University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

OEP Awards for Middle Schools: 2021

In The View from the OEP on November 10, 2021 at 6:00 am

This week, OEP is pleased to recognize Middle Level schools demonstrating Outstanding Educational Performance. OEP awards are different than other awards because we focus solely on student academic growth. Unlike other indicators of school performance, academic growth is not very correlated with school demographics. This means it is reflective of what students are learning in school, not what challenges they may face due to out if school factors. Here at OEP, we choose to highlight student academic growth because we believe that it is the best reflection of the impact that a school is having on students’ academic success. 

Today’s OEP awards for High Growth Middle schools are based on the growth of middle or junior high school students on the ACT Aspire Math and English Language Arts assessments.

Highest Overall Growth: Middle Level

The top middle school for overall student growth is Gravette Middle School from Gravette School District, with an overall growth score of 85.8. Washington Junior High from Bentonville School District took the top spot for growth in math at 89.36 and Decatur Middle School from Decatur School District had the highest growth score in ELA at 86.8.


The 20 middle/junior high schools with the highest overall content growth are:

  • Gravette Middle, Gravette SD (53% FRL)**
  • Washington Junior High, Bentonville SD (18% FRL)*
  • Vilonia Middle, Vilonia SD (30% FRL)
  • Lincoln Junior High, Bentonville SD (24% FRL)***
  • Hellstern Middle, Springdale SD (49% FRL)*
  • Bright Field Middle, Bentonville SD (7% FRL)
  • LISA Academy Springdale, LISA Academy (59% FRL)
  • Helen Tyson Middle, Springdale SD (81% FRL)**
  • Northridge Middle, Van Buren SD (43% FRL)*
  • Pinkston Middle, Mountain Home SD (43% FRL)*
  • Valley Springs Middle, Valley Springs SD (45% FRL)**
  • Huntsville Middle, Huntsville SD (52% FRL)
  • Swifton Middle, Jackson County SD (71% FRL)**
  • DeWitt Middle, DeWitt SD (56% FRL)
  • Gary E. Cobb Middle, Genoa Central SD (44% FRL)
  • J. William Fulbright Junior High, Bentonville SD (14% FRL)**
  • Beebe Junior High, Beebe SD (57% FRL)**
  • Ardis Ann Middle, Bentonville SD (22% FRL)
  • Heber Springs Middle, Heber Springs SD (50% FRL)***
  • Siloam Springs Intermediate, Siloam Springs SD (42% FRL)

*Asterisks indicate schools that have been in the top 20 for overall growth in prior years. Three of these top 20 schools have been on or list every year since 2017, and thirteen have been our top 20 list at least once before, demonstrating that high growth can be achieved year after year.  We also like how six of the schools on the list are newcomers- showing that growth scores can change over time. These schools, and others included in the full report, are growing student’s academic performance more than would be expected. Way to go! Similar to last year’s list, a variety of schools have shown high growth when observed through the lens of the percentage of students served Free/Reduced Lunch, indicating lower income families. The proportion of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth schools ranges from a low of 7% to a high of 81%, reflecting that students can demonstrate high growth in all types of schools! As shown in Figure 1, academic growth is not very correlated with school poverty rates (R=0.4).

Figure 1: 2021 Growth Score and % FRL, Middle Level Schools

You can find the middle/junior high schools with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.  You can check out the growth ranking of all middle level schools in the downloadable datafile. We give OEP awards for high growth overall as well as for Math and ELA growth individually.  We recognize the highest growth schools by school level (elementary, middle, and high) and by region of the state.

The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released performance data for all public schools in the state.  We created a statewide data visualization for you to explore the relationships between school poverty, academic growth, weighted achievement, and school quality.

For OEP awards, we use the purest measure of academic growth (referred to as Combined Content Growth Score) which includes growth for Math and English Language Arts only.  We chose this growth value, that excludes English Learner Progress because on average, including the ELP progress slightly depresses the growth score for schools.

—————Stay tuned to learn about more OEP Award Winners!————–

Next week we will share the winners for High Growth High Schools. Finally we will release the list of high growth schools serving high poverty populations, those who are “Beating the Odds!”

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