As testing season hits full stride in Arkansas’ public schools, we at the Office for Education Policy are summarizing the 2013-14 results for Northwest Arkansas districts and charter schools. In partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Council, we are proud to release the 2014 Northwest Arkansas Report Card, our annual look into standardized test performance, graduation rates, and all things K-12 in our region.
How are Northwest Arkansas Districts Doing?
Over the past decade, the region has made significant gains on the Benchmark exam. In 2004, only 55% of 3rd-8th grade students in Northwest Arkansas were proficient on math and literacy assessments. In 2014, 80% of students were proficient in math, and 83% were proficient in literacy.
High school assessments show similar increases for Northwest Arkansas students. There has been a 26 percentage point increase in 11th grade literacy proficiency, a 25% increase in biology proficiency, and double digit increases have resulted in over 83% and 84% of NWA students scoring proficient or above on Algebra and Geometry exams, respectively.
What’s in the Report Card?
This year the Report Card presents a ‘district dashboard’ format that makes it easier for educators, school administrators, parents, and state lawmakers to see how regional school district are performing. Information includes key metrics about assessment results, graduation rates, student demographics, and financial indicators.
- Bentonville was one of the highest performing traditional school districts on all assessments, and has the lowest percentage of At Risk students.
- Rogers had the highest proficiency rates for At Risk students. Proficiency rates for all students in 3rd-8th grade literacy was higher than overall beat the “Big 5” average, even though Rogers serves a higher percentage of students receiving Free/Reduced Lunch and Limited English Proficiency services.
- Gravette tied for the highest performing traditional school district in biology.
- Elkins graduated 99% of seniors in 2012-13- the highest traditional school graduation rate.
- Haas Hall had near 100% proficiency and graduation rates, and reported no At Risk students.
In addition to the ‘district dashboards’, we also included spotlights about programs regional districts are implementing to better prepare students for life after high school. Ranging from the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics to the Pea Ridge Manufacturing and Business Academy, these programs and their partners deserve to be applauded for their work, and we hope you are able to learn a little bit more about them.
At the moment, there is a lot of discussion about how Arkansas education should move forward. Sometimes you need learn from the past to see how to move forward. If districts had not been required to give the Benchmark and End-of-Course assessments over the past 10 years, we would have no way to measure and celebrate the growth our students have made. When students began taking the Benchmark exams, there was a similar gnashing of teeth and concerns about lost instructional time, but Arkansas students are now performing much better in reading, math and science than they were 10 years ago. Examining the performance of our students allows us to celebrate, and recognize that we can still do better. For more information about current education issues, check out OEP’s Policy Briefs and Blog. The more we can share the good news and look for ways to improve, the better Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas will be.
We invite you to share this report card with anyone who might be curious about the state of education in our region. If you want more information on schools in Northwest Arkansas or the state as a whole, head on over to our website, where you can dive into all of the publicly-available data on school demographics, test scores, and finances.