University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

The Final Envelope, Please: The Last of the 2011-12 OEP Awards

In The View from the OEP on December 18, 2012 at 11:59 am


All semester long, we have been releasing OEP Awards recognizing high academic achievement of Arkansas Schools on Arkansas Benchmark and End-of-Course (EOC) exams taken in the spring of 2012. To date, we have released the following “chapters” of the OEP Awards report:

Coinciding with section VI, we also released a new OEP Benchmark Growth Database which measures school-level growth on the Arkansas Benchmark exams in literacy and math over a period from 2005-06 through 2011-12.

It’s been over two weeks since our last release of OEP Awards…and today we bring you the FINAL installment of this year’s OEP Awards: Most Improved High Schools: End-of-Course Exam Growth. Much like our OEP Awards for Most Improved Schools on the Arkansas Benchmark Exam, the latest set of OEP Awards also comes with an accompanying database of EOC exam growth for each of the four EOC exams in Arkansas: Algebra,  Biology, Geometry, and Grade 11 Literacy. EOC Exams in Algebra, Geometry, and Grade 11 Literacy have a baseline that combines the 2005-06 and 2006-07 academic years as a starting point and the 2010-11/2011-12 academic years as the outcome. Again, we measure growth as the difference between the outcome year and the baseline year. However, because the inaugural year of the Biology EOC exam is different from the other three tests, the time-span for growth is different for this subject as it uses a baseline of 2008-09/2009-10 but the same outcome year of 2010-11/2011-12. Click here to view the EOC Growth Database now!

AshdownTherefore, today we congratulate Ashdown High School (Ashdown SD) for topping the list as the most improved high school on the Algebra EOC Exam. Over the growth period from 2005-06/2006-07 through 2010-11/2011-12, Ashdown High’s EOC Algebra GPA increased almost a full point from 2.01 to a 2.93. That marked the highest growth among all schools in the state. When compared to the statewide Algebra EOC growth of 0.29 GPA points, this is a remarkable achievement! Congratulations to Bryan Ledford and the Algebra teachers at Ashdown High!

West_SideOn the Geometry EOC Exam, three schools grew over a full GPA point! Congratulations to West Side High and Rogers High School (Rogers SD) for GPA growth on the Geometry EOC Exam of 1.22 points and 1.05 points, respectively. The OEP tips its hat to principals Rick Waters, William Edwards, Robert Moore and their geometry teachers for this accomplishment!

There are plenty more schools receiving OEP Awards for EOC Exam growth – Click here to see if your school made the list!

On a final note, we at the OEP would like to reiterate how it is a joy to recognize schools across the Natural State for remarkable performance. There is good news worth reporting with regard to school performance on statewide exams, and we hope our series of OEP Awards have been welcome news for the schools in your area…we know we’ve enjoyed delivering it to you.


“Grading” Northwest Arkansas: The 2012 Northwest Arkansas Report Card

In The View from the OEP on December 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm


Beginning with 2008, the OEP has been answering a charge from our constituents to publish an annual “report card” on Arkansas Schools. In these Report Cards, we highlight statewide performance on standardized tests, describe the post-secondary education landscape across the state, and also report school,  teacher, and community characteristics (i.e., teacher salaries, student demographics). After producing the first Arkansas Report Card in 2008, we were contacted by the Northwest Arkansas Council who suggested that we produce a similar report card for Northwest Arkansas Schools, as such a document could be beneficial to their mission. Thus, in 2009, we began producing a Northwest Arkansas Report Card at the NWA Council’s request. After years of soliciting suggestions for improving the Report Card, the Council came together with a more specific request regarding the 2012 Northwest Arkansas Report Card to feature more community highlights as they related to education. We were informed that this report card would be used to attract future residents of Northwest Arkansas to the area.

report cardToday we are releasing the 2012 Northwest Arkansas Report Card in a new, vibrant format (as compared to previous years). You can read more about the purpose of the Report Card in the NWA Council’s Press Release. We still include some of the standard information such as student performance on standardized tests, student and teacher demographics, and post-secondary indicators such as high school graduation rates. Further, we still present most of this information for each of the 15 traditional public school districts and two charter schools in Northwest Arkansas. However, new this year, we have included additional “community profile” variables such as higher education costs, financial aid awarded, degrees conferred, and NWA job market variables. For example, this year’s NWA Report Card includes data listing the average amount of financial aid awarded at each of the three major institutions of higher education (John Brown University, Northwest Arkansas Community College, & the University of Arkansas). We also include average ACT score, average high school GPA of enrollees, and freshman retention rates at these institutions. Also new this year are data highlighting the number of scholarships awarded to students at each higher education institution – and each NWA school district – through the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.

For those interested in some of the additional Northwest Arkansas community indicators, this year’s report card includes job-sector data such as the number of employees and average salary per occupation. We also present the number of degrees awarded by each of the three major higher education institutions according to each job sector highlighted.

We hope that the 2012 Northwest Arkansas Report Card contains helpful information. As always, we welcome your feedback (which you can leave in the comment box below). After all, it was community feedback that helped us include these new measures in the 2012 Northwest Arkansas Report Card.

Accountability Counts: New OEP Database – School Level ESEA Accountability Status

In The View from the OEP on December 6, 2012 at 11:03 am

AccMagGlassMany of you who read this blog likely watched with interest last month when Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell held a press conference alongside 2012-13 Arkansas Superintendent of the year, Greg Murray of the Conway School District promoting the release of the new ESEA School Accountability Reports for 2012.

Kimbrell Presser In case you missed it, the Arkansas Department of Education still has the video posted  on the ADE website.

In addition to the press conference, the ADE has posted a number of items explaining the new ESEA Accountability Status ratings on the Pressroom page of the ADE website.

Report Card Girl

On the Pressroom page, there is a link to NORMES website, where school leaders can review and print their School Accountability Reports. The ADE even provides links to some handy-dandy instructions regarding how to retrieve your school’s report.

We are fortunate to have these resources, and the one-page .pdf reports are very nice and succinct…but those of you familiar with the growing list of OEP Databases know that we try to present the same, publicly available information in a different, yet user-friendly way in excel sheets for ALL schools around the state. We have attempted to do just that with our 2011-12 ESEA Accountability Status Database.

While responding to an inquiry about the Accountability Statuses of schools in Northwest Arkansas, we realized that it was not entirely easy to examine the  statuses of all the schools in this area at once. Thus, we set out to build a database that would take all of the data provided on the NORMES-generated School Accountability Reports in a “search-able” database format. For example, if you look at the screen-shot image below of the database, inside the red circles, you’ll see “drop-down” arrows that allow users to search schools by School LEA number, School Name, or District Name.

DC Screen Schot

This way, if a user wanted to look up accountability status data for two schools in the Little Rock School District, two schools in the Conway School District, and two Schools in the Bentonville School District, he or she could simply click on the “School Name” drop-down arrow and select those specific schools from the list to compare.

We include data noting whether or not each school met its one-year, or three-year (growth) Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) for all students and for the Targeted Achievement Gap Group (TAGG) students in both literacy and math. We also include Summary Data that is intended to clarify exactly why a school received the Accountability Status it did. (Note: Understanding these new ESEA ratings can be somewhat confusing, so we include a detailed KEY in the excel workbook in whcih we try to explain the rating system.)  Finally, on the far right-hand columns of the database, we include each school’s performance numbers culled from the School Accountability Reports.

You can read more about the rules governing the new ESEA Accountability Statuses in this OEP Policy Brief released earlier this year.

We hope you find this information helpful and usable. Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts!

The current OEP Accountability Status database only includes Elementary and Middle Schools serving grades 3-8. In the coming weeks, we will also be releasing a similar database that includes High Schools. Stay tuned…

OEP Awards: Most Improved Schools – Benchmark Exam Growth 2006-2012

In The View from the OEP on November 29, 2012 at 11:00 am

Since August of this year, we have been releasing bi-weekly installments of the OEP Awards which recognize the top performing schools on the spring 2012 administration of the Arkansas Benchmark Exam. To date, we have released the following “chapters” of the OEP Awards report:

In previous years, as our semester has drawn to a close, we typically would release our final installment of OEP Awards highlighting the Most Improved Schools comparing scores from the previous year’s administration of the benchmark exam to the current year’s scores – and measuring growth. However, this year, we have gone a step beyond improvement over one year by building a database that measures 5 years of growth (from a baseline created by averaging school-level benchmark scores from the 2005-06 and 2006-06 academic years and our outcome metric created by averaging school-level benchmark scores from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 academic years) and using this database to recognize the Most Improved Schools on Benchmark Exam Performance from 2006-2011. We encourage you to read more about this database in this separate blog post.

Whereas there is merit in showing benchmark growth after one year, it does have its limitations. For example, imagine a school that experiences an event that perhaps affects the whole school (i.e., a broken air conditioner/heater that affects the school’s inside temperature during testing) or that affects the whole town (i.e., a severe storm that renders homes without power). Either of these events could lead to an uncharacteristic performance by the students in the school. Thus, observing growth over multiple years, as we do in this installment of the OEP Awards, produces a clearer picture of student performance.

That said, today we applaud SMC Elementary at Luxora in the South Mississippi County School District who top our list of elementary schools in math benchmark growth. In the past five years, SMC Elementary at Luxora has seen a 50% increase in students scoring at the proficient and advanced level on the math benchmark exam. In this same period, the school’s math benchmark GPA has increased by 1.14 points. The school also ranks near the top of our list in benchmark literacy growth. For example, in the same 5-year period, SMC Elementary at Luxora has seen a 50% increase in students scoring at the proficient and advanced level on the literacy benchmark exam. In this same period, the school’s math benchmark GPA has increased by 1.03 points. In both benchmark subjects, SMC Elementary at Luxora has increased their benchmark GPA by at least one full “letter grade.” We think it is remarkable that the school achieved these results with a high percentage of their students eligible for a free or reduced price lunch (FRL for Luxora Elementary was 99% in 2011-12). Congratulations to Principal Gloria Phillips, Superintendent Gary Masters and all the teachers and staff at SMC Elementary at Luxora on this wonderful achievement!

Placing toward the top of our high-growth middle schools list is Southeast Middle School in the Pine Bluff School District. Between our baseline and outcome academic years, Southeast Middle has increased their student’s math benchmark proficiency rate by 36%. For example  In addition, the school’s math benchmark GPA has grown almost a full point from 1.63 in our baseline academic year  to 2.43 in our outcome academic year. The school also had high growth on the literacy benchmark exam over the past five academic years by growing their proficiency rate by 31% and realizing a roughly 2/3 of a GPA point growth (from  a 2.00 at the baseline to a 2.65 in the outcome year). Like  SMC Elementary at Luxora above, Southeast Middle has achieved this growth with a high percentage of FRL students (88% in 2011-12) in their school. Congratulations are in order for Principal Cheryl Hatley, the Southeast Middle teachers and staff and Superintendent Linda Watson on this remarkable achievement.

Of course there are MANY more schools that have achieved remarkable growth on the math and literacy benchmark exams. You can see if your school is among those recognized by clicking here and reading the OEP Awards for Most Improved Schools in Arkansas, 2006-2011.

One final note: We want to address a statistical phenomenon that may be keeping high-performing schools from a spot on this installment of the OEP Awards. This phenomenon, called the “ceiling effect,” occurs when an individual score on a test is achieved near the top of the scale (say, a 92 out of a possible 100) thus decreasing the probability of earning a higher score because at the top of the scale, it is harder to distinguish varying degrees of ability. In this installment of the OEP Awards, our lists feature schools with the greatest levels of growth on our benchmark GPA measure. Higher growth scores on this measure suggest that schools are not just being recognized for moving more students to “above proficiency,” but are moving more students from Below Basic to Basic and/or Proficient to Advanced.

That said, according to our 2005-06 School-level Benchmark Database, there were 110 schools with a math benchmark GPA at or above 3.0. Considering the ceiling effect, it will be much harder for these schools – especially schools such as Vilonia Academy of Technology with a math benchmark GPA of 3.64 and Wilburn Elementary School with a math benchmark GPA of 3.50 – to achieve the high levels of benchmark GPA growth required to earn a place on the latest OEP Award lists (the schools at the bottom of our elementary math  growth list still grew by .86 math benchmark GPA points). However, even though they may not be included on the current lists recognizing growth, that does not mean that they are not high achieving schools.

If you don’t see your school on our Most Improved Schools in Arkansas, 2006-2011 lists, check out our new growth database, to see your school’s growth.

New OEP Database: Measuring Growth as Achievement

In The View from the OEP on November 29, 2012 at 10:59 am

Growth itself contains the germ of happiness. ” – Pearl S. Buck

Over the past two years, the OEP has allocated a lot of time and effort into building what we hope are user-friendly school- and district-level databases to be used by anyone who is interested in the demographics, achievement, or finances of Arkansas’ schools and districts. As you can see by visiting the OEP Data Page on our website, we have primarily posted school- and district-level databases that include demographic/academic/financial variables from a given year. We’ve always believed we were adding a new feature to the world of Arkansas data by posting databases that allow users to see whole-school and/or whole-district performance (whereas other sources such as the Arkansas Department of Education list scores by grade level  in spreadsheet form, or you can view individual school/district scores by grade-level on a PDF form provided by the Arkansas Research Center and the National Office for Research, Measurement, and Evaluation Systems).

Today, we hope to add another feature to the world of Arkansas School Data: our Arkansas School Benchmark Growth Database. Using test scores ranging back to the spring 2006 administration of the Arkansas Benchmark Exam, this database tracks each school that took the benchmark up through the spring of 2012 administration. To establish our baseline, we averaged spring 2006 and spring 2007 scores together to have one starting point from which to measure. We then compared that score against an average of the most recent Benchmark Exam scores from the spring 2011 and spring 2012 administrations.  The resulting numbers represent the total percentage point growth for students who scored at the proficient or advanced level in both math and literacy.  In addition, we provide similar results for our School GPAs, which takes into account students at all levels (Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Advanced). With this database, you can sort by the reported testing results for each year, just as before.  However, in addition, you can now sort by the growth rates, to see which schools have made the most improvement over the years. Also, this is the first database we have published that has each year side-by-side.

One quick note should be made: we did not include any schools in this growth database that did not have reported scores for the four necessary years.  We realize that this leaves out some of the newer schools in the state. In the future, we look forward to adding these new schools as they matriculate into their fifth year.  In the meantime, we have included a separate three-year growth database (on a separate tab of the 5-year database), which allows for more schools to be included.

We hope you will find this new Arkansas School Benchmark Growth Database useful. Whether you are interested in knowing how much your school has grown in the past 5 years – or – you want to compare your school’s growth rate on the Benchmark Exam to that of surrounding schools, this database should be a handy, user-friendly, filter-able, and sort-able resource for you to answer such questions. Click here to view the database now!

Arkansas Teacher of the Year Announced

In The View from the OEP on November 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

This morning at 9:30 AM, Governor Mike Beebe and Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell,  surprised Alexia Weimer, a Kindergarten teacher at Avondale Elementary School in the Marion School District by awarding her as the 2013 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. Avondale Elementary is a K-1 located in West Memphis, AR school serving 634 students, two-thirds of which are eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch (FRL). She was one of four finalists announced earlier this year having been nominated for the award by colleagues who wrote letters of recommendation to the Teacher of the Year Selection Committee.

Ms. Weimer, who has spent her entire six-year teaching career at Avondale Elementary, was surprised at a school assembly by Gov. Beebe and Commissioner Kimbrel. As Teacher of the Year, Weimer will also receive a $15,000 check from the Walton Family Foundation, which has long been a sponsor of the award. Weimer will represent the teachers of Arkansas and meet with legislators and educational organizations on behalf of Arkansas schools.

Teachers are selected based on their teaching skills, as well as their dedication to students, parents and colleagues; demonstrated school and community leadership; ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and their commitment to their profession. Under Act 17 of the First Extraordinary Session of the 85th Arkansas General Assembly provides for the Arkansas Teacher of the Year recipient to take a year of paid administrative leave to serve in an advisory position as a non-voting member to the Arkansas State Board of Education and for professional development purposes.

Congratulations, Alexia!

School Accountability Press Conference: Monday Nov 19th 10:30 AM

In The View from the OEP on November 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Email inboxes and smartphones at the OEP have been dinging and buzzing here in the OEP with the announcement that Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell will hold a press conference to “reveal the accountability status of Arkansas public schools.” The ADE released this announcement yesterday which includes a link to watch a live stream of the press conference Monday, November 19th at 10:30 AM. We have already had a few reporters contact our office looking for information regarding what the Commissioner might say. Unfortunately, we do not yet have the answers, but we will for sure be tuning in  this Monday.

What we can offer are two policy briefs regarding Arkansas’ plan for accountability which was outlined in the state’s successful application and receipt of an ESEA Waiver. Our first policy brief on this topic highlights Arkansas’ application, and the plan that would be implemented should the state be granted the waiver. We then released a follow-up policy brief after the waiver was granted. This follow-up policy brief highlights the July 4th ADE announcement of 48 Priority and 110 Focus schools (Priority and Focus schools are the new names for the two lowest-rated school performance categories; schools and districts in these categories are subject to ADE intervention). Further, the major differences between the accountability system under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the new revised system are also explained in the policy brief.

Considering a number of schools have next week off for the upcoming Holiday, we hope that many of you who find this topic interesting will be able to attend – or tune in online. If not, we’ll be bringing you a recap of the event shortly after Dr. Kimbrell leaves the podium. Stay tuned…

Show Me the Money: Adequacy Funding – AR School Facilities

In The View from the OEP on November 14, 2012 at 11:52 am

Here at the OEP, we are fortunate to have a seasoned scholar who has spent his academic career working in various areas of education: as a public school teacher in the K-12 arena, with the Arkansas Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, to his appointment as Dean of the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas. In his various roles as an Arkansas educator, Reed Greenwood has experienced many of the state’s recent reforms to its education system firsthand. Therefore, his recent writings on the history of Arkansas school funding have been a welcome addition to the OEP publications list.

You may recall that we recently posted Dean Greenwood’s comprehensive report on the reform of Arkansas school funding resulting from the Lake View court case that challenged the state for not providing its schools with adequate and equitable funding for public education (you can read more about Lake View and Dean Greenwood’s funding report in this previous blog post). Today we are releasing the second of two Greenwood-penned school funding reports; with this most recent report focusing on adequacy funding for school facilities.

As is to be expected with any discussion of school funding, the Lake View case is a catalyst for change in how and how much money is allocated to schools and districts. This report highlights the steps put in place by the Arkansas General Assembly which provided significant new systems and financial support for public school renovation and new construction. For example: Funding mechanisms were overhauled and a major effort was conducted to improve the educational facilities across the state.

  • The General Assembly authorized a resulting in a comprehensive report published in 2004. This report served the state as a baseline to measure facility improvements.
  • Then the state authorized many of the actions recommended in the 2004 comprehensive study of the condition of public school facilities report including:
    • The development of immediate and transitional funding programs to address some of the more critical problems in school facilities.
    • A master planning program requiring each school district to submit comprehensive plans and reports covering new facilities, renovations, and maintenance.
  • Future reports were commissioned and released in 2005 and 2007 with additional suggestions for action by the General Assembly.

You can read more about Arkansas school facilities funding in the full report!!

HEY!!! Did You Know that the OEP is on Facebook & Twitter?!?! Because WE ARE!!!

In The View from the OEP on November 14, 2012 at 11:51 am

No, those aren’t birds chirping in the OEP halls…it’s just new tweets coming from our Twitter account. The OEP is constantly trying to find the best ways to reach our audience, and our Twitter account seems like a great way to keep constituents informed of new OEP News, Publications, or other general news as it relates to education policy across the U.S. Our Twitter account also provides an opportunity for our office to directly network with you and share relevant education policy news or events. If you are a Twitter user:

Log on to Twitter and follow the OEP @Office4EdPolicy!!!!

But the Social Media Revolution does not end there!!!!

The OEP has also created a Page on Facebook ready and waiting for you to “Like.” We will use our Facebook Page much like our Twitter account: as one more mechanism for sharing interesting education policy news, events, publications etc., from around the country. We will also use this Page to post links to our own new OEP Publications and news. And the best part about our Facebook Page? It provides a great platform for those who “Like” the page to directly react and interact to the information we post. This is a great way to join in the conversation and help us understand the variety of perspectives that exist regarding the topic of education policy. We’ve been encouraging readers of the OEP Blog to comment on our blog posts, so hopefully, our Facebook Page will be another means for the OEP to connect with you. Click Here to visit the OEP Facebook Page and “Like” us today!!!!!

Mark Your Calendar: Upcoming State Meetings of Interest- UPDATED

In Mark Your Calendar on November 9, 2012 at 11:39 am

The following education related meetings are coming up in the months of November and December: Mark your calendars:

Friday November 16th – the Arkansas Association of Curriculum & Instruction Administrators (AACIA) 2012 Instructional Leaders Conference, Double Tree Hotel, Little Rock, AR

Monday November 19th – News Conference: Commissioner of Education Tom Kimbrell to reveal accountability status of Arkansas public schools, Arch Ford Education Building Auditorium, State Capitol Complex 10:30 AM.
Note: This press conference will also be streaming live on the web.

Monday November 26thJoint House and Senate Education Committee meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room 171, 9:00 AM

Monday November 26th – House Early Childhood Education Committee meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room 171, 1:30 PM

Tuesday November 26th – Arkansas Legislative Council – Joint Budget Committee (ALC-JBC) Education K-12 Committee meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room B, MAC, 10:30 AM

Friday November 30thJoint Subcommittee on Public School Employee Health Insurance of the House and Senate Interim Committees on Education meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room 171, 9:00 AM
Note: you can view the meeting agenda and other materials from the November 14th meeting here.

Monday December 10thState Board of Education meeting, Arch Ford Education Building Auditorium, State Capitol Complex 9:00 AM
Note: This meeting will also be streaming live on the web.

Monday December 10th – Joint House and Senate Education Committee meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room 171, 10:00 AM

Monday December 10th – Arkansas Legislative Council – Joint Budget Committee (ALC – JBC) Higher Education Subcommittee meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room 171, 10:00 AM

Tuesday December 11th –  Arkansas Legislative Council – Joint Budget Committee (ALC-JBC) Education K-12 Committee meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room A, MAC, 10:00 AM

Thursday December 13th –  Legislative Joint Auditing – Education Institutions committee meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room 138, 1:30 PM

Friday December 14th – Arkansas Legislative Council – Joint Budget Committee (ALC – JBC) Higher Education Subcommittee meeting, Arkansas State Capitol, Room B, MAC, 1:30 PM