University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

…And the (OEP) Award Goes To….

In The View from the OEP on August 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Too often, policy “wonks” find themselves being asked difficult questions about education and/or education reform where we have to provide commentary on the problems in our education system. However, we realize that, despite our belief that some aspects of our education system could benefit from additional tinkering, there is also a LOT of GOOD out there to report. It was this notion that prompted our office to start off each year promoting the SUCCESSES of schools in Arkansas. Thus, the Office for Education Policy created the annual OEP Awards which recognizes the top performing schools across the state .

To recognize school achievement, we look at how each school performed on the statewide exams such as the Arkansas Benchmark and End-of-Course exams. But we don’t just observe the top 25 schools in the state, because we realize that middle schools differ from elementary schools,… rural schools differ from suburban schools…schools with high populations of students with low socioeconomic status differ from more affluent schools, thus we decided to further break the OEP Awards out into smaller categories. For example, in last year’s OEP awards (2011-12), we recognized the top performing schools in the following categories (click on each to read that section of the report):

We share these Awards with you today so that you can be prepared for our first installment of the 2011-12 OEP Awards which we will release next week. As we do every year, we will begin by releasing the high achieving “overall” schools in Arkansas based on performance on the benchmark exams. Like the report above, we will examine school performance on both benchmark subtests (in math and literacy) – and on a combined math and literacy score (a composite, if you will). By breaking out performance in all three categories, schools that may have performed well in math, but not as well in literacy, can still be recognized for their academic achievements.

Students and Teachers receive an OEP Award at the Annual OEP Conference in 2012 (photo courtesy of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

One difference this year, however, is a new method for ranking schools. This year, we are using a new academic performance indicator, the “GPA” rating system, to rank the highest performing schools. In the past, the rankings were created based on the percentage of students scoring at proficient or advanced level on each assessment. Generally, when discussing academic achievement on the Benchmark exams, districts, policymakers, and others consider this percentage. However, this percentage indicator suffers from being an “all-or-nothing” measure, in which a student is either proficient or not.

For example, this mark “throws away” real information based on student scores that are placed into the four different performance categories: below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced. The percent proficient and advanced measure, for example, does not differentiate between a school in which 100% of students score proficient and a school in which 100% of students score advanced.  Both of these schools would show 100% of students performing at proficient and advanced levels; however, in the latter school, students actually performed a significantly higher level.  Thus, a slightly more informative indicator gives the most credit to students who score at the advanced level and the least credit to students who score at the below basic level. For these purposes then, we have created the “GPA” rating system. In this GPA measure, we treat the benchmark test scores similar to the existing grade point system.

Category GPA Points Awarded






Below Basic


The GPA measure, we believe, is a better representation of student achievement on statewide standardized exams. In this report, we are presenting a list of the top 25 schools in each area.  In some cases, these “top 25 lists” will contain more than 25 schools as some schools’ GPA scores will be identical. This is not a new phenomenon, as we also exceeded 25 schools in previous reports when using the percent proficient and advanced metric as an indicator for student achievement; however, there are much fewer ties using the more precise GPA measure.  If you are curious to see how your school performs using the GPA indicator, search your school in the OEP School Level Databases here.

Stay tuned as our first installment of the OEP Awards will be released NEXT WEEK. In the meantime, feel free to peruse the 2010-11 OEP Awards in their entirety, or view each individual section (linked in the bulleted list above).

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