University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Ed Policy Summer Reading

In The View from the OEP on July 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Here at the OEP, we are hopeful that our readers have been to find some time to lounge by a pool, at the beach, or some other pleasant-weathered environment (where triple-digit temperatures, high humidity, and NO breeze is NOT the norm). Whether you are truly vacationing or still grinding away in your school or office, we thought you might enjoy some Summer Reading to help keep you abreast of the goings on in the education world.

First, here in the state, the Arkansas Community Foundation released the Aspire Arkansas Community Indicators report which compiled county-by-county data from a variety of state agencies and other sources to provide snapshots of Arkansas communities with regard to health, safety, civic action, and education. You can browse maps where each county is shaded to note the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced on the Arkansas benchmark exam as well as a map that also highlights the remediation rates by county.

Nationally, EdNext reports on which countries and states are producing high achieving students in their article Teaching math to The Talented. Arkansas ranks among the bottom 10 states (42nd overall) with regard to the percentage of students scoring at the advanced level in math (3%) on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam. You can learn more about state PISA performance on this interactive map.

Regionally, the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB) released its annual legislative report on legislation and budget actions stating that “Arkansas has weathered the economic downturn better than most states.”  It’s nice to be able to find a report with a happy storyline!

In more news from across the nationEducation Week has a rundown of state changes that push tougher teacher policies such as evaluation, tenure, and collective bargaining. For example, during this past year’s legislative session, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Utah ended the practice of laying off the newest teachers when reductions in force are necessary (known as ‘last-in, first-out’ policies). EdNext recently published this article on managing the teacher workforce which addresses the issue. In addition, eight states in this legislative session alone linked evaluations to student achievement, with most eventually requiring that 50 percent of an evaluation score be based on student data. Read more here.

The Atlanta School District is in full upheaval after a scandal where Georgia investigators claim 178 educators in 44 schools cheated on standardized tests used to meet federal benchmarks. The fallout from the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal continues to spread as four area superintendents were replaced and a school district in Texas put the superintendent it recently hired from Georgia on paid leave.

In the student performance arena, The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has released several reports on achievement gaps by race. These NAEP reports on the Hispanic-White achievement gap and the Black-White achievement gap use NAEP scores in mathematics and reading for these groups to illuminate patterns and changes in these gaps over time.

A study released by Mathematica Policy researcher Eileen Rodriguez, not surprisingly, has found that when parents (even parents from low-income families) engage in their child’s education at home, those students are more likely to find success at school and beyond. You can read the full study here.

Also, earlier in the school year, we released a Policy Brief on making the case for extended school time in Arkansas which highlighted the impacts of ‘summer learning loss.” Here, the LA Times reports on what some local schools are doing to prevent this “summer learning loss.”

To satisfy your inner-data-miner, the NWEA Kingsbury Center has released a new interactive Data Gallery where visitors can explore the data that NWEA uses in their research and “gain research-based insights on important education topics.”  There are two topics so far, each with a video introduction, on the State of Proficiency and The Achievement Gap.

In the world of virtual learning, read more about the rise of Hybrid Schools.  These are schools that combine online-only learning and face to face instruction/tutorial assistance. A couple schools in California are highlighted. Also, the Center on Reinventing Public Education released a white paper in June discussing how Portfolio School Districts in which school districts manage a portfolio of diverse schools that are provided in many ways—including through traditional district operation, charter operators, and nonprofit organizations—and hold all schools accountable for performance.

We hope you enjoy our Summer Reading List. Leave us a comment and let us know!

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  1. Great list. The new Massachusetts school nutrition rules might also be worth a look.
    “The nutrition standards, which take effect in the 2012-13 school year and are believed to be the strictest in the country, prohibit fried foods, sugary and artificially sweetened beverages, and foods high in sodium. The rules apply to food sold in vending machines, snack bars, and a la carte offerings in cafeterias. The council delayed a ban on flavored milk until August 2013, however, to give schools time to find other ways to encourage children to drink milk.”
    http://www.boston.com/Boston/whitecoatnotes/2011/07/health-panel-approves-new-nutrition-rules-for-mass-public-schools/Yfc3tbg44jZGIKZ57eytzL/index.html?p1=News_links

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