University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

It’s Report Card Season…

In The View from the OEP on May 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Each year, the OEP releases an annual “Report Card on Arkansas Public Schools” highlighting student performance on statewide and national standardized tests, examining the achievement gaps in Arkansas, the states that border Arkansas, and the nation. We also examine secondary education outcomes and Arkansas school and teacher characteristics.

There is good news to  report on our most recent Report Card:

    • In the 2010-11 academic year, more students were scoring at the proficient or advanced level on the Arkansas benchmark and end-of-course exams than in years past.
    • Despite there being an achievement gap between Hispanic and white students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress  (NAEP), more Hispanic students in Arkansas  in grade 4 are scoring at the proficient or advanced level in math as compared to their national peers. This is also true in grade 8 reading where Hispanic students not only outperform the nation, but also their peers in Arkansas’ bordering states.
    • Arkansas teachers are paid well compared to teachers in nearby states, and compared to the nation as a whole, when regional cost of living is taken into account.
NAEP Math Growth Grade 4 1992-2011
However, there is still a need for improvement and reform in Arkansas if we  continually expect to chip away at the performance gaps between our state, our neighbors, and the nation. For example, it is easy to tout figures that show Arkansas has more students performing at the proficient and advanced level on statewide assessments, but the growth curves over time appear to be flattening. In fact, we do not see much of a difference in the trends on this Report Card as compared to the earlier  2010 Report Card or the 2009 Report Card. In each Report Card, Arkansas students have continued to score a little better on standardized assessments as compared to previous years, but remain behind the national averages.
Don’t get us wrong —  it is wonderful to report that in in the 2 decades since 1992, Arkansas has increased the percent of grade 4 students scoring proficient or advanced on the NAEP math exam from 10% to 37in math…and the percent of grade 8 students from 10% to 29% on the same measure. But that averages out to a little over a 1 percentage point gain per year.


We should feel proud of our accomplishments as a state, especially when Governor Beebe reminds us that we are indeed making great educational strides while not needing to cut education jobs because of budget shortfalls. But we should also recognize that some of the gains over the past 15 or so years have begun to “flat-line”; as a result, we may need to be even more innovative to foster further improvements in student learning.  It is our hope that some of the reforms on the horizon in Arkansas will kickstart greater gains that outpace our bordering states and the nation so that we can really begin to close the gaps in student performance.
Take a look at the 2011 Report Card on Arkansas Public Schools and leave us a comment. Tell us your thoughts or suggestions for how we can continue to improve, but at a greater rate.
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