University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

OEP Conference Roundup

In The View from the OEP on September 21, 2016 at 8:40 am

Thanks to everyone who attended our OEP conference! We loved hearing a variety of perspectives throughout the day. We hope these conversations continue, as they are necessary for improving the Arkansas education system. Here are a few thoughts we’re still marinating on a week after the conference:

1. Pre-kindergarten programs lead to significant gains, but face implementation challenges.

Our keynote speaker for the day was Dr. William Gormley, who presented a review of the research on pre-K programs. In general, pre-K programs are associated with large, immediate gains—and smaller long-term gains— fpre-kor students. Here in Arkansas, our ABC pre-K program has been applauded nationally, but it faces challenges in serving the state’s children. In a panel discussion on Arkansas’ pre-K program, pre-K administrators discussed funding and staffing challenges facing pre-K providers across the state.

2. When it comes to rural education, we need both collaboration and autonomy.

We had many discussions about rural education at our conference, from how to make rural-roadsprofessional development meaningful for teachers, to recruiting and retaining teachers in rural areas, to the impacts of state policies on rural schools. A common theme throughout the day was the need to facilitate collaboration across districts, while still giving rural districts enough autonomy to make decisions rooted in their local context. Our rural districts face significant challenges, and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to their unique needs

3. Serving diverse learners requires systems that are responsive to individuals.

At our conference, we discussed how schools and systems are (or are not) meeting diverse-learnersstudents’ needs. This included a retrospective look at how KIPP Delta has improved over the years, an examination of research on how funding mechanisms may prevent students with disabilities from being identified, and a review of the research on how to best serve English Language Learners. Through all of this,  we were able to think deeply how best to meet the needs of ALL students in Arkansas.

Thanks again to everyone who came out to the conference! We were truly inspired by hearing  all your thoughts, ideas, and actions in our communities, and can’t wait for next year!

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