University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

OWL: Weekly Education Links – Spring Break Edition

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on March 20, 2012 at 10:05 am

News from Around the Natural State.

Arkansas’ Graduation Rate Falling, Study Finds

A new study says the percentage of Arkansans earning high school degrees is on the decline. Arkansas’ high school graduation rate decreased by almost one percent between 2002 and 2009. The report says the number of “dropout factories,” or high schools where fewer than 60 percent of students graduate on time, increased from five to 12 around the same period of time. However, the number of Arkansans taking advanced placement courses increased about 30 percentage points from 2001 to 2011. The findings were released in “Building a Grad Nation,” a report co-authored by Civic Enterprises, a public policy firm, and Johns Hopkins University. An Arkansas Department of Education spokesman said graduation rates are one of many benchmarks used to determine a student’s success.

3 NLR Schools Officially to Close

The North Little Rock School Board has made it official: Belwood Elementary and the Poplar Street and Rose City middle schools will cease to operate beginning with the coming 2012-13 school year as part of the district’s $265.6 million plan for building new schools and renovating others over the next five years. The closing of the particular school programs was anticipated throughout the campaign for a 7.4-mill school-tax increase approved by voters Feb. 14.

News from Around the Nation

Center for Education Policy Issues Report Card for School Improvement Grants

Two years into the implementation of the federal School Improvement Grant program, which aims to help states turn around some of their lowest-performing schools, state officials are generally optimistic about its potential, but have a lot of ideas for perfecting it, according to a pair of reports released today by the Center on Education Policy, a research and advocacy organization in Washington. For this study, CEP surveyed 46 state Title I directors from November 2011 through January 2012. The group also did some close “case-studies” of three very different states that are using a variety of school turnaround approaches: Idaho, Maryland, and Michigan. CEP interviewed 14 state and district officials and 21 principals, teachers, and other school staff. Together, the reports provide some of the best insight yet into a program a very smart researcher once described to me as “a black hole.” The SIG effort got $3 billion—and a slew of new federal strings—under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the stimulus. (For more background on SIG and its four models, which many education advocates see as inflexible and limiting, here).

Survey: Teachers Place Little Value on Standardized Tests

Most teachers do not believe standardized tests have significant value as measures of student performance, according to a new report published jointly by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The report, based on a survey of more than 10,000 public school teachers, finds that only 28 percent of educators see state-required standardized tests as an essential or very important gauge of student achievement. In addition, only 26 percent of teachers say standardized tests are an accurate reflection of what students know. One potential explanation for those low marks lies in another of the survey’s findings—that is, only 45 percent of teachers think their students take standardized tests seriously or perform to the best of their ability on them. Overall, according to the report, teachers see ongoing formative assessments, class participation, and performance on class assignments as much more important measures of student learning. At the same time, most teachers (85 percent) agree that their students’ growth over the course of the year should contribute significantly to evaluations of their own performance.

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