University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Northwest Arkansas Report Card 2016

In The View from the OEP on July 26, 2017 at 11:05 am


Today we are pleased to release the 2016 Northwest Arkansas Report Card, our annual look into standardized test performance, graduation rates, and all things K-12 in the NWA region. This report card provides a regional overview of districts in Benton and Washington counties as well as key performance indicators for each of the 15 traditional public school districts and 5 public charter schools.

How Are NWA Schools Doing?

Northwest Arkansas continues to lead the state in K-12 education. Students in Northwest Arkansas outperformed the state in Mathematics, English Language Arts, and Science on the 2015-16 state assessments, and preliminary results from 2016-17 reflect the same advantage.

Northwest Arkansas students scored 8 percentage points higher than the state overall on the ACT Aspire in 2015-16. Although the 2016-17 results are preliminary, improvement in student performance over 2015-16 results is present both statewide and for NWA. However, because these assessments are not widely administered across the country, we can’t know if students in Northwest Arkansas are performing better or worse than their peers in other states.


Percentage of Students Meeting/Exceeding Expectations


The Report Card presents a ‘district dashboard’ format that makes it easy for educators, school administrators, parents, and policymakers to see how school districts are performing. This year individual school data is included for the larger districts. Information includes key metrics about assessment results, student growth, graduation rates, student demographics, and financial indicators.



A concerning finding in our report involves differences in student performance between districts, with students in some districts being more likely to meet readiness benchmarks than those in other locations. When examining district performance, it is important, however, to consider the characteristics of the students served.

At Risk students (students who participate in the Free/Reduced Lunch Program, who receive special education services or who are identified as Limited English Proficient) face more challenges in achieving academic success than do students who are not at risk.

Arkansas has developed a new metric that should be less related to student demographic characteristics. The student growth model examines how students are growing academically. Measuring individual student growth over time provides a different perspective than measuring the percentage of students meeting readiness benchmarks at a specific point in time.

Although the Report Card uses official data from 2015-16, the preliminary ACT Aspire results from 2016-17 generally follow the same patterns reported here.

Highest Performance:

Three public charter schools had the highest performance in the region, with Haas Hall Fayetteville, Haas Hall Bentonville, and Northwest Arkansas Classical students reporting the highest proficiency rates in Mathematics, English Language Arts, and Science. Preliminary data from 2016-17 indicate that these three schools scored the highest in the most recent assessments as well.  In addition to high achievement, students at these schools also demonstrated the highest levels of student growth in the region.

Bentonville, Fayetteville, and Gravette were the highest performing traditional school districts, for both student achievement and student growth. In the preliminary results from 2016-17, Bentonville and Fayetteville still top the list for traditional public schools, but Farmington may have gained a slight advantage over Gravette.

Among districts where more than half of the students are identified as At Risk, Rogers, Gentry, and Siloam Springs reported the highest performance, while Springdale, West Fork, and Gentry students demonstrated the highest academic growth.

Graduation rates were highest at Arkansas Arts Academy, where 100% of students graduated, and at Farmington where 97% of the class of 2016 graduated on time.

Gains in 2016-17:

Although the Report Card uses official data from 2015-16, preliminary results from 2016-17 are available here, including calculations of improvement over prior year scores. All NWA districts made gains in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in English Language Arts, and most also made gains or held steady in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in mathematics.

While there is much to celebrate about Northwest Arkansas schools, many students in Northwest Arkansas are not meeting academic expectations. Each of Northwest Arkansas’ schools must continue to seek to improve and provide high-quality learning environments for all students.

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 demographicstest scores, and finances.


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