University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

2021 School Report Cards for NWA and Pulaski County

In The View from the OEP on March 30, 2022 at 12:45 pm

Today we are pleased to release the 2021 Northwest Arkansas and Pulaski County Education Report Card.  These report cards provide an easy-to-understand overview of how students in the area schools performed in the 2020-21 school year.

The report cards are in a ‘dashboard’ format that makes it easy for educators, school administrators, parents, and policymakers to see how school districts and charter schools are performing. Performance on key measures is broken down by Elementary, Middle, and High School levels and compared to regional and state scores.  For large districts, the report cards also include individual school data, where percentile ranks make the achievement and growth scores easy to interpret.

The Report Cards put district-level information about academic growth, academic achievement, and school quality into a one-page context for quick interpretation. The performance data used in the report card are from the 2020-21 school year, the most recent data available at this time.

These key metrics of school performance are reported by the ADE at the school level in ESSA reports, but we feel they are important to consider from a district level to examine how effectively the school system as a whole is educating students, particularly compared to other districts in the same geographic areas. Information on ACT scores and high school graduation rates, which are important outcomes for students at the end of the K-12 journey, are also included.  To help make the connection between district resources and student success, we also include the district’s student to teacher ratio and amount of money that each district spent per-pupil.


That’s a lot of information!  What is the most important?

We believe that the growth scores are the best indicator that districts are doing what’s really important: helping all students learn. Growth scores are less related to student characteristics than achievement scores, as districts serving fewer At Risk students don’t always have higher growth scores.  The Growth Score indicates how much the district’s students in grades 3-10 improved over time on state assessments in English language arts and mathematics. This score also includes how well non-native speakers are progressing toward English language proficiency.

An average district, where students are growing academically just as predicted, will have a growth score of 80. In some districts, however, students are demonstrated greater increases in their academic performance from 2019 to 2021 than we would have predicted. To have a ‘good’ growth score, to be in the top 25% of schools in the state, elementary schools need a growth score of 83 or higher, middle level schools need a growth score of 82 or higher, and high schools need a growth score of 81 or higher.


How Are NWA Schools Doing?

Overall: Northwest Arkansas students demonstrated greater growth in achievement and earning higher scores on the ACT Aspire than are the students in the state overall. Schools in NWA also have higher School Quality and Student Success scores than other schools across the state.

Academic Growth: Bentonville School District had the highest overall growth score among the traditional districts, and was the only one where students demonstrated high academic growth at all levels: elementary, middle, and high school. Springdale students at the elementary and middle levels demonstrated the greatest academic growth in NWA, and 83% of Springdale schools are in the top 25% of schools in the state for academic growth. Haas Hall Academy students demonstrated the highest growth scores at the high school level. Many NWA districts had high growth at one or two levels, and we recommend they focus on identifying how they are supporting student learning at the schools where students are not demonstrating high growth overall.

Academic Achievement: Haas Hall Academy students received the highest point-in-time achievement in the NWA area, with both NWA Classical (now Founders Classical Academy) and Arkansas Arts Academy joining in outperforming traditional districts in achievement. Bentonville School District had the highest achievement score among the traditional districts, and students at the elementary and middle levels demonstrated the greatest academic achievement in NWA. Since point-in-time achievement is so reflective of student demographics, we want to point out that among NWA districts where more than half of the students are eligible for the free/ reduced lunch program, Gravette and Rogers School Districts reported the highest achievement.

School Quality: Prairie Grove School District had the highest School Quality/ Student Success Indicator Score at the Elementary Level. Gravette School District had the highest Indicator Score at the middle level and Haas Hall Academy had the highest School Quality/ Student Success Indicator Score at the high school level. Like achievement, many aspects of the school quality score are reflective of student demographics, so among NWA districts where more than half of the students are eligible for the free/ reduced lunch program, Hope Academy received the highest school quality score.


How Are Schools in Pulaski County Doing?

Overall: Pulaski County students are demonstrating lower growth in achievement than are the students in the state overall. Students in Pulaski County schools also demonstrated lower academic achievement, School Quality and Student Success scores, and graduation rates than students in the state overall.

Academic Growth: LISA Academy students demonstrated the greatest academic growth overall, with students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels all receiving above average growth scores. Jacksonville and North Little Rock School Districts had the highest overall growth score among the traditional districts, reflecting above average growth at the high school level. Students at Friendship Aspire had the highest growth at the middle level and students at Academics Plus demonstrated the highest growth at the elementary level.

Academic Achievement: Academics Plus also had the highest point-in-time achievement of the Pulaski County area schools. Pulaski County Special School District had the highest achievement score among the traditional districts, overall and across all school levels. Since point-in-time achievement is highly correlated with student demographics, we want to point out that among districts where more than half of the students are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program, LISA Academy reported the highest achievement.

School Quality: Academics Plus also received the highest School Quality/ Student Success Indicator Score overall. Pulaski County Special School District was the highest scoring traditional public school district in School Quality.


What’s the Takeaway?

In both the NWA and Pulaski County region, there are educational settings where students are demonstrating high growth by making larger academic gains than predicted based on their past performance. We want to point out that high academic growth can be found at all different types of schools from Willowbrook Elementary in Bentonville that serve few “at risk” students, to George Elementary in Rogers where 88% of students participate in the free/reduced lunch program and 60% are non-native English speakers. Students demonstrate high academic growth in schools like Haas Hall, which also has high academic achievement, and also districts like Decatur where academic achievement is relatively low.

Here at the OEP, we think growth scores are a meaningful reflection of increased student learning, and that high growth scores can be achieved by any type of school.

  • To have a ‘good’ growth score, to be in the top 25% of schools in the state, Elementary schools need a growth score of 83 or higher, Middle level schools need a growth score of 82 or higher, and High Schools need a growth score of 81 or higher.
  • If your school or district received a growth score of 80, students are demonstrating average growth in their academic performance on the state assessments in English language arts and mathematics.
  • If your school or district received a growth score below 78, students in your school or district are less likely to demonstrate academic growth than in the majority of schools in the state, and you should look for the reason.   Remember that unlike achievement, student characteristics like poverty are not highly related to growth.

If you want to know more about your school’s performance, check out myschoolinfo and type in your school name.  Under the “Reports” tab you can find the “ESSA report” for your school.

We hope that these report cards stimulate meaningful discussion about the educational settings within the communities, and look forward to hearing your thoughts. We invite you to share these report cards with those who are curious about the state of education in Northwest Arkansas or Pulaski County.

For more information about current education issues, check out OEP’s Policy Briefs and Blog.  If you are interested in digging into data, head on over to our website, where you can dive into all of the publicly available data on demographicstest scores, and finances.  The more we can be informed, share the good news, and look for ways to improve, the better Arkansas education will be.

If you would like a printed copy of a report card, please send us an email at oep@uark.edu and let us know which one and where you want it sent!

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