University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Update from the State Capitol

In The View from the OEP on September 13, 2012 at 6:23 am

A few OEP-ers attended various statewide meetings in Little Rock earlier this week. Here is an update on some of the points discussed:

The joint House and Senate Committee on Education heard a report from the Arkansas Leadership Academy that highlighted some successes over the last three years of the program. You can review some of their successes by accessing their report to the committee here. Some highlights include:

  • There are 19 first-year superintendents in Arkansas in the 2012-13 academic year, and ALL 19 have started the required professional development and ALL have been assigned to a trained mentor.
  • After three years under the School Support Program (SSP), there is consistent movement toward higher achievement in all performance levels among ten schools in the cohort of schools under SSP for all three years.
  • SSP schools appear to be closing the “all students achievement” gap with other schools in the state, particularly in literacy.

Congratulations to Dr. Debbie Davis and her team at the ALA on their successes.

In the afternoon, the  joint House and Senate Committee on Education heard testimony from a panel of educators, including the UA’s own Sandra Stotsky regarding civic education standards in Arkansas. Among the recommendations from the panel:

  • Increase the k-12 graduation requirement for civic education (specifically, state and local government) by one CU (credit unit)
  • Higher Education Institutions in AR should require a 3 CU’s of civic education at the postsecondary level.

You can review the panel’s talking points memo from the meeting here.

The committee also heard a presentation on Teach For America (TFA) successes in the TFA Delta Region (incorporating areas in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta area). The report to the committee discussed, specifically, the successes of TFA in Arkansas. Guest speakers on behalf of TFA included three school leaders. First,  Joyce Vaught, the Superintendent of Lakeside School District, who, when advocating for the hiring of TFA Corps members into her district, shared a video Lakeside students made for Parent Orientation night, showing how the district is beating the odds and succeeding, thanks in part to their TFA teachers. Second, both KIPP School leaders (Scott Shirey of Kipp Delta Collegiate Preparatory in Helena and Maisie Wright of KIPP Blytheville College Preparatory in Blytheville), who are both TFA alumni, discussed the benefits of this program in the state. You can access the TFA Power Point handout from the meeting here.

At the State Board of Education meeting on Monday, a number of reports were presented. The Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science (AAIMS) presented their results from the 2011-12 school year. AIMS is funded by a grant from Exxon Mobil. It is currently the 6th year of the grant, and the 5th and final year of the program. AAIMS works with 39 high schools around the state to have more students take and succeed (a score of 3 or more) at Advanced Placement exams in math, science, and English. AAIMS provides professional development for AP teachers, as well as lower level teachers who are preparing students for future AP classes. Some highlights from the report include:

  • In 2011-12, 23,765 students took an AP test in math, science, and English in Arkansas; and 9,794 of those students were in the AAIMS program (41%).
  • Of 7,059 qualifying scores (receiving a score of 3, 4, or 5), AAIMS had 3,036 qualifying scores (43%).
  • These qualifying scores allow students to either receive college credit or opt out of certain lower-level college classes.
  • In 2011-12, 30% of math, science, and English tests received a qualifying score, and 31% of AAIMS tests received a qualifying score.
  • In 2011-12, there were 4,618 tests taken by African-American and Hispanic students (20% of total tests taken); and 13% received a qualifying score.
  • In the AAIMS program, 14% of African-American and Hispanic test takers received a qualifying score. The OEP is going to further study AP tests in Arkansas and release a report on this in the future.

The Arkansas Department of Education Home School Office provided a report on the 2011-12 school year. Home school students in grades 3 – 9 must be tested every year. The Home School Office uses a form of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) to test students; this form of the ITBS is different from the ITBS taken in public schools in Arkansas (thus, data cannot be compared between these groups).

Covenant Keepers College Preparatory Charter School presented their quarterly report on their finances and management. At the end of the 2011-12 school year, the Board required that Covenant Keepers provide quarterly reports, as the school was having financial problems. The school is working with the Arkansas Public School Resource Center (APSRC).

The Dollarway School District was taken over by the Arkansas Department of Education in June 2012. The State Board is now the school board for the Dollarway School District. Dr. Kimbrell appointed Frank Anthony to be the superintendent of Dollarway. Mr. Anthony presented his first report on the district. Enrollment in the district is down by over 100 students from the 2011-12 school year. Mr. Anthony reported that the district and state have been working on high school transcripts, as a number of transcripts had been misreporting information (leading to the state takeover). Mr. Anthony also cited problems hiring quality teachers for this school year.

You can download the video and minutes of the State Board of Education Meeting here.

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