University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

OWL Education Links 01-12-2012

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on January 13, 2012 at 11:55 am

Last week, we posted our commentary “More Data is Better, which was a response to the recent article on Arkansas student performance on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). We also posted links to the OEP Data Page, which hosts our School-Level ITBS Database featured in the article. We are thankful for the number of follow-up calls from media and school personnel making further inquiries about the database. Stay tuned for more changes and additions to our Arkansas School Data Page.

Click over to the Data Page and see what we have to say…feel encouraged to leave us a comment!

Have a great weekend! As always, here is the news…

News from Around the Natural State

Education Week Ranks Arkansas 5th in Educational Policies, Performance

Arkansas has moved up one position in Education Week magazine’s annual ranking of states’ education policies and performance, going from sixth in the nation to fifth. “I am excited by Arkansas’ continued rise in the Education Week rankings, but there is more hard work ahead of us,” Gov. Mike Beebe said of the magazine’s annual Quality Counts report, released today. “We’ve come a long way as a state in our pursuit of academic excellence, and we’ll continue making improvements that help our students and our state’s future,” Beebe said. The state ranked 10th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the magazine’s 2008 and 2009 reports before moving up to sixth in the 2011 report and fifth in the latest report. “We’re very pleased about the latest sign of Arkansas’ advancement in education,” state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said. “To be ranked fifth in the nation indicates that good things are happening in Arkansas schools. Educators and policy makers across the country are taking notice.”

Schools Join Technology Program

Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell announced the first 16 school districts that will participate in the state’s STEM Works initiative designed to better educate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program, announced by Gov. Mike Beebe in August, aims to bolster the state’s work force by preparing students for employment in its most rapidly expanding sectors. “We think this will really take off,” Kimbrell said at a superintendents conference in Little Rock held by the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators.

Board OKs 4 Charters Run by School Districts

The Arkansas Board of Education approved proposals for four school-district-run charter schools to open in 2012-13, including one in Osceola, although it revoked a charter for a program in that school system a little more than a year ago. The state Education Board voted 6-0 for each of the proposed schools, three of which will feature hands on, project-based learning. The fourth will group students by academic needs, not by age or grade level. Each of the schools will serve all the students in its district at the particular organizational level. The schools, now eligible for a $600,000 federal start-up grant, are:

  • Cross County Elementary Technology Academy in Cherry Valley for pupils in grades kindergarten through six.
  • Lincoln High School: New Tech, which is in the Lincoln Consolidated School District, for all students in grades eight through 12.
  • Osceola Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy for all pupils in grades five through eight.
  • Eastside New Vision Charter School in the Warren School District for all pupils in grades kindergarten through three.

Pulaski County Schools Leader: 8 Shortfalls Fast Fixes

The head of the Pulaski County Special School District said he believes his school system can meet most of the requirements of its desegregation plan quickly. But Superintendent Jerry Guess said one area might be a problem: finding enough money to renovate school buildings to meet federal court approval. Guess’ comments during an interview Friday were his first public responses to a Dec. 28 decision by a federal appeals court that found that the district had failed to comply with nine provisions of its desegregation plan, including facilities, the student assignment plan, student achievement and student discipline.

News from Around the Nation

Few States Cite Full Plans for Carrying Out Standards

Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted a common set of academic standards, but only seven have fully developed plans to put the standards into practice in three key areas, according to a new study. The EPE Research Center, operated by Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes Education Week, teamed up with Education First, a Seattle-based education policy and consulting group, on a survey of states’ plans to implement the Common Core State Standards. It found that “a handful of states are particularly far along” in their plans to transform the common standards into practice, but “most states … still have a long way to go” before they have blueprints to take the standards from paper to practice.

The Lasting Impact of Good Teachers

A good teacher not only improves a child’s test scores in the classroom, but also enhances his or her chances to attend college, earn more money and avoid teen pregnancy, according to a new seminal study. The study, conducted by economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years from a large urban school district from fourth grade to adulthood, making it one of the largest and most consequential educational studies in recent years. Their findings focus on the long-term impact of teachers based on their “value-added” ratings. This refers to the average test-score improvement for a teacher’s students, adjusted for differences across schools and classrooms such as prior test scores. Evaluating teachers based on student performance has been the subject of much debate among teachers, unions and policymakers.

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