University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

House and Senate Education Committees Meet

In The View from the OEP on July 20, 2016 at 11:29 am

 

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The Arkansas House and Senate education committees met this week to hear presentations and discuss progress on broadband upgrades and career/technical education planning.  A report on isolated funding took a side trip to broader transportation issues and ended with a request for an attorney general’s opinion.

Broadband Upgrades

We’re about halfway through the two-year project timeline to provide all Arkansas public schools with better and more cost effective high speed broadband access, and Chief Technology Officer Mark Myers reported more districts are connected and connections are faster than planned. Security and content filtering safeguards are in place, and performance monitoring is such that DIS will know immediately if a district’s email goes down. Issues with vendor deadline commitments and previously-existing contracts have been resolved thus far. DIS is on track to finish all the APSCN upgrades by July 2017, and you can track progress with this linked map.

CTE Emphasis in Education and Employment

A common thread through several presenters was improving the employability and earning power of Arkansans through coursework and credentialing that align with labor market demands and job growth. Outgoing ADHE Director Brett Powell said new jobs are going to applicants who have at least some college education, and while more Arkansans need to earn all kinds of degrees, the most growth is expected in jobs requiring a CTE certificate.¹ Department of Career Education (ACE) leaders reported their work with high schools and secondary technical centers to assess career and technical programs and enrollment in light of employer needs and future economic impact for students and communities.²  Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR) staff also reported extensively on CTE program offerings and student enrollment and achievement data.³

Isolated and Transportation Funding

Reporting on the distribution and expenditures of “isolated funding” intended to help districts with geographic challenges, BLR Assistant Director Richard Wilson said the majority of those funds are spent on instruction-related expenses and transportation.  Committee members’ discussion veered to the broader topic of inequity in transportation funding as allocated through the budget matrix. Lawmakers have repeatedly expressed frustration that distributing transportation dollars on a per-student basis results in a profit for some school districts while others must supplement transportation costs with money meant for student learning. Ultimately, the committees voted to request an attorney general’s opinion on how the courts might view changes to the transportation funding mechanism in light of educational adequacy.

 

 

 

 

State House and Senate Education Committees Meet

In AR Legislature on June 23, 2016 at 12:04 pm

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Concerns about adequate teacher salaries, meaningful evaluation systems, and efficient allocation of district resources shaped the discussion at this week’s House and Senate Education Committee meeting.

Teacher Salaries

Mr. Richard Wilson, Assistant Director of Research at the Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR), presented the second part of the BLR report comparing Arkansas teacher salaries to surrounding states and to other Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) states. The report, based on data collected by the National Education Association (NEA), found that Arkansas teacher salaries were doing relative well in the rankings, particularly after accounting for cost-of-living differences between states. Legislators were interested in knowing how incomes in Arkansas generally compare to incomes in surrounding and SREB states, and how gross state product compares across states as additional gauges of how Arkansas measures up to these states. The first section of the BLR report, from April, is linked here. The second section, presented June 22, is linked here.

Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS)

Dr. Ginny Blankenship, legislative analyst at the BLR, presented the results of the Bureau of Legislative Research’s biennial survey of schools, in which they surveyed all Arkansas superintendents, a random sample of 73 principals, and a random sample of 1,071 teachers. Dr. Blankenship reported the results relating to the current systems of teacher and principal evaluation, TESS (Teacher Excellence and Support System) and LEADS (Leader Excellence and Development System). Legislators expressed concerns about the differences in perceptions of the usefulness of the evaluation system between teachers and administrators, and the seeming consensus that TESS requires too much paperwork on the part of both teachers and administrators. Commissioner Key and staff from the Arkansas Department of Education stressed the need to ensure that TESS was viewed and implemented as a process of growth, not a complicated list of hoops for educators to jump through. ADE staff also noted that they were working with the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) to invest teachers in the process and opportunity of TESS. The BLR report is linked here.

School District Resource Allocation

Ms. Nell Smith, administrator for policy analysis and research at the BLR,  presented the executive summary of a report that detailed how districts allocate funds originating from state Foundation funding, and how that allocation compares to the estimated costs in the state funding matrix. Ms. Smith noted that districts may be spending funds from other sources on areas covered by the matrix, and that the matrix is intended for allocation purposes, not to dictate expenditures. Legislators were concerned by differences in spending between districts by district characteristics, including achievement, and asked for more information on relationships between school improvements and changes in how funds are allocated. The executive summary is linked here. The 2015-16 funding matrix is linked here.

The education committees will meet on July 18th at 9:30 am and July 19th at 9:00 am. Here is a link to the meeting calendar.

 

 

Outstanding Educational Performance Awards 2014-15!

In The View from the OEP on May 25, 2016 at 2:38 pm

As the school year draws to a close for most students and teachers throughout Arkansas, there are many awards ceremonies and celebrations of student success. Here at the OEP  we are excited to celebrate the achievement of the highest-performing schools across the state in our 2014-15 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards)!  Today’s awards are based on the performance of students on the PARCC Math and English Language Arts assessments (we released the OEP awards for Science earlier this year).

We celebrate two types of schools: “High-Achieving” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Achieving schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest performance on the PARCC tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest performing schools serving low-income communities.

Like the past three years, the awards are based upon a GPA measure. The OEP calculates a GPA for schools in each subject based on the number of students that perform at each level on the exam.  We slightly modified our procedure this year, due to the five performance levels reported on the PARCC exams (Exceeded Expectations is assigned a “4”, Met Expectations is assigned a “3”, Approached Expectations is awarded a “2”, Partially Met Expectations receives a  “1”, and Did Not Meet Expectations was assigned  “0”). GPAs are lower overall this year, due to more challenging assessments, and are not directly comparable to prior years because of the change in assessment.

Congratulations to all our OEP award winners!

Highest Achievement

Elementary

The top elementary school in both math and literacy hails from the Little Rock School District: Forest Park Elementary! At Forest Park, 70% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC Math exam, and 81% did so on the PARCC Literacy assessment.

The remaining top 5 elementary schools for overall achievement are: Vandergriff (Fayetteville), Park Magnet (Hot Springs), Don Roberts (Little Rock), and Baker Interdistrict (Pulaski County Special).

We were pleased to see a lot of new schools on our lists this year and noted that nearly half of the top 10 elementary schools were newcomers to this award. We particularly celebrate the increased representation of schools from the Central region of the state who are receiving High Achieving awards!  Way to go!

You can see the rest of the top elementary schools, as well as the high achievers by subject and region in the full report.

Middle School

The top middle school in both math and literacy is McNair Middle School from the Fayetteville School District! At McNair, 56% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC Math exam, and 72% did so on the PARCC Literacy assessment.

The remaining top 5 middle schools for overall achievement are: Bright Field (Bentonville), East Hills (GreenWood), Greenbrier Middle (Greenbrier), and Benton Middle (Benton).

Many of the middle schools that made our top 10 lists have been recognized previously,  but there were several newcomers to these lists as well.  Once again, we saw a greater representation from Central Arkansas, especially in literacy performance.  You can see the rest of the top middle schools, as well as the high achievers by subject and region in the full report.

Junior High School

The top junior high school in both math and literacy is J.William Fullbright Junior High from Bentonville School District! At Fullbright, 55% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC Math exam, and 68% did so on the PARCC Literacy assessment.

The remaining top 5 junior high schools for overall achievement are: Valley View JH (Valley View), Woodland JH (Fayetteville), Greenbrier JH (Greenbrier), and Lincoln JH (Bentonville).   To find out what other Junior Highs made the list, as well as the high achievers by subject and region check out the full report.

High School

The top high school in both math and literacy is Haas Hall Academy!  At Haas Hall 95% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC Math exam, and 97% did so on the PARCC Literacy assessment.   Congratulations to the students and teachers of McNair!

The remaining top 5 high schools for overall achievement are: Bentonville HS (Bentonville), Benton HS (Benton), Rogers New Tech (Rogers), and Concord HS (Concord). To find out what other High Schools made the list, as well as the high achievers by subject and region check out the full report.

 

Beating the Odds: High Achieving with Low-Income Populations

These are special awards for schools whose students are achieving well even though they face some significant challenges.  While poverty impacts learning, these schools are demonstrating that they are “Beating the Odds.” The highlights are below, and you can read the full report here.

Elementary

The top elementary school beating the odds in math is Cowsert Elementary from Clinton School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 71% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  63% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC math assessment. Norfolk Elementary (Norfolk), Centerpoint Primary (Centerpoint), Green Forest Elementary (Green Forest) and Paron Elementary (Bryant) round out the top 5 elementary schools Beating the Odds in mathematics.

The top elementary school beating the odds in literacy is Norfolk Elementary from Norfolk School District.  Despite serving a student population where 83% of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  60% of students Met or Exceeded expectations on the PARCC literacy assessment. Forest Heights STEM Academy (Little Rock),Dover Elementary (Dover), Omaha Elementary (Omaha) and Cowsert Elementary (Clinton) round out the top 5 elementary schools Beating the Odds in literacy.

Middle

Clinton School District also boasts the top middle school beating the odds in math. Clinton Intermediate serves a student population where of students are 77% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, and 34% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC math assessment. Atkins Middle, McRae Middle (Prescott), and Helen Tyson (Springdale) ranked 2nd -4th on Beating the Odds, while Nettleton Middle and DeQueen Middle tied for the fifth place spot.

The top middle school beating the odds in literacy is Nemo Vista Middle. Sixty-six percent of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch and 57% of students Met or Exceeded expectations on the PARCC literacy assessment. Lingle Middle (Rogers), Clinton Intermediate (Clinton), Oakdale Middle (Rogers) and Nettleton Middle are the other schools that made the top 5 for Beating the Odds in literacy.

Junior High

The top junior high school beating the odds in math is DeQueen Junior High.  Despite serving a student population that is 73% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  31% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC math assessment. Southwest JH (Springdale), Clinton JH (Clinton), and Douglas MacArthur (Jonesboro) ranked 2nd-4th, while Clarksville JH (Clarksville) and George JH (Springdale) tied for the fifth place spot for the top 5 junior high schools Beating the Odds in mathematics.

The top middle school beating the odds in literacy is Clinton Junior High. Sixty-eight percent of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch and 45% of students Met or Exceeded expectations on the PARCC literacy assessment. Nashville JH, Southwest JH (Springdale), Douglas MacArthur (Jonesboro), Hot Springs Middle and Nettleton Middle are the other junior highs schools that made the top 5 for Beating the Odds in literacy.

High School

The top high school beating the odds in math is Marshall High in Searcy.  Despite serving a student population that is 68% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  41% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC math assessment. Norfolk High, Marked Tree High, Cave City High and Omaha High complete the list of the top 5 high schools Beating the Odds in mathematics.

The top high school beating the odds in literacy is Norfork High.  Despite serving a student population that is 81% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  65% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the PARCC literacy assessment. Cave City High, Marshall High (Searcy), Timbo High (Mountain View) and Marked Tree High are the other top high schools Beating the Odds in literacy.

Congratulations to all the OEP award winners and we look forward to recognizing you again next year!

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