University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

So…are we 5th?? Or are we 49th??

In The View from the OEP on February 22, 2013 at 10:34 am


Have you ever picked up a newspaper and read an article where a state official proclaimed that Arkansas ranks 5th in education in the US? Then two days later, you are reading a different article that says when looking at how students in Arkansas perform on national standardized tests, we perform below 48 other states. This may be where the phrase “thank goodness for [insert Mississippi or West Virginia here]” comes from.

So which is it? Are we 5th?  Are we 49th?

QC2013The OEP has been kicking this question around since the latest Quality Counts report was released by Education Week (read more about Arkansas’ rankings in Quality Counts here). So we decided to dig into the data a little.

What we ended up with was a policy brief titled Fifth or Forty-Ninth? Examining Educational Rankings in Arkansas. In this policy brief, we briefly examine the educational rankings according to Quality Counts and also according to Arkansas student performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) – also known as “The Nation’s report Card.” However, in our policy brief, we went a step further than most simple analyses and rankings by examining  the data while taking into consideration the poverty rates of the students tested. For example, when we look at rankings when students are broken into three categories: Overall Student Population; “Lower-Income” Students; and “Higher-Income” Students, we find that Arkansas’ rankings are not 5th…but are certainly not 49th either!

Would you like to know how Arkansas ranked after we took poverty levels into consideration?  Click here to read the policy brief!

NAEPWe think this is an interesting issue, especially in a world where sound bytes are an important part of our information gathering/sharing process. Our world of 24-hour cable news and social-media information in 140 characters or less favors these small soundbytes. But there is often more to the story, as we hope this policy brief illustrates.

In fact, OEP Director had the opportunity to present the issue of 5th or 49th to the Arkansas House Committee on Education at their meeting Thursday Feb 21st (you can watch a video of the whole meeting here).  It generated a great discussion about Arkansas education policy, and what topics the education committee deems important. Well worth the time it will take to watch.

Do you have an opinion about what areas of education policy in Arkansas are important? If so, leave us a comment below!

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