University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Arkansas Discipline Update

In The View from the OEP on September 19, 2018 at 11:36 am

Last week, the Student Discipline Task Force submitted their report to the Arkansas State Board of Education, and OEP was pleased to present the annual report on student discipline.

OEP’s report examines student discipline in Arkansas public schools. We identify trends and a number of key student outcomes related to student discipline in the Arkansas public schools. While the data are only limited to what schools report, there are several meaningful findings from this work. While we recommend the full report and this introductory policy brief, today we wanted to share the highlights of what we found.

What are trends in reported student infractions and associated consequences?

  • There has been an 87% increase in reported discipline infractions since 2012-13, with over 270,000 discipline referrals in 2016-17. We believe the increase in referrals likely reflects greater focus on reporting discipline infractions as opposed to an increase in misbehavior in Arkansas schools.


  • Over 80% of discipline referrals are for insubordination, disorderly conduct, or “other” infractions.
  • The majority of the increase in infraction referrals has been for “other” infractions. In 2016-17, additional reporting categories were included, but over a third of infractions remained identified only as “other”.


  • Over 93% of discipline consequences are for out-of-school suspension (OSS), in-school suspension (ISS), or “other” action. There has been a decline in reported reliance on OSS, ISS, and corporal punishment over time.
  • The majority of the increase in consequences has been for “other” actions. In 2016-17, additional reporting categories were included, but about 19% of consequences remained identified only as “other”. While trends away from exclusionary discipline might indicate benefits for students, knowing more about what the “other” consequences are is important for understanding whether this represents a meaningful change for students.


Are schools complying with Act 1329, which bans the use of OSS as a consequence for truancy?

  • The use of OSS for truancy declined from about 14% of all truancy cases in 2012-13 to about 7% of cases in 2016-17.
  • In 2016-17, 76 schools reported at least five or more truancy infractions and reported using OSS in at least 10% of those cases. Many of these were concentrated in a few districts.


Are there racial or programmatic disproportionalities in school discipline?

  • Disproportionalities by race, free- and reduced- price lunch eligibility, and special education status exist both in terms of the number of referrals for infractions of various types, as well as in the likelihood of receiving exclusionary discipline, conditional on referral for a particular type of infraction. For example, black students receive 117.6 referrals per 100 students, relative to only about 37-40 for white students, Hispanic students, or students of other races. Then, conditional on being written up for any infraction, Black students receive OSS, expulsions, or referrals to ALE in about 25% of these cases, relative to only about 15% for students of other races.


Which types of schools are High-Exclusion schools?

  • Certain types of schools in the state are more likely to administer lengthy exclusionary punishments: schools with greater proportions of black students, high schools and middle schools (relative to elementary schools).
  • There also appears to have been a decline in the severity used, on average, between 2014-15 and 2016-17.

What is the relationship between student absenteeism and exclusionary discipline?

  • There is a moderate correlation between student absenteeism and OSS days received, with the strongest correlations between grades 7 and 10.
  • Students marked as chronically absent in those grades received 0.5 to 0.64 more days of OSS on average, compared to those not chronically absent.
  • This suggests that schools seeking to tackle absenteeism may consider discipline reforms as one possible solution.


What is the relationship between educational attainment and exclusionary discipline?

  • Exclusionary discipline in high school (and particularly ninth grade) is associated with lower likelihood of high school graduation and lower likelihood of enrolling in college, conditional on a variety of student characteristics as well as baseline achievement in eighth grade.
  • The magnitude of these relationships decline after controlling for the behaviors (types of infractions) reported, although there is still a small relationship detected in some cases.



Act 1329 has provided an opportunity to examine student discipline the the state.  The issue is complex, but one of the Student Discipline Task Force recommendations was that schools consider alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices when addressing student behaviors. The Board expressed concerns that OSS continues to be used as a consequence for truancy, and discussed the importance of continued effort to support schools and communities in reducing the use of exclusionary discipline for students. We look forward to continued discussion about improving learning environments for Arkansas students!



Chronic Absenteeism in Arkansas

In The View from the OEP on September 12, 2018 at 12:56 pm

September is Attendance Awareness Month, and this week we learned that Little Rock School District is aiming to cut chronic student absenteeism by partnering with The Campaign for Grade Level Reading, ArKids Read, Heart of Arkansas United Way, and Optimist Club of Greater Little Rock. The idea is that academic performance will improve if students come to school.

But what IS chronic absenteeism?

Chronic Absenteeism is when students are missing a lot of school.  How many absences are chronic? It depends on who you ask.

From a national perspective, schools were first required to submit information on chronic absence to the Office of Civil Rights in the 2013-14 school year.  The OCR defined chronic absence as missing 15 days or more of the school year.  Data from 2015-16 showed an increase in chronic absenteeism, but researchers believe it is due to improved reporting.  Unfortunately, chronic absence data will now be collected through the US Department of Education’s Ed Facts Division.  These data will not be comparable, because chronic absence is defined differently.  Ed Facts will define chronic absenteeism as missing 10 percent or more of school days.

Chronic Absenteeism Impacts Kids

Chronic absence links to poor academic performance, delayed graduation, and higher dropout rates, and it correlates strongly with school climate issues such as bullying and poor transportation.

According to the new report Data Matters; Using Chronic Absence to Accelerate Action for Student Success, Arkansas had a lower percentage of students chronically absent than in the nation as a whole. While the national rate of chronic absenteeism was 15.5%, only 14.1% of Arkansas students missed 15 days or more of school during the 2015-16 year.

Hedy N. Chang, one of the authors of the report, stated that attendance is strongly associated with academic success. Regular absences are an alert that students may need additional support and an investment of resources to have the opportunity to learn and thrive, Chang said. Barriers to good attendance include illness, trauma, unreliable transportation, negative school experiences such as bullying, lack of engagement and relevance to a child, poor discipline that pushes kids out and family failure to realize importance of school attendance. Although researchers have found a connection between poverty and absenteeism, there isn’t a strong correlation in Arkansas between school poverty rates and chronic absenteeism rates.

The map below shows the 2015-16 reported rates of chronic absenteeism in Arkansas school districts.  You can access an interactive map that drills down to the school level here.

Absence png

Chronic Absenteeism Impacts Schools

Chronic absenteeism has become a national education metric because the 2015 Every Student Success Act (ESSA) required states to include an indicator of School Quality and Student Success (SQSS).  This ‘fifth indicator’ indicator allowed states to place a value on elements of learning that are not typically measured on assessments. States had a substantial amount of freedom to decide which SQSS indicator(s) to include. Arkansas, like the majority of the states, selected chronic absenteeism as one of the measures of School Quality and Student Success used in the state accountability system.

Chronic absenteeism is one of several measures used to indicate SQSS in Arkansas.  Schools are awarded a point for each student who is present at least 95% of the school year, and a half a point for each student who missed between 6 and 9% of the school year.  Schools receive no points for students who are absent 10% of the year or more.  These attendance points are combined with the other SQSS indicators, so attendance doesn’t actually have a large impact on the overall score, but schools may feel incentivized to overlook reporting absences. When data are not valid and reliable, we can’t use them to support students.

As noted with the national attendance data collection, monitoring will be needed to ensure that good data are collected so we can reliably use it to determine relationships with student success in our schools. High rates of absenteeism signify the need to dig deeper to understand the underlying challenges.

Improving attendance rates requires an intentional shift away from punitive action and blame that have no evidence of yielding sustained improvements in attendance.  Arkansas has been working on moving away from such punitive action with Act 1329, banning Out of School Suspension as a consequence of truancy.  As OEP will report to the State Board on Friday, however, over 1,000 referrals for truancy resulted in OSS in the most recent school year.

Like Little Rock’s initiative, communication is key. Attendance Works provides a framework for improving student attendance in which educators starting with positive engagement and problem-solving to identify and address barriers to getting to school.

We celebrate all the schools that are examining the root causes of why students are missing school.  Let us know how we can help!


September Happenings!

In The View from the OEP on September 5, 2018 at 11:31 am


This week, we wanted to give you a heads up about a bunch of education-related events happening in September!

ESSA School Index reports will be open for Private Viewing on My School Info. from September 18 through 24, 2018.  School and district leaders should take advantage of this time before the public release to get prepared to explain to their stakeholders

  • what the ESSA School Index says about their school(s),
  • what the plans are to continue to improve, and
  • how stakeholders can support the work.

Remember that A-F school grades and rewards and recognition money will also be based on the ESSA school index, so a clear understanding and pro-active communication plan seems like a good idea to us!

Thanks to the hard work and planning of ADE staff, we have this information early in the school year so you can use it to inform your practices!  If you have questions about your report, or how to communicate the results, we are happy to help – just email us at

National Merit lists should be released soon as the PSAT selection criteria for 2019 graduates were just released. Arkansas students need a score of 214 to be selected as a Commended Student.

We also wanted to be sure you were aware of several interesting conferences scheduled for September:

Education Innovation Summit: September 27th and 28th in Rogers, $300

This is the fourth year for this conference and they have a great lineup of international, national and local speakers! The conference is a partnership between Office of Innovation for Education (OIE) and ADE and the speakers include Derek Wenmoth, from New Zealand, Susan Patrick from iNACOL and  Stephen Spaloss with City Year.

There are a bunch of breakout sessions from practitioners implementing the work of innovation, along with policy sessions, design sessions, and opportunities to work in small groups with experts in mentor sessions.  If you haven’t been before, you can check out videos of past conferences here.

Data and Policy Symposium: September 27th 8am-1pm in Little Rock, FREE

ForwARd Arkansas, in partnership with the Institute for Chief Data Officers at UA Little Rock are bringing together national experts to discuss the importance of creating a longitudinal data system to track educational outcomes in the state of Arkansas. The keynote will be provided by John Easton, former director of the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.   Access to quality, integrated longitudinal data to track outcomes between Pre-K, K-12, post-secondary education/training and workforce participation is essential to inform future planning and resource allocation.

Arkansas Association of Gifted Educators: September 27th in North Little Rock, $105 for Members. Topics include: How GT fits with the Science of Reading Act, Strategies to Identify and Service Students of Low Income, and Closing the Identification Gap.

Arkansas Association of Federal Coordinators: September 19th-21st in Hot Springs $225 for Members. Topics include: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Programs and Budgeting, Utilizing School Index Reports to Analyze Effectiveness of Title Schools, and ADE and Legislative updates.


State Board of Education: September 13th and 14th*

*OEP will be presenting the latest schools discipline research on the 14th at 9

Education Caucus: September 24th at noon

Topic: Student transportation -or- teacher salaries

House and Senate Interim Committees on Education: September 24th and 25th

Topic: 2018 Adequacy Report and issues related to Educational Adequacy

        A draft of the 2018 Adequacy Report can be found here