University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Which Schools are “Beating the Odds?”

In The View from the OEP on November 13, 2019 at 1:06 pm

Today we share our final OEP awards, and discuss how (and why) our awards are different from the rewards given last Friday by the state.

We are so excited to release our “Beating the Odds” Outstanding Educational Performance Awards  for 2019!  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.  Schools serving such student populations often struggle to demonstrate high academic achievement, and subsequently receive lower letter grades.

Academic growth, however, is less correlated with school poverty rates and we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students. Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student has improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history. 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.

The OEP Awards highlight schools in Arkansas based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth because we think it is the best indicator of how the school is impacting students’ learning.

Although school-level growth scores are much 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 (-0.21).  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, 2019

2019 Scatter Plot

If we limit the plot to only those schools with at least 66% of students 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, 2019

2019 Poverty Scatter Plot

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 the ways to ensure that all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas’ students.


“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 are among the top 5 schools that have demonstrated the greatest growth 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. Weiner Elementary, Harrisburg SD (68% FRL)
  3. Oscar Hamilton Elementary, Foreman SD (71% FRL)**
  4. Cross County Elementary Tech Academy, Cross County SD (73% FRL)*
  5. Lamar Elementary, Lamar SD (72% FRL)
  6. Des Arc Elementary, Des Arc SD (75% FRL)
  7. Frank Tillery Elementary, Rogers SD (70% FRL)
  8. Green Forest Elementary, Green Forest SD (86% FRL)**
  9. George Elementary, Springdale SD (86% FRL)
  10. Bismark Elementary, Bismark SD (72% FRL)**

**Schools with two asterisks were included in the top 10 list for the last two years, while *schools with a single asterisk were on the list one of the last two years.

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


“Beating the Odds” Middle Level Schools

Paragould Junior High from Paragould School District is the top middle school beating the odds overall. Paragould JH serves a 7th-8th grade student population where 71% of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, and was third 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. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% FRL)**
  2. Oak Grove Middle, Paragould SD (76% FRL)**
  3. Swifton Middle, Jackson Co. SD (66% FRL)
  4. Helen Tyson Middle, Springdale SD (76% FRL)*
  5. Atkins Middle, Atkins SD (68% FRL)
  6. Cedarville Middle, Cedarville SD (73% FRL)**
  7. Pleasant View Campus, Mulberry/Pleasant View Bi-County Schools (77% FRL)*
  8. Harrisburg Middle, Harrisburg SD (74% FRL)
  9. Yerger Junior High, Hope SD (80% FRL)
  10. Beryl Henry Upper Elementary, Hope SD (89% FRL)**

**Schools with two asterisks were included in the top 10 list for the last two years, while *schools with a single asterisk were on the list one of the last two years.

 

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


“Beating the Odds” High Schools

The top high school beating the odds is Flippin High in Flippin School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 69% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, it is also among OEP’s top 10 high growth high schools throughout the state.  Flippin 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. Flippin High, Flippin SD (69% FRL)
  2. Hazen High, Hazen SD (70% FRL)
  3. Maynard High, Maynard SD (69% FRL)*
  4. St. Joe K-12, Ozark Mountain SD (73% FRL)
  5. Barton High, Barton-Lexa SD (85% FRL)
  6. Jasper High, Jasper SD (70% FRL)
  7. Gosnell High, Gosnell (67% FRL)**
  8. Decatur High, Decatur SD (72% FRL)
  9. Cave City High Career & Collegiate Preparatory, Cave City SD (77% FRL)*
  10. Sparkman High, Harmony Grove (Ouachita) SD (73% FRL)

**Schools with two asterisks were included in the top 10 list for the last two years, while *schools with a single asterisk were on the list one of the last two years.

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!


How are OEP awards different from the state rewards that were announced last week?

1) Part of the state rewards go to high-achieving schools, where a lot of students scored well on the state tests. These schools tend to serve a lower population of students facing academic risk factors poverty or second language acquisition.

OEP only awards schools for growth, because we think that it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students.

2) The part of the state rewards that are awarded for growth use a different measure than the OEP awards.  The rewards program uses the growth value that also includes the progress being made in English language proficiency, a value called the combined value-added growth score. The difference between the values is inconsistent, with the content growth value higher for some schools and the combined value-added value higher for other schools.

OEP awards are based on improvement in the content areas of Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) assessments only. 

3) The state rewards program for growth includes graduation rate for high schools.

OEP awards do not include graduation rate, and are based on improvement in the content areas of Mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA) assessments only. 

4) The state rewards program rewards the top 10% of schools overall.

OEP awards are grouped by ESSA school level (Elementary, Middle, and High). We know that achievement and growth vary by school level and are concerned that middle schools demonstrating relatively high growth are not being rewarded by the state. In fact, only two middle schools were recognized in the top 5% growth/grad awards by the state.  See a further discussion here.

The differences between the state rewards program and OEP awards are due to the fact that the state rewards are legislatively mandated, while here at OEP, we created an awards system that supports our passion for highlighting schools where students demonstrate Oustanding Educational Progress!  Oh, and we don’t send money- just paper certificates!

 

 

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