University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

OWL Education News

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on September 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

News from Around the Natural State

Arkansas Board Looks at Academic Distress Rule Changes

The Arkansas Board of Education will begin talks on ways to make it easier to label school districts as academically distressed in response to complaints that the criteria for that label are too lax, the state’s education commissioner told lawmakers. Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said the state Board of Education would begin discussing the changes at a work session in Little Rock. Kimbrell has said he wants to bring a recommendation on proposed changes to the board sometime in December. Click here to read the OEP Policy Brief on academic and fiscal distress in Arkansas.

Both statewide and national news outlets have reported numerous charter school news stories over the past week. In Arkansas, this is likely because of the approaching due date for applications to start both open enrollment and conversion charter schools. That said, many of our featured news stories this week are charter-related.

Seven New Charter Schools Sought for Six Cities in State

Nonprofit groups have applied for seven new charter schools to open in six Arkansas cities in the 2012-13 school year. The Arkansas Board of Education must now decide whether to approve the proposals for open-enrollment charter schools in Little Rock, Jonesboro, West Memphis, Texarkana and Marianna, as well as in Osceola where two new schools are envisioned. Five of the proposed schools would serve high school students. Two would serve either elementary or elementary and middle school pupils.

Fifteen School Districts Apply to Convert Schools to Charters

Fifteen Arkansas school districts have notified the Arkansas Department of Education of their preliminary plans to start one or more charter schools within their districts in the 2012-13 school year. Nearly all 16 of the proposed conversion charter schools in the 15 districts would focus on science, math and technology education, according to letters of intent to apply for charter status. The Pulaski County Special School District has proposed two charter schools. The full conversion charter school applications are due Oct. 31 and will be considered by the Arkansas Board of Education over the winter. In contrast to publicly funded open-enrollment charter schools that are operated by nonprofit organizations, conversion charter schools are run by traditional school districts. There is no cap on the number of conversion charter schools approved by the state Board of Education.

News from Around the Nation

Teachers Combat Summer “Brain Drain” as School Year Begins

Despite their fresh notebooks and a ready supply of sharpened pencils, many students didn’t start this new school year prepared to move ahead. Research shows that many of them, particularly low-income students, are starting school months behind where they were last spring, causing teachers to spend weeks of the new academic year going over content instead of tackling new material. A report released by the RAND Corporation this summer found that high-quality summer learning programs can curb these losses and even boost student achievement. For more on this topic, click here to read the OEP policy brief on summer learning loss and the case for extended time in Arkansas’ schools.

Urban Charters Outstrip Performance of Nonurban, Study Finds

A new Massachusetts study suggests that charter schools located in urban communities there significantly improved their students’ mathematics and language arts performance on state assessments, while nonurban charter schools did not, and, in some cases, even appeared to hurt students academically. The findings come in a working paper by researchers with the Cambridge, Mass.-based National Bureau of Economic Research. In the paper, the researchers trace the greater student academic growth in urban charter schools to the “no excuses” instructional approaches typical of urban charters in that state. The Massachusetts study may help explain the mixed record for charter school performance, which has been noted in previous studies by NAPCS researchers and other scholars.

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