University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Report Cards Are Out!

In The View from the OEP on April 15, 2016 at 12:08 pm

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Today, OEP is pleased to release our annual “Report Card on Arkansas Public Schools”.  Also today, the Arkansas Department of Education released the annual School Performance Reports.  Although both reports provide information about student performance on state and national assessments, the reports have different perspectives;  OEP’s Report Card compiles the information to inform a state and regional analysis, while ADE reports school-level information.

A-F Grades


Included in both reports are school A-F letter grades.  Because these are relatively new and very public measure of school performance, we would like to address this first.

The 2015 A-F letter grades (buried deep within the report cards again this year- but available in a downloadable spreadsheet here) may come as a shock to some schools and communities, especially on the heels of last week’s identification of 105 schools receiving over $4 million from the state for high performance.  Although many schools were given awards, only 10 Arkansas schools received an “A” grade this year (compared to 162 schools last year).   Twenty-one percent of schools received a “B”, but most Arkansas schools (54%) received a “C” grade.  The chart below shows the number of Arkansas schools receiving each letter grade.

A-F Grades 2015

What’s in a grade?


Similarly to the letter grades that a student receives from their teacher, school letter grades are an overview of several different performance measures: Performance, Growth and (where applicable) Graduation. Although still based on student performance on state assessments, the indicators changed some this year, and here at OEP we like the new calculations better, because they include a Value-Added score.  Value-Added is simply a way of examining how much academic growth students at a school made from one year to the next.  Schools that improved student scores more than we would have expected received higher growth scores, while schools where students did not improve as much as expected received lower growth scores. For more information about A-F, read this handout, view a parent- friendly video or enjoy a more detailed video of the ‘nitty gritty details’.

We at the OEP will be digging into the grades more deeply in the coming weeks, but want to caution against getting too caught up in the grades.  Seventy-six percent of Arkansas schools received a ‘passing grade’ of “A”, “B”, or “C”, which is about the same as last year.  Schools receiving “D”s or “F”s, however, are in the bottom 25% of schools in the state and are facing many challenges in terms of student performance.  Schools should take a hard look at the (very interesting) charts that accompany the Letter Grade reports and see how their performance compares with schools educating students with similar poverty levels.  By collaborating with schools that are experiencing greater success, perhaps these schools can provide more opportunities for their students.

But wait – there’s MORE!


OEP’s Report Card includes summary information and analysis of student performance, graduation rate, college readiness and education spending in one easy-to-access report.

Highlights from this year’s report include:

  • PARCC:  The first state assessment aligned to Common Core State Standards and the first that allowed for cross-state comparisons of student performance. Although proficiency rates were much lower than they had been on previous state assessments, Arkansas’ PARCC scores were in line with what we would expect given the background characteristics of our students and the scores from students in other states.
  • NAEP: The 2015 NAEP scores show that Arkansas’ fourth grade students score similarly to the national average in reading, although eighth grade students are still below average performance. In mathematics, Arkansas students still score well below national performance averages.
  • Science assessments: In the last year for these tests before we begin assessing science annually with ACT Aspire, there was a slight increase in 5th grade science scores, but the 7th grade scores declined.  Biology scores remained consistent with 2013-14 performance.
  • ITBS: Although still above the national average, scores for first and second grade students declined in both reading and math.
  • High School Graduation Rate: Arkansas’ 2013-14 graduation rate of 87% is above the national average and continued an upward trend.  The 2014-15 graduation rate released today, however, dropped to 85%.
  • Education funding is consistently supported in the state budget, and progressive for regions in need of support.

We hope the 2015 Report Card on Arkansas Public Schools can inform parents, teachers and policy makers as they work to ensure all Arkansas students are on track for success.





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