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!