University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

In the News…Ed News, that is

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on April 22, 2011 at 7:38 am

Statewide, the ADE has released the Arkansas School Performance Report. The purpose of the report is to generally improve public school accountability, provide benchmarks for measuring school improvement, and to empower parents and guardians of children enrolled in Arkansas public Schools by providing them with the information to judge the quality of their schools. The ADE School Performance Report contains individual school performance reports, district-level performance reports, and a statewide performance report that, in conjunction with the 2010 OEP Report Card, can provide the reader with a very comprehensive look at statewide educational performance in Arkansas.

In national education news, the United States Congress passed a spending bill that would finance federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, through September 30th. In this bill, $700 million was allocated to the federal Race to the Top initiative where states (not districts) compete for grant money for education. So far, the U.S. Department of Education is keeping mum regarding how the Race to the Top competition will work this year, but the folks at Education Week have already begin speculating.

News from Around the Natural State

Little Rock School District Recommended for Accreditation After Study

The Little Rock School District is being recommended for accreditation by the international AdvancED accrediting organization after a three-day study of the district, its schools and leadership by a team of educators from both in and outside of the state. This is the first time the district has sought system wide accreditation, although individual schools in the district have long been accredited by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. The accreditation team reviewed district-generated documents, visited 36 classrooms in 10 schools and interviewed 76 administrators, 115 teachers, 18 support staff members, 73 parents and community members, 75 students and six of the seven school board members this week to prepare an oral report to the school board. A written report will be delivered in 30 days.

School Projects’ Funding Wins OK

A new high school campus for ninth-graders in Cabot and new elementary schools in Conway, Bryant, Springdale and Rogers are among 219 school construction projects approved for $188.7 million in Arkansas Academic Facilities Partnership Program funds. The Commission for Arkansas Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation approved potential construction projects for 2011-13 that include 14 new schools, 67 school building additions, 63 roof replacements and 33 new heating and air-conditioning systems on campuses across the state.

Four State School Districts got Wrong Test-Prep Materials

At least four Arkansas school districts, including the large districts of Cabot and Bentonville, received from a test vendor the wrong materials to prepare kindergartners for this month’s Iowa Test of Basic Skills. As a result, Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell must decide whether the reading comprehension section of the nationally standardized test will be scored. Besides the Bentonville and Cabot districts, the Atkins and Bearden districts also obtained and used the wrong preparation materials, and there may be other districts that did so as well.

UPDATE: We posted this story from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, but were informed shortly thereafter from our friends in the Bentonville School District that:

“Bentonville was not sent anything ‘wrong.’ We gave our K-2 students the appropriate ITBS as a formative assessment in November, 2010. Our Riverside representative recommended that we use level 5 for K, level 6, for 1st, and level 8 for 2nd.  The state-mandated ITBS administered earlier this month differed in that level 6 was given to K, level 7 to 1st, and level 8, again, to 2nd. We were well aware that the levels  were different and felt that no mistake was made here.”

Thanks for the clarification, Bentonville!

News from Around the Nation

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Signs Collective Bargaining Restrictions Into Law

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is pushing an ambitious education agenda this year, has signed a measure that restricts teachers’ collective bargaining ability. The new Indiana law, of course, comes in the wake of similar laws approved in Ohio and Wisconsin, which drew protests in the streets and at state capitols. Those two states’ laws face challenges at the ballot box, and in the courts. The Indiana law limits bargaining between school corporations and teachers’ unions to salary and wage-related benefits. According to Daniels’ office, two provisions take effect immediately: Teacher contracts cannot extend past the budget biennium, and districts cannot collectively bargain teacher evaluation procedures or criteria—a provision that a number of school advocacy groups critical of teachers’ unions have sought.

Study: 8th Graders Learn More with Direct Instruction

A University of Munich study has finally tackled the long-running debate on which teaching approach performs best in the classrooms. After comparing the relative merits of “the sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” styles, study authors Guido Schwerdt and Amelie Wuppermann found that direct instruction was superior to discussion and problem solving in improving student achievement. The Munich researchers drew their data from the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMMS) which tested a nationally representative sample of U.S. 8th graders in science and math. In addition, the survey asked teachers to indicate the percentage of class time they spent direct-teaching, versus the time students spent problem solving with and without assistance. According to TIMMS, teachers reported spending nearly twice as much classroom time on problem solving than direct instruction. For more information, check out the EducationNext coverage of this story here.

Mark Your Calendar

May 11: School Law Conferences sponsored by the AAEA and APSRC (two, one-day drive-in conferences) Click here for more info!

May 16: State Board of Education Meeting, 9:00 AM, Arch Ford Building, State Capitol Complex

May 17: Joint House and Senate Education Committee Meeting, TBA

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