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Quality Counts 2017

In The View from the OEP on January 4, 2017 at 12:34 pm

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Today Education Week released their annual Quality Counts report, which grades each state on their education performance.  This year Arkansas received an overall grade of C- and is ranked 43rd overall.  While receiving a C- is not new (Arkansas has received a C- for the last two years) our national ranking has slipped from 36th in 2015, to 41st in 2016, to the current 43rd.  As we have discussed in previous blog posts there are several issues with the grading system, and Arkansas’ scores have remained essentially stagnant.  We will dig into the report, but want to emphasize that we should not let this grade distract us from the work going on in the state.

This year’s report includes summative grades and rankings for states on education indicators as well as a special focus on transition to ESSA.

What is Being Graded?

A state’s overall grade is the average of its scores on three separate indicators: Chance-for-Success, K-12 Achievement and School Finance.  The format was updated in 2015 in an attempt to focus on “outcomes rather than on policy and processes.” Although the report can be useful there are several issues with the grading system; previous blog posts have discussed the flawed nature of the grading system.

Below are the most recent three years of  Arkansas grades in each of the categories considered for 2017.  The full report highlighting Arkansas student achievement can be accessed here.

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

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

We will dig into the report, but want to emphasize that we should not be too distracted by this grade, which reflects


The High and the Low:

Each of the three areas are an average of many other scores, so here at OEP we wanted to bring out the high (ranked in top 15 states) and low (ranked in bottom 15 states) areas for each category.

Chance for Success: According to EdWeek, “The Chance-for-Success framework allows states to identify strong and weak links in their residents’ educational life course―their typical trajectory from childhood through adulthood.”

  • High scores:  Arkansas ranks 9th nationally in steady adult employment- the percent of adults in labor force working full-time and year round. We rank 15th in the percentage of students attending preschool!
  • Low scores: Arkansas ranked 49th in annual income and in percent of adults with a two- or four-year degree- only 30.3% of Arkansas adults have a postsecondary degree. We also ranked low in other indicators: family income, parental education, parental employment, elementary reading, middle school math, and postsecondary enrollment.

School Finance: Examining school finance can provide insight into how well a state is supporting public education. This measure is one of the most problematic in our opinion, as Arkansas supports education well in our view.

  • High scores: Spending on education Arkansas ranked 11th nationally in the percent of taxable resources spent on education even higher than Massachusetts!
  • Low scores: Arkansas provides near the national average in per pupil spending when adjusted for variations in regional costs.  Because Arkansas’ funding is so equitable across the state, only 14.7% of students are in districts where the expenditures are above the national average.  Although we received low scores for this measure, here at the OEP we think the equity is a good thing!

K-12 Achievement:  The K-12 Achievement Index is unchanged from the 2016 report because it uses data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which is only administered every other year.  The Index examines 18 distinct state achievement measures related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates, and the results of Advanced Placement exams.

  • High scores:  Arkansas ranked high in both 8th grade math gains and closing of the 4th grade reading achievement gap
  • Low scores: Arkansas ranked low compared to other states in math and reading achievement (2015 NAEP: 4th and 8th grade)

The strong scores summarized above reflect Arkansas’s commitment to education and that students are making gains.  The low scores reflect the many challenges that Arkansas students face: poverty, low parental and adult educational attainment, and, unfortunately, low achievement (especially in math). Although a D in student achievement is not what we would like to see, it is important to remember that these scores are old- from the 2015 NAEP administration and Arkansas’ students are making gains.


So what can we do?

This 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 is allowing states to develop measures of student achievement that are MEANINGFUL TO THEM.  Arkansas continues to gather input from stakeholders about what student success looks like for our state.  We recommend that you make your voice heard!

We believe that if policymakers and education leaders can 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.

Quality Counts 2016

In The View from the OEP on January 7, 2016 at 11:02 am

Today Education Week released their 20th annual Quality Counts report, which grades each state on their education performance.  This year Arkansas received an overall grade of C- and is ranked 41st overall.  Arkansas received a C- last year as well, but was ranked slightly higher nationally at 36th.  As we have discussed in previous blog posts there are several issues with the grading system, and we cannot compare overall scores prior to 2015, because the grading criteria was different in earlier reports. Today we wanted to dig into the grades and see what information might be useful.

This year’s report includes summative grades and rankings for states on education indicators as well as a special focus on school accountability, specifically assessing student achievement during the No Child Left Behind era.

What is Being Graded?

A state’s overall grade is the average of its scores on three separate indicators: Chance-for-Success, K-12 Achievement and School Finance.  Prior to 2015 there were six indicators, however the format was updated in 2015 in an attempt to focus on “outcomes rather than on policy and processes.” Although the report can be useful there are several issues with the grading system; previous blog posts have discussed the flawed nature of the grading system. 

While we cannot compare overall scores prior to 2015, because the grading criteria was different in earlier reports, we can compare performance in the categories retained for the 2015 and 2016 reports: Chance for Success, School Finance and K-12 Student Achievement.

Here are the most recent three years of  Arkansas grades in each of the categories considered for 2016.  The full report highlighting Arkansas student achievement can be accessed here.

2016 Quality Counts Categories AR Grade 2014 AR Grade 2015 AR Grade 2016
Chance for Success C- C-  C-
School Finance C C  C
K-12 Achievement D+ D+  D

The High and the Low:

Each of the three areas are an average of many other scores, so here at OEP we wanted to bring out the high (ranked in top 15 states) and low (ranked in bottom 15 states) areas for each category.

Chance for Success: According to EdWeek, “The Chance-for-Success framework allows states to identify strong and weak links in their residents’ educational life course―their typical trajectory from childhood through adulthood.”

  • Strong scores:  steady adult employment. Note that students attending preschool was also above the national average and ranked 18th!
  • Low scores: family income, parental education, middle school math, postsecondary enrollment, annual income and adult educational attainment

K-12 Achievement:  The K-12 Achievement Index examines 18 distinct state achievement measures related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates, and the results of Advanced Placement exams.

  • Strong scores:  8th grade math gains and closing of the 4th grade reading achievement gap
  • Low scores: achievement levels, math excellence, family income, parental education, middle school math, postsecondary enrollment, annual income and adult educational attainment.

School Finance: Examining school finance can provide insight into how a state is supporting public education.

  • Strong scores: Equity of spending, and spending on education
  • Low scores: not spending as much as the national average

The strong scores summarized above reflect Arkansas’s commitment to education and that students are making gains.  The low scores reflect the many challenges that Arkansas students face: poverty, low parental and adult educational attainment, and, unfortunately, low achievement (especially in math). Although a D in student achievement is a decrease from last year’s D+ and definitely nothing to brag about, it is important to remember that Arkansas’ students are making gains.

If policymakers and education leaders can focus on meaningful data, like growth and efficiency in the face of disadvantage, rather than an overall grade, then students in Arkansas can continue to improve and reach greater levels of educational and lifelong success.

Quality Counts – 2015 Edition!

In The View from the OEP on January 14, 2015 at 1:30 pm

quality-counts-2015

 

Last week, Education Week released their 19th annual report Quality Counts.  This year’s report takes a broad look at the issues and forces shaping the discussion around early-childhood education, and includes summative grades and rankings for states on education indicators.

You may remember that last year, Education Week took a hiatus from assigning summative grades to states “in order to step back and reassess the education policy landscape,” providing instead only grades for specific categories.  Unfortunately, overall grades have returned this year and to make things even more confusing Education Week has changed the grading system.  We have mentioned in a previous blog post that we feel the system is problematic and the new changes do little to address our concerns.

Arkansas received a C- from Quality Counts this year and was ranked 36th overall.  This may seem like a surprising decline from only 2 years ago when Arkansas was ranked 5th in the country, but the grading criteria has changed and we CANNOT COMPARE these overall scores or rankings.  According to Education Week, the new “leaner form that focuses on outcomes” includes only three of the previous six categories.  This change turns the very tempting prospect of comparing Arkansas’ 2015 overall grade to prior years into comparing apples to applesauce.

What we CAN COMPARE over time is performance in the categories retained for the 2015 report: Chance for Success, School Finance and K-12 Student Achievement.  We examined these results and addressed Arkansas’ strengths and weakness in the OEP Policy Brief Quality Counts 2015.

Here are the most recent three years of  Arkansas grades in each of the categories graded for 2015.    When are compared over time we can see that regardless of the change in our overall grade,  Arkansas students are performing better than they were in 2013!

2015 Quality Counts Categories AR Grade 2013 AR Grade 2014 AR Grade 2015
Chance for Success C- C- C-
School Finance C C C
K-12 Achievement D- D+ D+

Although celebrating a D+ in student achievement is not where we would like it to be, the key takeaway from Quality Counts 2015 is that Arkansas students are making gains. If policymakers and education leaders can focus on meaningful data, like growth and efficiency in the face of disadvantage, rather than an overall grade, then students in Arkansas can continue to beat the odds.

Quality Counts — 2014 Edition!

In The View from the OEP on January 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm

QC2014

Education Week has published state report cards since 1997 in its annual Quality Counts series to gauge the educational progress of the nation and each state.  This week, the 18th annual Quality Counts (QC) was published. According to the Quality Counts website, “This 18th edition of Quality Counts report delves into the forces that are reshaping the traditional  school district and the forms that can take. Those changes may be generated from within, as districts seek to cope with unforeseen demographic pressures. They may be imposed from outside after long-standing performance and fiscal problems prompt municipal or state-level leaders to take action.”

While that is all well and good, here in Arkansas and in other states, those in the education policy community are interested in how each state fared in the ratings.  As a quick refresher, QC ranks the states in six categories, some of which are more clear than others.  These six are:  (1) Standards, Accountability, and Assessments; (2) Transitions and Alignments; (3) The Teaching Profession; (4) Chance for Success; (5) School Finance; and (6) K-12 Achievement.  

Without further ado, here are the Arkansas grades in each of the six categories for 2014, with Arkansas’s previous grade and the 2014 national average included for the sake of comparison:

Quality Counts Categories 2014 AR Grade AR Previous Year’s Grade 2014 National Average
Standards, Accountability, and Assessments Not updated in 2014 A B
Transitions and Alignments Not updated in 2014 A B-
Teaching Profession Not updated in 2014 B+ C
Chance for Success C- C+ C+
School Finance C C C
K-12 Achievement D+ D C-

Notice anything missing? In a big departure from previous years’ reports, Education Week has decided to stop assigning overall rankings to states. As you may remember, some celebration and much confusion ensued when Arkansas was ranked 5th in the nation in last year’s Quality Counts report. We at the OEP think that removing the overall ranking was a wise move on the part of Ed Week. It is much more meaningful to examine grades for individual categories than to try to combine such distinct aspects of an education system into one measure.

While the lack of an overall grade may make it seem that Arkansas is doing worse than last year (last year we were 5th and this year’s new grades are Cs and Ds), the fact is that our grades have stayed roughly the same on average. So what to make of this report is up to you. An optimist might say that we are remaining steady while a cynic may say that we are stagnating. With either interpretation, the new Quality Counts format is certainly more transparent and more helpful in pointing out our education system’s strengths and the areas in which we need to grow.

Quality Counts 2013

In The View from the OEP on February 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm

QC2013Last month, Education Week released their annual report Quality Counts, which grades and ranks states on their education policies. This particular issue, which was released in January 2013, focuses on school “code of conduct” and highlights the timely topic of school safety (considering the issue was released less than a month after the Newtown, CT shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary).

Like last year, we dug into the Quality Counts data from 2013 to bring you the OEP Policy Brief Quality Counts 2013, which focuses on Arkansas performance on the categories graded for each state in the QC report. However, it should be noted that we have cautioned readers about the usefulness of these rankings in a previous blog post. Regardless, we do believe that the Quality Counts rankings are useful, but should not be considered an “end-all, be-all” of education rankings.

GradesArkansas was ranked 5th among the 50 states for overall education policies. We were one of 8 states who received a grade of B- (but our numeric score of 81.7 earning us that letter grade was the highest among the eight ‘B-‘ states). Only Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia scored higher in the overall ranking. But to quickly put into perspective how this high ranking should be viewed with caution, Arkansas received a grade of D in the subcategory for Student Achievement. As such, we raise our eyebrows at the ranking of ‘5th in the nation’ when we are scoring so low on the fundamental education output of student achievement.

You can read more about Arkansas’ rankings and our comparison to other states in the Quality Counts 2013 policy brief!

Does “Quality Counts” count the right stuff?

In The View from the OEP on January 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Sneak preview == the answer is NO!

The OEP comes out today with our annual summary of Arkansas performance on the annual Quality Counts ranking published by Education Week.  In keeping with our theme that more information is better than less, we are glad that this esteemed organization publishes these data each year. The problem we have is with the overall rating that is based on a convoluted (and nonsensical) combination of the individual indicators.  Graduate student Stuart Buck wrote a thoughtful blog post criticizing the ranking system here, and Stuart and I together penned a Letter to the Editor published in the February 4, 2009 issue of Education Week outlining some of the system’s flaws.

To be clear, the data presented by Ed Week in Quality Counts 2012 ARE helpful; check out our OEP Policy Brief (published today) in which we highlight the many interesting facts and figures from the 2012 edition of Quality Counts.  However, we are very skeptical about the usefulness of the QC overall ranking, and are concerned that this flawed figure is the one most often reported and discussed by media and policymakers.  It’s not even that we hate single indicators (we don’t!); it is simply the flawed nature of THIS single indicator with which we take issue.

Here is the text from the letter to the editor that Stuart and I wrote in 2009 … those criticisms, unfortunately, remain relevant today….

No ‘Quality’ Method for Rating States’ Performance

Article Tools

To the Editor:

We applaud Education Week for collecting education statistics about all 50 states. The latest of your annual Quality Counts reports (Jan. 8, 2009) is indeed an invaluable starting point. It goes a step too far, however, when it pools together disparate measures to arrive at each state’s overall score. This may not be problematic for education scholars, but policymakers might (and do) inaccurately treat a state’s overall rating as meaningful.

In fact, Quality Counts averages so much incommensurable data that we are reminded of the old joke of a beggar sitting on the streets of New York, with a sign reading, “Wars, 2; Legs Lost, 1; Wives Who Left Me, 2; Children, 3; Lost Jobs, 2. TOTAL: 10.”

First, the “school finance” measure rewards states for spending more money, whether or not that leads to actual results. The problem is most obvious when the “spending” measure is averaged with the measure for “K-12 achievement.” In theory, a high-spending state with low achievement—perhaps combining extravagance and incompetence—could get an overall score equal to that of a state with low spending and high achievement. But, all else being equal, the latter state obviously has a more efficient education system.

Second, the Chance-for-Success Index gives states higher grades for having fewer disadvantaged students. Unsurprisingly, Massachusetts does quite well on this measure, while Mississippi is near the bottom. This is certainly useful information, but it makes no sense that a state’s score here is averaged together with “K-12 achievement” to produce an overall score. (We were so baffled that we took the trouble of checking the scores of several states, just to be sure that this was what had been done.)

Thus, Quality Counts downgrades a state that produces A-level achievement for impoverished students, while upgrading another state simply for being blessed with privileged students. Imagine two states, equal on all measures but three. The first produces high achievement for poor kids using little money, while the second produces low achievement for rich kids using lots of the public’s resources. It is clear which system is doing better.

Unfortunately, Quality Counts misses the point.

Stuart Buck
Research Associate
Gary Ritter
Endowed Chair in Education Policy
University of Arkansas

OEP News and Another C- for Arkansas

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

 

OEP Logo JPEG-2

 

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 oep@uark.edu with “Sign me up” in the subject line.

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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.

#10: Education Week Moves AR to 5th in National Rankings

In The View from the OEP on December 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

best of 2013

As was foreshadowed yesterday, the OEP has compiled its Top 10 Arkansas Education Stories of 2013 and will be releasing them in the upcoming weeks.

Our 10th story on the list brings us all the way back to early January. As has happened for the past decade, Education Week published its annual Quality Counts Report Card. Before we discuss AR’s 5th place finish, let’s talk a bit about the report.

The Quality C5th placeounts Report Card bases its rankings on six major areas: Standards, Accountability, and Assessments, Transitions and Alignments, Teaching Profession, Chance for Success, School Finance and K-12 Achievement. Rankings for each state on each criteria can be downloaded here. Our policy brief ‘Quality Counts 2013’ breaks down each category and explains it further.

Back in 2009, the OEP questioned Education Week’s ranking system in a Letter to the Editor and a blog post. First, OEP takes issue with the “school finance” measure because it rewards states for spending more money, whether or not that leads to actual results. Second, the Chance-for-Success Index is problematic because it gives states higher grades for having fewer disadvantaged students.

2013 Arkansas Quality Counts Results

At last we arrive at the heart of the matter. Arkansas was ranked 5th in the nation overall. Here is a breakdown of Arkansas’ Quality Counts performance:

  • Standards, Accountability, and Assessments: A
  • Transitions and Alignments: A
  • Teaching Profession: B+
  • Chance for Success: C+
  • School Finance: C
  • K-12 Achievement: D

Arkansas’ previous showings in Quality Counts:

  • 2012: 5th
  • 2011: 6th
  • 2010: 10th
  • 2009: 10th

While a #5 ranking was hailed by some in the state, it did not seem consistent with other reports that indicate that Arkansans have some of the lowest college attainment in the nation. Confusing, eh? For example, according to the Lumina Foundation, Arkansas ranks:

  • 49th among states in terms of college attainment
  • 27.92% of the state’s 1.5 million working-age adults hold at least a two-year degree, compared to the national average of 38.3%

How do we make sense of a system that ranks AR both 5th and 49th?

The OEP attempted to sort out these difficulties and we are hopeful that our efforts helped put the rankings in perspective. Our February 2013 blog post summarizes our concerns. Additionally, we released a blog post and policy brief, both titled So…are we 5th?? Or are we 49th??. In the policy brief, we went a step further than most simple analyses and rankings by examining the data while taking into consideration the poverty rates of the students tested. Also in February, Gary Ritter presented to the Arkansas House Education Committee: Are we 5th or 49th? In July 2013, the OEP gave another presentation on this issue to the Arkansas Rural Education Association. You can view the presentation here.

So, which is it? Where does AR rank?

The answer is that Arkansas is neither 5th nor 49th; we fall somewhere in the middle.naep

The best available data is NAEP scores. The NAEP, often called “The Nation’s Report Card,” is administered to a representative sample of Arkansas students in grades 4, 8 and 12 every other year. It includes math and reading subtests.

 

Math Proficiency %, Grade 4, 1992-2013

naep graph

We hope this helps solve the rankings conundrum. Let us know what you think of the #10 story!

So…are we 5th?? Or are we 49th??

In The View from the OEP on February 22, 2013 at 10:34 am

rankings

Have you ever picked up a newspaper and read an article where a state official proclaimed that Arkansas ranks 5th in education in the US? Then two days later, you are reading a different article that says when looking at how students in Arkansas perform on national standardized tests, we perform below 48 other states. This may be where the phrase “thank goodness for [insert Mississippi or West Virginia here]” comes from.

So which is it? Are we 5th?  Are we 49th?

QC2013The OEP has been kicking this question around since the latest Quality Counts report was released by Education Week (read more about Arkansas’ rankings in Quality Counts here). So we decided to dig into the data a little.

What we ended up with was a policy brief titled Fifth or Forty-Ninth? Examining Educational Rankings in Arkansas. In this policy brief, we briefly examine the educational rankings according to Quality Counts and also according to Arkansas student performance on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) – also known as “The Nation’s report Card.” However, in our policy brief, we went a step further than most simple analyses and rankings by examining  the data while taking into consideration the poverty rates of the students tested. For example, when we look at rankings when students are broken into three categories: Overall Student Population; “Lower-Income” Students; and “Higher-Income” Students, we find that Arkansas’ rankings are not 5th…but are certainly not 49th either!

Would you like to know how Arkansas ranked after we took poverty levels into consideration?  Click here to read the policy brief!

NAEPWe think this is an interesting issue, especially in a world where sound bytes are an important part of our information gathering/sharing process. Our world of 24-hour cable news and social-media information in 140 characters or less favors these small soundbytes. But there is often more to the story, as we hope this policy brief illustrates.

In fact, OEP Director had the opportunity to present the issue of 5th or 49th to the Arkansas House Committee on Education at their meeting Thursday Feb 21st (you can watch a video of the whole meeting here).  It generated a great discussion about Arkansas education policy, and what topics the education committee deems important. Well worth the time it will take to watch.

Do you have an opinion about what areas of education policy in Arkansas are important? If so, leave us a comment below!

Your Weekly Education Update

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on January 19, 2012 at 10:14 am

From the OEP

Classes resumed at the University of Arkansas this week which means those of us at the Office for Education Policy are back to our normal routine. We are working away over here on a few policy briefs of interest including an analysis of the 2011 NAEP results and the much discussed Quality Counts Report that was released last week.

If you have not yet had a chance, we encourage you to check out our new and improved Arkansas School Data Page. This page now features School Level Norm-Referenced Scores Database in a format that enables viewers to categorize schools by specific demographics. Have a great rest of the week and enjoy the news from around the state and nation.

News from Around the Natural State

Districts to Ask State to Allow for Annexation

Officials in the Lead Hill and Ozark Mountain school districts plan to petition the state Board of Education to allow them to merge. The two school boards each passed resolutions approving the annexation of the Lead Hill into the Ozark Mountain School District. If approved by the state board, Ozark Mountain will grow from a district of three campuses in three counties to four campuses in four counties spanning 500 square miles.

Kimbrell Discourages Education Funding Cuts

In preparation for the fiscal session which begins on February 13, lawmakers are reviewing the governor’s budget proposals. During budget reviews by the Joint Budget Committee, Dr. Kimbrell said he would view any cuts to Arkansas’ public schools budget as a slide from the commitment the state has made in the wake of lawsuits over how it funds its classrooms. Governor Beebe has proposed increasing the public school budget by $56 million to nearly $2 billion. It makes up nearly half of Beebe’s proposed $4.7 billion budget for the coming year.

Governor’s Workforce Cabinet Announces STEM Works Schools

The Governor’s Workforce Cabinet announced that 15 districts throughout the state and one technical center have been chosen as the first participants in the administration’s STEM Works Initiative. The districts and the tech center were designated by the cabinet to participate either in Project Lead the Way or the New Tech Network. Project Lead the Way includes several introductory courses in engineering or biomedical sciences that show how basic concepts taught in the classroom are used in the work world. The New Tech high school model integrates STEM education and extensive project based learning throughout the curriculum.

Click here to check out these news stories and more on the OEP Blog!!!

News from Around the Nation

No Child Left Behind turns 10

The infamous No Child Left Behind law turns ten years old amid divisions surrounding how the law should be rewritten. Time Magazine compiled various perspectives surrounding the law, its benefits, and deficits. At the federal level advocates and policymakers are split on the recently released House draft of the bill, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The draft outline drastically reduces the role of the federal government in education.

Reports Detail Race to Top Winners’ Challenge

New reports unveiled last week depict the 12 winners of the Race to the Top competition as having immense difficulty implementing the sweeping reforms proposed in their grants. Major challenges cited in the report include limited state capacity to execute fast and dramatic change and difficulty revamping teacher evaluation systems. Even the states that have shown the most progress have found difficulty finding contractors and high-quality staff  members to do the work.

National Online Teacher Certification Program Announced

It was announced on Tuesday that online teachers–and eventually administrators, classroom teachers, librarians, and profession developers–will be able to enroll in an educational technology certification program that has the endorsement of several national ed-tech advocates. The certification program boasts well-known alliance members including iNACOL and ISTE as well as other state-level organizations. The initiation of this credentialing program is planned to begin midway through 2012.