University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

OEP News and Another C- for Arkansas

In The View from the OEP on January 17, 2018 at 11:58 am




OEP News!


Our big news is that Gary Ritter is leaving us in August to take on the role of Dean of the School of Education at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO. Since OEP’s inception in 2003, Gary has been the driving force behind and director of the Office.  We are sorry to see him go, but excited for him to expand his excellent work to our neighbor state! Gary will continue to share his insightful perspective and passion for improving education as a member of the OEP advisory board, and OEP will continue to support for Arkansas education stakeholders under the direction of OEP Executive Director Sarah McKenzie.

Make plans to visit with Gary and Sarah at OEP’s conference this April in Little Rock- tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, April 24th.  We are focusing on Teacher Pipeline issues and have some great information that you won’t want to miss so save the date!

OEP is changing our weekly news roundup/ blog/ report releases from Wednesday to Tuesday. You can get these automatically by emailing with “Sign me up” in the subject line.


Quality Counts


Today Education Week released their annual Quality Counts report, which grades each state on their education performance.  This year Arkansas (again) received an overall grade of C- and is ranked 43rd overall.  Arkansas has received a C- for the last four years as our national ranking slipped from 36th in 2015, to 41st in 2016, to the current 43rd in 2017 and 2018.

As we have discussed in previous blog posts there are several issues with the grading system, and Arkansas’ scores have remained stagnant.This year’s report includes summative grades and rankings for states on education indicators.  The report finds “paints a portrait of middling performance overall with patches of high achievement, along with perennial struggles to improve on the part of states mired at the bottom.”

A state’s overall grade is the average of its scores on three separate indicators: Chance-for-Success, K-12 Achievement, and School Finance. Previous blog posts have discussed the flawed nature of the grading system, and this year’s grade is even less informative due to the use of old academic data (from the 2015 NAEP because of a delay in the release of the 2017 NAEP results), old financial data (2015 is the most recent year data were available), and the difficult-to-impact state data including annual income and percentage of adults with a two- or four-year degree.

Below are the most recent four years of  Arkansas grades in each of the categories considered for 2018.

Quality Counts Categories AR Grade 2015 AR Grade 2016 AR Grade 2017 AR Grade 2018
Chance for Success C- C-  C- C-
School Finance C C-  C- C-
K-12 Achievement D+ D  D*  D*

* Note: K-12 Achievement data are unchanged from the 2016 Quality Counts report

It is time to grade ourselves…


Quality Counts is EdWeek’s measure of educational quality, but here at OEP we don’t think it accurately captures all the strengths and areas for improvement.  ESSA allowed states to develop measures of student achievement that are meaningful to them, and Arkansas’ plan was approved yesterday!

Now that Arkansas’ ESSA plan is approved, we look forward to its implementation.  One of the first orders of business is to determine the details for how Arkansas will assign  school grades (A-F) to be used in the school rating system and the school recognition program.

We believe that if policymakers and education leaders focus on meaningful data, like student achievement AND growth, equity and efficiency in the face of disadvantage, and post-secondary transitions, students in Arkansas can continue to improve and reach greater levels of educational and lifelong success.

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