University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

OEP Weekly Links (OWL) – January 9th, 2012

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on January 9, 2012 at 8:21 am

Happy New Year! We hope 2012 is treating you well. We are ringing in the New Year with some updates to the OEP Data Page

As always, here is the news…

News from Around the Natural State

School Test Results Just Part of Picture

Arkansas students scored just above the national average on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills last spring, landing at the 57th percentile on the exam that compares Arkansas achievement with that of a national sample of test-takers. But a statewide score doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. The school-by-school results – as calculated by the University of Arkansas’ Office for Education Policy – show a far more varied performance by the state’s students in kindergarten through ninth grades on the nationally standardized exam.

North Little Rock Schools Hope Tax is in Voters’ Hearts Feb. 14

Not all the Christmas decorations are stowed away, and the “Happy 2012!” banners still wave, but in the North Little Rock School District the focus is turning to Valentine’s Day. That Feb. 14 day celebrating love and affection is the day the North Little Rock School Board picked for a special election on a 7.4-mill increase to the current 40.9-mill school tax rate. If voters approve the increase, the money raised will help finance a $265.6 million building program that over the next five years will affect every campus in the 9,083-student district, from the pre-kindergarten center to the landmark high school. The North Little Rock facilities plan, which would actually cut the number of campuses from 21 to 13, is one of the largest — if not the largest — and most comprehensive school-building programs undertaken in the state in memory.

News from Around the Nation

Washington State Isn’t Meeting Duty to Fund Education, State Supreme Court Rules

The Washington Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state isn’t meeting its constitutional obligation to amply pay for basic public education, but the justices gave an endorsement to the reform work the Legislature has already started. The 85-page opinion said, however, that the judiciary would keep an eye on lawmakers to make sure they fully implement education reforms by 2018. “The court cannot idly stand by as the legislature makes unfulfilled promises for reform,” Justice Debra Stephens wrote in the majority opinion. She notes that deadlines for reforms keep getting moved back and if left up to the Legislature, the court expects the delays would continue.

GOP Hopefuls Favor Scaled-Back K-12 Federal Role

Though education has played second fiddle so far to other domestic issues in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, the narrowing field includes GOP candidates with compatible views on scaling back the federal role in K-12, but big contrasts in policy specifics and experience. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, is expected to put a strong emphasis on his own K-12 agenda and achievements—including such signature programs as the Race to the Top and a waiver plan for unpopular provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act—as his re-election effort gains steam.

Out-of-School Time Drawing Girls Into STEM

A group of high school girls listen eagerly for their mission: Use the tools on hand to design a self-propelled boat that can cross water with 50 passengers on board. The passengers: pennies. The tools: pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and balloons. The water: an inflatable kiddie pool. It’s another engineering “design challenge” at Techbridge, an after-school program for girls that encourages interest in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—subjects. Close to 30 girls are here this day at Arroyo High School, one of 21 Techbridge sites in California’s Bay Area that serve more than 600 elementary and secondary girls in total, close to 90 percent of whom are minority students.

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

Site Seeing

Last June, the OEP presented at the University of Central Arkansas Summer Learning Institute on our Arkansas Education Report titled “Spotlights on Success: Traits and Strategies of Five High-Growth Schools in Arkansas.” AETN was there to film our presentations and have graciously offered to host the videos on its website. The videos are linked below:

Session 1, Video 1: Introduction and Overview

Session 1, Video 2: Panel Discussion with School Leaders

Session 2, Video 3: Characteristics of Successful Schools

Session 2, Video 4: Situating the Case Study, Results in the Broader Research

Mark Your Calendar

January 9, 2012: Arkansas State Board of Education meeting, 9:00 AM, Arch Ford Building, State Capitol Complex.

January 9, 2012: Joint Committee on Education, 1:30 PM, Room 171

January 10, 2012: Joint Committee on Education, 1:30 PM, Room 171

Final Thought:

“If you are teaching students, and they are involved in synthesizing, analyzing, evaluating and creating, then obviously [testing] is going to be easy,” – Michelle Hayward, Principal at McNair Middle School in Fayetteville on student test performance.

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