University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Summer is fun, but the Fall holds Promise

In The View from the OEP on June 20, 2018 at 2:10 pm

El Dorado Promis logo

We’re reaching the middle of summer—the time when college dorm room furniture starts popping up in prominent store displays and kids run past shelves of notebooks on sale because it’s too soon to be thinking about going back to school. While we’d all love an endless summer, classes, homework, and late night studying will again be the norm for college students across the state. For many students and families, the start of college brings anxiety not just about schoolwork, but about the rising cost of tuition and fees. According to the College Board, 60% of Bachelor’s recipients in the 2015-16 school year graduated with some debt. Concern about college debt may deter students from attending college, or it may lead students to work instead of study while in college. Thanks to the El Dorado Promise, hundreds of students coming to campus won’t have this anxiety impacting their postsecondary decisions.

The El Dorado Promise, announced in 2007, guarantees a full scholarship to all students who attend El Dorado School District from kindergarten through 12th grade, and a partial scholarship to students who attend at least from 9th-12th grade. The scholarship is capped at the maximum cost of tuition fees for an in-state resident at any public university in Arkansas—in the 2017-18 school year, this was a little over $9,000/semester. Students can combine this scholarship with other forms of financial aid, like the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship or Pell Grants, up to the full cost of attendance at any accredited university in the country. The Promise has impacted thousands of students from El Dorado since its establishment by Murphy Oil in 2007, and has now been around long enough for us to be able to analyze its impact.

In a recent paper and policy brief, we at the OEP asked what impact the El Dorado Promise has had on students’ postsecondary outcomes. Specifically, we wanted to know whether the Promise increased the rate at which El Dorado graduates enrolled in college and completed a Bachelor’s degree. To do this, we worked with folks at the El Dorado Promise office and the National Student Clearinghouse to gather data on whether students had received a Promise scholarship, if they went to college, and if they earned a BA within 6 years of graduating high school.

We can’t know the impact of a program like the Promise just by looking at how postsecondary enrollment and graduation rates have changed over time, because there are multiple factors that impact students’ college decisions—for example, during the Great Recession more people went to college to delay entering the workforce, and as the economy gradually recovered more people went straight to work after high school. So, we conducted what’s called a difference-in-differences analysis. We compared students who were eligible for the Promise (e.g. attended the district from at least 9th-12th grade) with students who weren’t eligible for the Promise (e.g. transferred to El Dorado in 10th grade or later). We examined the difference in college enrollment and completion rates between these two groups before the Promise was introduced (students who graduated between 2004 and 2006) and the difference in enrollment and completion rates between these two groups after the Promise was introduced (between 2007 and 2016 for enrollment, and 2007 and 2011 for completion). The descriptive results are shown in Figure 1. From this, it looks like the Promise was associated with a 16.5 percentage point increase in enrollment. That’s great news for El Dorado students!

pre and post promise chart

But, we wanted to be confident in our results, since students who were and were not eligible for the Promise could have been different in other ways besides mobility. We put this basic analysis into a regression framework, so we could control for things like high school GPA and student demographics. When we did this, we found that the Promise led to an 11.4 percentage point increase in enrollment, and a 10.7 percentage point increase in 6-year BA completion! 

In past work by folks at the OEP, we’ve found that the El Dorado Promise attracted families to the area, increasing enrollment in El Dorado Public Schools, and that the Promise led to a change in culture throughout the district—students, teachers, and parents are more focused on ensuring all students are ready for college. These efforts are paying off—the Promise is helping students get to and through college!

There’s a lot to celebrate about summer vacation—getting to spend time with your kids and/or friends, a chance to sleep in, and a reason to get outside. But there’s also a lot to look forward to in the Fall—including, for many students, a Promising postsecondary experience.

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Beating the Odds: High Achieving schools serving Low-Income Populations

In The View from the OEP on June 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm

BTO in ELA 2017BTO in Math 2017

We are so excited to release our “Beating the Odds” Outstanding Educational Performance Awards!  These special OEP awards are for schools whose students are demonstrating high academic growth despite serving a population where at least 66% of the students participate in the Free/ Reduced Lunch Program, which is based on low household income.  While poverty can negatively impact student success, the schools awarded today demonstrate that their students are “Beating the Odds.”  The highlights are below, and you can read the full report here.

This year, the OEP Awards highlight schools in Arkansas based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth rather than proficiency rates because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students .  Proficiency rates, even those that move beyond the ‘percent proficient’ like our OEP GPA and Arkansas’ weighted achievement score, are more correlated with student demographics than growth scores.

Although school-level growth scores are less related to the percentage of students at a school who are participating in Free/Reduced Lunch than achievement scores, a negative correlation does exist (-0.283).  This means that students at schools serving higher poverty populations are more likely than their peers at more affluent schools to demonstrate less academic growth than predicted. As can be seen in the scatter plot below, schools with higher FRL rates are more likely to receive lower growth scores.

Figure 1. Combined Content Growth Score by School % FRL, Arkansas Public Schools, 2017

Growth FRL

 

If we limit the plot to only those schools with 66% or more student participating in FRL, as presented in Figure 2, the relationship between poverty and growth essentially disappears. Although all of these schools are serving high poverty populations, there is wide variation in the amount of academic growth that students at the schools are demonstrating.

Figure 2. Combined Content Growth Score by School % FRL, High-Poverty Arkansas Public Schools, 2017

Growth BTO

We celebrate the state using this student-level growth model, and are pleased to be able to highlight how students are growing academically in schools across the state.  We hope that drawing attention to this growth information will spark discussions among stakeholders about how to ensure all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas students.

How are OEP awards different?

There are many lists of “Best Schools”, so why is the OEP’s list special?  It’s simple- we use the most recent assessment data and focus on student growth.  We examine growth specifically by content area because we think it is important to examine each subject separately and without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners (which should also be examined separately).  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

We celebrate two types of schools this year: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.

Today’s awards for schools “Beating the Odds” are based on the growth of students on the ACT Aspire Math and English Language Arts assessments.


“Beating the Odds” Elementary Level Schools

The top “Beating the Odds” elementary school overall is Salem Elementary from Salem School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 67% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  Salem Elementary students demonstrated the greatest growth of all elementary schools in the state on the ACT Aspire. Many of these top 10 Beating the Odds schools were also among the high growth elementary schools in the state, regardless of student demographics. The top 10 elementary schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Salem Elementary, Salem SD (67% FRL)
2. Central Elementary, Batesville SD (66% FRL)
3. Green Forest Elementary, Green Forest SD (84% FRL)
4. John Tyson Elementary, Springdale SD (77% FRL)
5. Bismarck Elementary, Bismarck SD (69% FRL)
6. Jones Elementary, Rogers SD (84% FRL)
7. Oscar Hamilton Elementary, Foreman SD (73% FRL)
8. Sonora Elementary, Springdale SD (70% FRL)
9. Jones Elementary, Springdale SD (98% FRL)
10. Wakefield Elementary, Little Rock SD (97% FRL)

You can find the top BTO elementary schools by subject and region in the full report.

“Beating the Odds” Middle Level Schools

Garland Learning Center from Hope School District is the top middle school beating the odds overall. Garland Learning Center serves a K-8 student population where 85% of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, and was among the  high growth middle schools in the state, regardless of student demographics.  The top 10 middle schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Garland Learning Center, Hope SD (85% FRL)
2. Beryl Henry Upper Elementary, Hope SD (89% FRL)
3. Little Rock Prep Academy Middle, Little Rock Prep Academy (86% FRL)
4. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% FRL)
5. Riverview Junior High, Riverview SD (74% FRL)
6. J.O. Kelly Middle, Springdale SD (87% FRL)
7. Cedarville Middle, Cedarville SD (73% FRL)
8. Oak Grove Middle, Paragould SD (74% FRL)
9. Nashville Junior High, Nashville SD (71% FRL)
10. William O. Darby Junior High, Fort Smith SD (93% FRL)

You can find the top BTO middle schools by subject and region in the full report.

 

“Beating the Odds” High School

The top high school beating the odds is Trumann High in Trumann School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 69% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, it is also among OEP’s top 20 high growth high schools throughout the state.  Trumann High students are demonstrating that they can achieve at levels similar to students who come from higher income communities. The top 10 high schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Trumann High, Trumann SD (69% FRL)
2. Southside Charter High, Southside SD (Independence) (68% FRL)
3. Danville High, Danville SD (70% FRL)
4. Timbo High, Mountain View SD (78% FRL)
5. Wilbur D. Mills High, Pulaski County Special SD (66% FRL)
6. Gosnell High, Gosnell SD (70% FRL)
7. Shirley High, Shirley SD (80% FRL)
8. Southwest Junior High, Springdale SD (71% FRL)
9. Augusta High, Augusta SD (84% FRL)
10. Des Arc High, Des Arc SD (66% FRL)

You can find the top BTO high schools by subject and region in the full report.

Congratulations to all the OEP “Beating the Odds” award winners!  Keep up the great work and we look forward to recognizing you again next year!

 


 

Outstanding Educational Performance: High Growth High Schools

In The View from the OEP on June 6, 2018 at 1:16 pm

UA Achievement Awards 2017 BEST GROWTH MATHUA Achievement Awards 2017 BEST GROWTH ELA

Today’s 2016-17 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards) are for High Growth High SchoolsThis year, these awards are based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

OEP Awards are different than other awards because we examine growth specifically by content area. We do this because we think it is important to examine each subject separately, as just looking at the combined growth doesn’t provide school leaders with the information that they need. For example, learning that growth in math is high, but growth in ELA is lagging would provide valuable information about the effectiveness of each program. We limit the growth score to just subject areas, without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners, because this should also be examined separately.  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards for High Schools do not include graduation rate in the growth calculation.  In addition, OEP’s awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

Overall content growth scores have a mean of 80, and range from 71.8 to 86.7 at the high school level, although when math and ELA are examined separately, the range increases somewhat (70.2 to 90.9).  Understanding the range of scores is important because small point differences in growth scores can indicate large differences in growth rates – as the standard deviation is only 2.5 points for high schools. 

We celebrate the state using this student-level growth model, and are pleased to be able to highlight how students are growing academically in schools across the state.  We hope that drawing attention to the growth information will spark discussions among stakeholders about how to ensure all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas students.

We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students rather than proficiency rates.  Proficiency rates, even those that move beyond the ‘percent proficient’ like our OEP GPA and Arkansas’ weighted achievement score, are more correlated with student demographics than growth scores. This means that schools are equally as likely to demonstrate high student growth regardless of the characteristics of the students that they serve.

We celebrate two types of schools this year: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.


Highest Growth: High School Level

The top High School level school for overall student growth is LISA Academy North High, with a growth score of 86.66.  Bismarck High had the highest math growth with a score of 90.85, while Miner Academy from Bauxite School District had the highest growth in ELA at 88.05.

The top 20 High School level schools for overall content growth are:

1. LISA Academy North High, LISA Academy (34% FRL)
2. Haas Hall Academy Bentonville, Haas Hall Bentonville (0% FRL)
3. Bismarck High, Bismarck SD (54% FRL)
4. Greenbrier Junior High, Greenbrier SD (32% FRL)
5. Van Buren Freshman Academy, Van Buren SD (56% FRL)
6. Haas Hall Academy, Haas Hall Academy (0% FRL)
7. Russellville Jr. High, Russellville SD (56% FRL)
8. Arkansas Arts Academy High, Arkansas Arts Academy (25% FRL)
9. Trumann High, Trumann SD (69% FRL)
10. Southside Charter High, Southside SD (Independence) (68% FRL)
11. Arkansas School For The Deaf High School, Ark. School For The Deaf (53% FRL)
12. Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy High, Responsive Ed. Solutions NWA Classical Academy (9% FRL)
13. Eureka Springs High, Eureka Springs SD (49% FRL)
14. Danville High, Danville SD (70% FRL)
15. Timbo High, Mountain View SD (78% FRL)
16. eStem High Charter, eStem Public Charter (27% FRL)
17. Rural Special High, Mountain View SD (56% FRL)
18. Wilbur D. Mills High, Pulaski County Special SD (66% FRL)
19. Cabot High, Cabot SD (27% FRL)
20. Greenbrier High, Greenbrier SD (32% FRL)

We were pleased to see the variety of high schools on our list of those demonstrating high student growth. We included the percentage of students in the school who participate in the Free/Reduced Lunch program (due to low household income) to demonstrate why we like to talk about growth!  The percentage of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth middle level schools ranges from a low of 0% to a high of 78%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!  You can find the high school with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.

———-Stay tuned to learn about more OEP Award Winners!——–

Next week we will release the list of high growth schools serving high poverty populations, those who are “Beating the Odds!”