innovation for Education, University of Arkansas
  • Hope Allen, Director of Student Assessment, Arkansas Department of Education
  • Alan Lytle, Public School Program Advisor- English Language Learners Assessment Specialist, Arkansas Department of Education
  • Katy Seifritz, Instructional Facilitator, Fayetteville Public Schools
  • Tracy Tucker, Superintendent, Hermitage School District
  • Megan Witonski, Assistant Superintendent for Innovation, Accountability, and STEM, Springdale Public Schools

Lunch will be provided from 11:45-12:45 for those who would like to enjoy cross-audience discussion and Governor Hutchinson as speaker!

There is no cost to attend, but space is limited; DO NOT delay! Register now!

Are there good post-secondary options other than the traditional 4-yr degree?

In The View from the OEP on May 20, 2015 at 10:59 am

Is earning a 4-year degree the pathway to the highest earning potential in a given field? Researchers studying the state of Colorado have sought to answer this and have found that there are varying post-secondary options that take less time than the traditional four-year path, but can be more financially rewarding. Researchers from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) have recently published their research on this topic, entitled “Education Pays in Colorado: Earnings 1,5 and 10 years after college” . Their analysis tracks the yearly earnings of Colorado residents that earned varying degrees or certifications in the state 1, 5 and 10 years after graduation. The authors found that there are numerous options in the state of Colorado for students who are looking for alternatives to achieving a 4-year degree. Perhaps surprisingly, some of these options pay quite well!


Figure 1 above is a snippet from the AIR study, illustrating the earnings for those at varying educational attainment levels. The figure shows that, during the first five years of their career, those with an Associate Degree in Applied Science have higher earnings than do their peers with Bachelor’s Degrees. Even ten years later, employees with Associate’s degrees ($54,146) earn nearly as much each year as do their peers with Bachelor’s degrees ($55, 287).

If we choose to look at the data on a more micro scale, occupation by occupation, we can pinpoint fields in which those with Associate’s degrees or post-secondary certificates earn particularly good annual wages. Table 1 and 2 below illustrate examples of this.


Students that have graduated with a 1-2 year certificate in legal support services, criminal justice and corrections, allied health diagnostic, intervention and treatment professions have higher median earnings than the statewide median.


Table 2 shows that graduates with an associate’s degree of applied science in nursing, allied health diagnostics and fire protection earned more statewide 1, 5 and 10 years after graduation. For a more in depth look at the research, you can read the article posted by American Institutes for Research which illustrates the earning potential of varying degree programs in comparison to each other.

Last year at this time (May 2014), we at the OEP hosted our annual conference on this topic. Our objective for the conference was to encourage conversations among policy makers about innovative ways to prepare all K-12 students for future success. The keynote speaker, Raphael Rosenblatt of “Year Up” spoke of the initiatives they are a part of in Massachusetts, also presenting alternatives to earning 4-year bachelor degrees. He noted that there are those that are low income, primarily people of color, that are unable attend a 4-year college due to varying factors. One of the key phrases in his presentation was: “Sending people to college is not the same thing as preparing them for success in this world.” Therefore, those at Year Up do not simply aim to push participants through college, but also to help the students grow into adults who are able to navigate the challenges of the working world effectively.

Year Up is an organization that seeks to provide every urban young adult with the opportunity to access education, experiences, and the guidance required in order to reach their full potential in the real world. Year Up partners with future employers who highlight the skills needed in a future employee and crafts a program that allows each participant to be embedded with the skill needed to fill those future roles. It has been noted that those that graduate from a 4-year college do not necessarily possess the skills needed to fill those roles.

Year Up is crafted around these parameters to ensure that its participants embody these characteristics needed to be successful at their jobs. Not only do the participants gain college credits through the program, but they are counseled and prepared to effectively interface with the real world and potential employers in the future. Visit the Office for Education Policy website where you will be able to view the presentation by Raphael Rosenblatt in its entirety.

We at the OEP have no idea about the best way to prepare ALL students for college or career, but we are pretty certain that most Arkansas schools have a great deal of room to improve in this area!

Rankings, and status, and grades! Oh my!

In The View from the OEP on May 13, 2015 at 1:01 pm

ltbThe last month has been chock-full of information about how Arkansas schools are performing, and we have gotten a lot of questions about how to interpret the flood of sometimes confusing (and sometimes conflicting) information. Yesterday, U.S. News & World Report released their annual “Best High Schools” rankings, and some folks are wondering what does the ranking mean and how it compares to the A-F letter grades and ESEA school status information released last month?

Our answer: You can only judge the information if you understand what is being measured. This blog post is going to summarize how U.S. News & Wold Report rankings are calculated and compare them to the letter grades and ESEA status information. Arkansas had 102 high schools ranked by U.S News: 1 gold medal, 23 silver medals, and 78 bronze medals. Among the “top 10” Arkansas high schools, state letter grades ranged from A to C, and nine of the ten were identified as Needs Improvement.  Compared to last year, even our “Best” high schools fell in the national rankings behind other high schools across the country.

First, congratulations to those Arkansas high schools that made the Best High School list!  Below are the Top 10 in Arkansas:

#1: Haas Hall Academy

#2: Bentonville High School

#3: Rogers High School

#4: Lakeside High School

#5: Rogers Heritage High School

#6: Benton County School of the Arts

#7: Parkers Chapel High School

#8: Centerpoint High School

#9: Prairie Grove High School

#10: KIPP: Delta Collegiate High School

What do the U.S. News rankings mean?

Before we answer, keep in mind that the U.S. News rankings are based on state assessment data from the 2012-13 school year, so the ranking is reflecting student performance from nearly 2 years ago. There are three aspects to the ranking: 1) the performance of students on state assessments in literacy and mathematics; 2) the performance of disadvantaged student subgroups; 3) the degree to which high school prepare students for college by offering a college-level curriculum.

Schools must pass the first step by performing better than expected based on their student population in order to continue in the ranking process.

STEP 1: Identify High Schools Performing Better than Expected

To determine if schools are performing better than expected, U.S. News created a Performance Index for each high school by examining student performance on state assessments, and compared it to the percentage of students participating in Free/Reduced Lunch Programs (which are an indicator of low socioeconomic status). This model reflects the understanding that students who face economic challenges outside of school are typically less likely to achieve at the same levels at their peers who do not face economic hardships.  We are going to skip the details, but you can read more about it here.

The figure below represents Arkansas high schools’ school-level Performance Index scores plotted against the school percentage of students participating in Free/Reduced Lunch Programs. usnews2Blue dots on the graph represent schools performing higher than expected, red dots are schools performing as expected, and green dots represent high schools performing lower than expected given the percentage of students participating in FRLP (FYI- we would have made the color-coding more representative of performance!)

The blue dot on the far left side is easily identified as Haas Hall because they are the only high school in the state that reports 0% of students participating in FRLP. The Performance Index for Haas Hall is 140, which is 20 points above the expected performance. As you move to the right side of the graph, the percentage of students participating in FRLP increases. At the far right hand side of the graph are dots representing schools with 100% of students participating in FRLP. The highest blue dot on the right hand side shows a school whose enrollment is entirely low-income, but whose Performance Index is nearly 40 points higher than expected!

Only schools whose Performance Index is ABOVE the light blue performance zone are represented by blue dots and passed on to the next step. This is the critical step for Arkansas high schools. The majority of Arkansas schools do no pass this step, and are unranked. This year, 110 (39%) of Arkansas high school were performing above expectations and move on to Step 2 of the ranking.

STEP 2: Identify High Schools Performing Better than State Average for Their Least Advantaged Students

For this step, the performance of African American, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students on the state assessments are compared to state averages.  Schools where these disadvantaged students are performing as well or better than state averages are automatically considered bronze-medal high schools and move on to Step 3 of the ranking to determine silver or gold medal.

STEP 3: Identify High Schools That Performed Best in Providing Students with Access to Challenging College-Level Coursework

For this final step, the participation of 12th grade students in AP or IB examinations is examined.

How do the rankings compare to  ESEA status and letter grades? 

Rankings, status and letter grades are based on different years and different models, so they aren’t directly comparable but may add to the understanding of a school’s performance over two years and multiple measures of performance.

The Big Difference is that the letter grades and status are based on the most recent data (from 2013-14), while the the U.S. News rankings are based on state assessment data from the 2012-13 school year.

Another difference is that letter grades (A-F) for high schools incorporate graduation rate for high schools!  The number of performance targets being met by the school and the gap between at-risk students and their peers who are not at risk are also considered in the letter grade model. If you want to know more details about the letter grades, read our policy brief.

ESEA status measures if schools are meeting individualized performance targets, and assigns Achieving only to schools that are meeting all performance targets.

Even though the data are from different years and use different criteria, we know that you are still interested in the letter grades and status for those top 10 high schools in the state, so they are presented below:

Arkansas Ranking (US News): School Name: A-F Letter Grade: ESEA Status

#1: Haas Hall: A: Achieving

#2: Bentonville High School: B: Needs Improvement

#3: Rogers High School: B: Needs Improvement

#4: Lakeside High School: A: Needs Improvement

#5: Rogers Heritage High School: C: Needs Improvement

#6: Benton County School of the Arts: A: Needs Improvement

#7: Parkers Chapel High School: B: Needs Improvement

#8: Centerpoint High School: C: Needs Improvement

#9: Prairie Grove High School: C: Needs Improvement

#10: KIPP: Delta Collegiate High School: B: Needs Improvement

So…what does it all mean?

It is challenging to measure school performance. There are lots of different models, and to determine if it is important to you and your community you need to understand what is being measured.

It is not surprising that there is variation between the U.S. News rankings, the letter grades, and status given that they use different data and represent different criteria. It is interesting that there are no ‘D’ or ‘F’ schools in the top 10. It is also informative that only 1 of the “top 10” schools were identified as Needs Improvement under ESEA status, reflective of how few schools across the state were identified as Achieving in 2014. This is one of the reasons why here at the OEP, we appreciate the Letter Grades – it includes more varied criteria and provides more information about student performance than “Needs Improvement.”

In the same thought, we like the U.S. News rankings because it provides information that can be helpful! We want to know which high schools are performing better than expected, serving their most disadvantaged students and preparing kids for college. We also like being able to compare to other high schools across the country.  It is a somewhat clumsy comparison, howvever, since each state currently uses a different test to measure performance, and we look forward to the day when cross- state comparisons are facilitated by common assessments. We DON’T like that the data used by U.S. News are nearly two years old and hope that stakeholders will keep that in mind as they search for their school on the “Best” list.

2015 OEP Conference Registration Is Open!

In The View from the OEP on May 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

The 2015 OEP Conference will be on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at Heifer International in Little Rock!

We are very excited about partnering with the Office of Innovation for Education on this year’s theme of Student Learning and Assessment. We will have speakers and panels that focus on understanding current landscape and policies relevant to student learning and assessment. In addition, you will find perspectives regarding where learning and assessment may be headed next!

The conference will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions targeted toward specific audiences: policymakers in the morning and educators (school administrators, principals and teachers) in the afternoon. Morning sessions will start at 9am and afternoon sessions will start at 1pm.

Lunch will be provided from 11:45-12:45 for those who would like to enjoy cross-audience discussion and Governor Hutchinson as speaker!

There is no cost to attend but space is limited, so do not delay! Register now!

Broadband in Arkansas Schools Picking Up Speed

In The View from the OEP on May 13, 2015 at 10:02 am


Arkansas public schools will be getting faster, more secure and cost-effective Internet access through a seemingly unlikely source… APSCN.  More than 20 telecommunication contractors will begin work this summer to connect the state’s school districts to the aggregate network using fiber optic cable, an effort that gained momentum from an influx of federal funds to improve all students’ access to technology-based learning. Most districts will be connected by the end of the 2015-16 school year, and the overall project will be completed by July 2017, according to a joint news release from the state’s information systems and education agencies.

No one disputed that Arkansas schools needed better broadband to prepare students to prosper in a high-tech world, but studies sponsored by various interests differed on the best way to structure and pay for a system that can grow along with the demand. DIS Director Mark Myers and ADE Commissioner Johnny Key wrote in a recent editorial that Governor Asa Hutchinson instructed their departments to pursue the statewide aggregated network approach.

The Arkansas Public Schools Computer Network began in 1992 as an administrative tool for school districts and ADE, an era when the need for Internet service to every child in every classroom seemed extravagant. APSCN eventually added Internet access to its service offerings, but districts turned to private providers for additional bandwidth when demand outgrew the capacity of the APSCN system.

Though DIS and ADE routinely sought bids for Internet service, the invitation this spring was more attractive to vendors of all sizes who could bid to provide service to any number of districts and for multi-year contracts that would allow cost increases as demand grows.  The state’s effort is aimed at connecting school districts to central hubs around the state, and districts are responsible for connecting their schools to the district hub. Most of the cost is expected to be reimbursed through federal funding, including e-rate dollars.

Work is set to begin July 1, and Arkansas schools may soon lead the nation in offering computer science education and the infrastructure to make it happen.


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