University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

An Endless…Nay…Ending Summer Recap

In The View from the OEP on August 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

In Arkansas, this week marks the final week of summer vacation for most public schools across the state (the first day of school for the majority of schools in Arkansas is Monday August 20th).  As you may have learned through our intermittent posts over the summer, we have been keeping tabs on the education world throughout summer vacation. As we get ready to begin a new school year, we wanted to recap three stories that hit the news cycle over the vacation months that have relevance as we enter the new school year.

scales of justice1. Arkansas Public School Choice Act of 1989 is unconstitutional. Last June, U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson ruled that a race-based provision in the Arkansas Public School Choice Act of 1989 violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We blogged about this ruling right after the news was reported. One of the initial questions prompted by this ruling was” what happens to the 15,000 students already attending other schools under the school choice law?” Apparently, we weren’t the only ones asking this question, as a few weeks after the decision to toss out the school choice law, the same judge delayed his ruling on the law because there were still students with pending school choice appeals through the Arkansas Department of Education. In the meantime, the original school choice law is being followed as written.

2. Arkansas Granted an NCLB Waiver. On June 29th, 2012, Arkansas joined the ranks of the now 33 states that have been granted waivers from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  The Arkansas Department of Education has created a website with a compendium of information on the state’s ESEA Waiver request. We summarized some of this information in two previous OEP policy briefs on NCLB Waivers and the ESEA Waiver Request, which were prompted by the Obama administration announcement in October 2011 that it would grant waivers from key provisions of NCLB. In exchange, each state had to submit plans that would create strong accountability systems that would specify how to address the following three principles:

  • College- and Career-Ready Expectations for all Students
  • Supporting Effective Instruction and Leadership
  • State-Developed Differentiated Recognition, Accountability, and Support

As a follow up, the OEP just published an ESEA Waiver Approval Update policy brief explaining the major differences between the accountability system under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the new revised system. It also provides an analysis of the new system’s strengths and weaknesses. click here to read more.

3. Arkansas Students Continue to Show Improvement on State Exams. In late July, the ADE released test score results from the spring 2012 administration of the Arkansas Benchmark Exam (grades 3-8), End-of-Course Exams (in Algebra, Geometry, Biology, and Grade 11 Literacy), and the norm-referenced Iowa Test of Basic Skills (Grades K-9). The OEP accessed the raw data on the ADE Website, and condensed it into more manageable school- and district-level databases for each of the exams listed above. This way, individuals can look to see how their whole school or whole district performed on these exams. In addition, the OEP released a policy brief highlighting the state’s overall performance on these exams. We also examined trends in performance over time. Click here to read the OEP Policy Brief on 2011-12 test performance.

As the majority of the state prepares for the first day of school (Monday, August 20th), the OEP will be prepping right along with you. We have a number of exciting publications planned for release this year, including one of our favorites; the annual OEP Awards (click here to view last year’s OEP Awards), an update on the School Choice Law ruling, and a more in-depth look at student performance on the state exams. It’s going to be an exciting year!

We’d love to know what types of information you would like us to cover. Perhaps you have an idea for a research study or OEP Policy Brief. By all means, give us your input! Leave us a comment below and let us know what we can to to help!

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