University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Beating the Odds: High Achieving schools serving Low-Income Populations

In The View from the OEP on June 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm

BTO in ELA 2017BTO in Math 2017

We are so excited to release our “Beating the Odds” Outstanding Educational Performance Awards!  These special OEP awards are for schools whose students are demonstrating high academic growth despite serving a population where at least 66% of the students participate in the Free/ Reduced Lunch Program, which is based on low household income.  While poverty can negatively impact student success, the schools awarded today demonstrate that their students are “Beating the Odds.”  The highlights are below, and you can read the full report here.

This year, the OEP Awards highlight schools in Arkansas based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth rather than proficiency rates because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students .  Proficiency rates, even those that move beyond the ‘percent proficient’ like our OEP GPA and Arkansas’ weighted achievement score, are more correlated with student demographics than growth scores.

Although school-level growth scores are less related to the percentage of students at a school who are participating in Free/Reduced Lunch than achievement scores, a negative correlation does exist (-0.283).  This means that students at schools serving higher poverty populations are more likely than their peers at more affluent schools to demonstrate less academic growth than predicted. As can be seen in the scatter plot below, schools with higher FRL rates are more likely to receive lower growth scores.

Figure 1. Combined Content Growth Score by School % FRL, Arkansas Public Schools, 2017

Growth FRL


If we limit the plot to only those schools with 66% or more student participating in FRL, as presented in Figure 2, the relationship between poverty and growth essentially disappears. Although all of these schools are serving high poverty populations, there is wide variation in the amount of academic growth that students at the schools are demonstrating.

Figure 2. Combined Content Growth Score by School % FRL, High-Poverty Arkansas Public Schools, 2017

Growth BTO

We celebrate the state using this student-level growth model, and are pleased to be able to highlight how students are growing academically in schools across the state.  We hope that drawing attention to this growth information will spark discussions among stakeholders about how to ensure all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas students.

How are OEP awards different?

There are many lists of “Best Schools”, so why is the OEP’s list special?  It’s simple- we use the most recent assessment data and focus on student growth.  We examine growth specifically by content area because we think it is important to examine each subject separately and without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners (which should also be examined separately).  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

We celebrate two types of schools this year: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.

Today’s awards for schools “Beating the Odds” are based on the growth of students on the ACT Aspire Math and English Language Arts assessments.

“Beating the Odds” Elementary Level Schools

The top “Beating the Odds” elementary school overall is Salem Elementary from Salem School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 67% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  Salem Elementary students demonstrated the greatest growth of all elementary schools in the state on the ACT Aspire. Many of these top 10 Beating the Odds schools were also among the high growth elementary schools in the state, regardless of student demographics. The top 10 elementary schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Salem Elementary, Salem SD (67% FRL)
2. Central Elementary, Batesville SD (66% FRL)
3. Green Forest Elementary, Green Forest SD (84% FRL)
4. John Tyson Elementary, Springdale SD (77% FRL)
5. Bismarck Elementary, Bismarck SD (69% FRL)
6. Jones Elementary, Rogers SD (84% FRL)
7. Oscar Hamilton Elementary, Foreman SD (73% FRL)
8. Sonora Elementary, Springdale SD (70% FRL)
9. Jones Elementary, Springdale SD (98% FRL)
10. Wakefield Elementary, Little Rock SD (97% FRL)

You can find the top BTO elementary schools by subject and region in the full report.

“Beating the Odds” Middle Level Schools

Garland Learning Center from Hope School District is the top middle school beating the odds overall. Garland Learning Center serves a K-8 student population where 85% of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, and was among the  high growth middle schools in the state, regardless of student demographics.  The top 10 middle schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Garland Learning Center, Hope SD (85% FRL)
2. Beryl Henry Upper Elementary, Hope SD (89% FRL)
3. Little Rock Prep Academy Middle, Little Rock Prep Academy (86% FRL)
4. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% FRL)
5. Riverview Junior High, Riverview SD (74% FRL)
6. J.O. Kelly Middle, Springdale SD (87% FRL)
7. Cedarville Middle, Cedarville SD (73% FRL)
8. Oak Grove Middle, Paragould SD (74% FRL)
9. Nashville Junior High, Nashville SD (71% FRL)
10. William O. Darby Junior High, Fort Smith SD (93% FRL)

You can find the top BTO middle schools by subject and region in the full report.


“Beating the Odds” High School

The top high school beating the odds is Trumann High in Trumann School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 69% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, it is also among OEP’s top 20 high growth high schools throughout the state.  Trumann High students are demonstrating that they can achieve at levels similar to students who come from higher income communities. The top 10 high schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Trumann High, Trumann SD (69% FRL)
2. Southside Charter High, Southside SD (Independence) (68% FRL)
3. Danville High, Danville SD (70% FRL)
4. Timbo High, Mountain View SD (78% FRL)
5. Wilbur D. Mills High, Pulaski County Special SD (66% FRL)
6. Gosnell High, Gosnell SD (70% FRL)
7. Shirley High, Shirley SD (80% FRL)
8. Southwest Junior High, Springdale SD (71% FRL)
9. Augusta High, Augusta SD (84% FRL)
10. Des Arc High, Des Arc SD (66% FRL)

You can find the top BTO high schools by subject and region in the full report.

Congratulations to all the OEP “Beating the Odds” award winners!  Keep up the great work and we look forward to recognizing you again next year!



%d bloggers like this: