University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

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Class Size and Student Academic Growth

In The View from the OEP on January 30, 2019 at 11:36 am

Over the past two weeks, we have been examining relationships between teacher salary and and student outcomes.  We first discussed the proposed increase to Arkansas’ minimum teacher salary, including identifying which districts currently pay the minimum salary scale.  We found little relationship between districts’ starting teacher salaries and either student academic achievement or academic  growth.  Last week, we explored the relationship between teacher salaries and average class size, and this week we wanted to close the loop by examining how class size is related to student academic growth here in Arkansas. You can play with these data on our interactive viz.

Small classes are popular with parents and teachers alike. In a smaller class, we imagine that each student would get more personalized attention from the teacher, leading to greater academic gains. In Arkansas (and elsewhere around the world), however, small classes don’t seem to lead to consistently positive outcomes for students.

Check out the figures below to see the relationship between school average class size and school average academic growth. Because we already know that average class size in Arkansas varies between school levels (elementary has the largest classes, while high schools have the smallest) we broke the visuals out by school level.


In Arkansas elementary schools, average class sizes ranged from 10 to 25 students, and there was a weak correlation between class size and academic growth (r=0.2).  Further analysis, however, revealed that students in schools with larger average class sizes actually demonstrated greater academic growth than their peers in smaller classes! Differences were statistically significant for each of the past two years (the only years for which ESSA growth data are available).

Figure 1. Average class size and average content growth score, by Elementary level schools, 2017-18

es cs growth

In Arkansas middle schools, average class sizes ranged from 5 to 25 students, and there was essentially no relationship between average class size and student growth. Average class size was not a statistically significant predictor of student growth, and results were consistent over the past two years.

Figure 2. Average class size and average content growth score, by Middle level schools, 2017-18

ms cs growth

In Arkansas high schools, average class sizes ranged from 5 to 20 students, and there was essentially no relationship between average class size and student growth. Average class size was not a statistically significant predictor of student growth, and results were consistent over the past two years.

Figure 3. Average class size and average content growth score, by High school level schools, 2017-18

hs cs growth

Then we got to wondering, what if a school had decreased (or increased) class size- how would that relate to changes in academic growth? Our theory would be that if a school reduced the average class size from one year to the next, the average growth of students in the school would increase.

So we calculated the change in school average class size from 2016-17 to 2017-18, and the change in school growth score in that same time, plotted the results, and ran some regressions!

Figure 4 shows the change in average class size and student academic growth score from 2017 to 2018 for elementary schools.  The green square indicates the quadrant where we would imagine schools show up- reduced class sizes and increased growth.  There are some schools there, but there are also some schools in the red square– indicating reduced class size and decreased growth.  You will notice that the majority of schools, however, show up on the left side of the chart, indicating that they increased average class size from one year to the next.

Figure 4. Change in average class size and average content growth score, by Elementary school level schools, 2016-17 to 2017-18

es change

Just eye-balling these elementary schools, you can see that some of these schools experienced an increase in student academic growth, while others demonstrated declines in academic growth from one year to the next.  Further analysis, however, revealed that increasing average class size by one student would result in a reduction of less than 1 point in the change in growth score (holding all other district characteristics constant)!

Figures 5 and 6 show the change in average class size and student academic growth score from 2017 to 2018 for middle and high schools, respectively.  Like the elementary schools, the majority of these schools increased average class sizes, and statistical analysis showed that increasing average class size by one student would result in a reduction of less than half a point in the change in growth score (holding all other district characteristics constant)!

Figure 5. Change in average class size and average content growth score, by Middle level schools, 2016-17 to 2017-18

ms change

Figure 6. Change in average class size and average content growth score, by High school level schools, 2016-17 to 2017-18

hs change

So, what we have learned about average class size is that in Arkansas schools there is not a direct relationship between smaller classes and increased academic achievement.  When class sizes are increased, the negative impact on year to year changes in growth is statistically significant but practically insignificant at all levels because of the extremely small size of the change.

Of course, this is not a causal analysis, and there are many variables that we are not controlling for. One of the major issues is that we are using school-level class sizes and growth scores. If the data were available, analyzing at a classroom level might be better- but would also lead to super small sample sizes which raises other concerns. On the plus side-  we do know that academic growth isn’t correlated with the typical confounding variables like %FRL and school size.

After the research done in our past three blogs, we now know that larger class sizes are associated with increased teacher salaries, and don’t seem to be meaningfully impacting student growth, so school districts should carefully consider staffing patterns.

So what IS associated with increased student achievement?  You know what we think- high quality instruction all day, every day.

 


Regression Details

Elementary:

2016-17:  School average class size significantly predicted school-level academic growth even after controlling for school % FRL, b = .25, t(518) = 4.75, p < .001.  Average class size explained a significant proportion of variance in depression scores, R2 = .12,  F(2, 518) = 63.24, ( p < .001).

2017-18:  School average class size significantly predicted school-level academic growth even after controlling for school % FRL, b = .22, t(518) = 3.77, p < .001.  Average class size explained a significant proportion of variance in depression scores, R2 = .09,  F(2, 518) = 27.83, ( p < .001).

Change: Change in School average class size from 2016-17 to 2017-18 significantly predicted the change in school-level academic growth even after controlling for school % FRL, b = -.30, t(518) = -4.15, p < .001.  Average class size explained a significant proportion of variance in depression scores, R2 = .03,  F(2, 518) = 8.63, ( p < .001).

Middle:

2016-17: School average class size did not significantly predict school-level academic growth.

2017-18:  School average class size did not significantly predict school-level academic growth.

Change: Change in School average class size from 2016-17 to 2017-18 significantly predicted the change in school-level academic growth even after controlling for school % FRL, b = -.18, t(196) = -2.40, p < .05.  Average class size explained a significant proportion of variance in depression scores, R2 = .03,  F(2, 196) = 3.52, ( p < .05).

High:

2016-17:  School average class size did not significantly predict school-level academic growth.

2017-18:  School average class size did not significantly predict school-level academic growth.

Change: Change in School average class size from 2016-17 to 2017-18 significantly predicted the change in school-level academic growth even after controlling for school % FRL, b = -.19, t(292) = -2.29, p < .05.  Average class size explained a significant proportion of variance in depression scores, R2 = .02,  F(2, 292) = 3.242, ( p < .05).

Class Size and Teacher Salaries

In The View from the OEP on January 23, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Class size has been in the news a lot this week as teachers striking in LA Unified identified reducing class sizes and raising salaries as two of the main issues. This got us wondering- how large ARE the classes in LAUSD, and how do they compare to class sizes in Arkansas?

In LAUSD, the average class size was 25.3, and minimum teacher salary is $50,368.  

In Arkansas, the average class size was 15.6, and minimum teacher salary is $31,800.

If we think about this on a per-student level, on average, a new teacher with a BA in LA would get $1,991 per student, while a beginning teacher with a BA in Arkansas would get $2,038.  And that’s not adjusting for the cost of living difference between here and there!

There’s BIG differences in per-student teacher salaries throughout Arkansas, with Nemo Vista being the highest paying district in Arkansas, on a per-student level. A new teacher in Nemo Vista makes $31,980 (only $180 more than the legal minimum) but the average class size is 8 students, meaning that the teacher is paid (in theory) nearly $4,000 per kid!

It’s so confusing! We want smaller classes AND higher salaries for teachers. Last week, we discussed teacher salaries around the state and how the proposed increase in minimum teacher salaries would affect teachers (relatively few) and students (probably won’t). This week, we have a new data visualization presenting minimum teacher salaries in each district throughout the state.

You can interact with the map by selecting specific districts or using the sliders to limit to ranges of minimum teacher salary, average class sizes, or % FRL. Additional information regarding each district’s academic achievement and growth percentile, average and maximum teacher salaries, as well as per pupil expenditure is included. If you just want the data- you can grab it at our website here.

salary viz

 

Last week we brought up how teacher salary is related to average class size, so here’s a simple visual of average class size and minimum teacher salary for districts in the state. In Arkansas, higher paying districts have larger class sizes.

Figure 1. Average class size and minimum teacher salary, by district.

cs and salary

We wondered if class size was the same across different types of schools. Nationally, elementary schools have lower average class sizes than middle or high schools (21 students per class compared to 26 at the higher levels).  We made some quick charts to check out if the same is true here. We found that, in Arkansas, Elementary schools have the largest class sizes, and High Schools have the smallest average classes.

  • Elementary schools have an average class size of 18.4 students per class.  Values range from 10 to 25, and schools with higher FRL rates generally have smaller classes.
  • Middle schools, with an average of 16.4 students per class, land in the middle of elementary and high schools with regard to class size.  Values range from 6 to 25, and schools with higher FRL rates usually have smaller classes.
  • High schools have an average of 10.8 students per class.  Values range from 4 to 20, but high schools don’t demonstrate a strong relationship between average class size and school FRL rates.

Figure 2. Average class size for Elementary Level schools by % FRL.

es class size

Figure 3. Average class size for Middle Level schools by % FRL.

ms class size

Figure 4. Average class size for High schools by % FRL.

hs class size

So- the good news is that across Arkansas students are in very small classes relative to their peers in LA across the country, which some research has linked to greater student achievement.  We think we should like how even smaller class sizes are showing up in schools serving more at-risk populations. Given Arkansas’ relatively small class sizes, our teachers should be able to give students quality opportunities to learn and grow every day.

The downside of such small class sizes, however, is that they contributes to lower teacher salaries.  This is because funding is provided to school districts on a per-pupil basis, so if a district has an average of 10 kids in each class there just isn’t enough funding to pay the same salaries that a district with an average of 20 kids in each class can.  It’s not a direct relationship, however, with starting salaries ranging over $10,000 among districts with the same average class size.

Higher teacher salaries and lower class sizes both sound great, but evidence of positive outcomes for students is unclear and large costs are associated with both choices.  Local school boards set the salary schedule for their teachers, and we think the decisions about how high to make teacher salaries, and how large to make classes, should be done strategically with careful consideration of resource allocation and district and community goals.

Raising Teacher Salaries

In The View from the OEP on January 16, 2019 at 1:26 pm

As the legislative session began this week, Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, introduced a bill that would raise the minimum public school teacher salary in Arkansas from $31,800 to $36,000 over the next four years. Here at OEP we expect the bill to pass, but suggest that while the $60 million investment will lead to greater financial stability for teachers in the affected districts, it likely won’t increase outcomes for their students.

We pulled together some information about which school districts would be raising their salaries and how many teachers would be affected by the raises. We then ask the most important question (at least to us)- “Will raising teacher salaries benefit students?” To get an idea, we looked into the relationship in Arkansas between teacher salaries and teacher supply and turnover, as well as student outcomes of achievement and academic growth.

Which school districts would be affected?

According to the latest teacher salary analysis from the ADE, 33 school districts currently pay the minimum salary for a first year teacher. These districts pay $31,800 to a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree, and $36,450 to a teacher with a Master’s degree. While salaries increase in one-third of these districts, 22 districts continue to pay the minimum salary for teachers with 15 years experience: $38,550 to a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree, and $43,950 to a teacher with a Master’s.

Figure 1: Districts Paying the Minimum Salary, 2017-18.

salary

There are an additional 51 districts that are paying more than the minimum salary, but less than the salary proposed in the bill ($32,800) These districts would have to increase their salaries to meet that proposed minimum.

How many teachers would get raises?

About 2,500 teachers work in the 33 districts that pay a minimum starting salary.  That’s 6.5% of teachers in the state. An additional 4,200 work in districts that would need to raise their salary to meet the new minimum, which means 18% of teachers could see raises.

Would the raises help recruit and retain teachers?

There is good research that recruiting high-quality teachers and retaining them can have a positive effect on students’ learning, but would raising minimum salaries in Arkansas salaries help recruit and retain teachers?

OEP research on Arkansas Teacher Supply found that beginning teacher salary was not a significant predictor of teacher supply.  While districts paying the highest teacher salaries reported receiving more teacher applications than lower paying ones, once other factors like district location were taken into consideration, teacher salary had no effect on the number of applications recieved per open teaching position.

The Arkansas Department of Education has developed a measure of workforce stability for each district. We compared the measure between districts paying the minimum salary and districts paying more, and found a slight difference (minimum =86.9% and higher paying districts= 89.9%). There was also just a slight correlation between base salary and the stability index (r=0.18), so it doesn’t seem that raising the minimum salary would have an impact on the stability of the teacher workforce at the school.

Would teacher raises help kids learn more?

We dug into the relationship between starting teacher salary and student outcomes like academic achievement and academic growth, and found essentially no relationship. Kids in Arkansas learn (or don’t) regardless of the district salary schedule.

For academic achievement, as measured by the 2017-18 ACT Aspire scores, districts with the minimum salary had achievement scores ranging from better than 98 percent of districts statewide to worse than 73 percent. As presented in the figure below, there was a low correlation between achievement and beginning teacher salary (r=0.28), indicating that paying teachers more doesn’t translate into higher test scores for students.

Figure 2: District Starting Salary and Student Achievement, 2017-18.

salary ach

For (our favorite!) academic growth, there was also little relationship with minimum teacher salary.  As we have discussed before, growth is measured by the 2017-18 ACT Aspire scores and reflects how much students improved compared to how much we thought they would improve based on their prior test scores. Districts with the minimum salary had growth scores ranging from better than 99 percent of districts statewide to worse than 77 percent.

As presented in the figure below, there was a low correlation between achievement and beginning teacher salary (r=0.26), indicating that paying teachers more doesn’t translate into better academic growth for students.

Figure 3: District Starting Salary and Student Academic Growth, 2017-18.

salary growth

We want to shout out the districts with the top 5% of growth in the state.  We are including the beginning teacher salary so you can see for yourself how varied pay is among these high-growth districts. We also include the district % FRL and average class size to demonstrate that high student academic growth can happen anywhere!

district salary growth

Hooray for the teachers in these districts that are getting it done for kids!  It’s also important to note that the highest paying districts in the list have the largest average class sizes. This reflects what OEP’s teacher salary research found- that class size was one of the most important factors in teacher pay.

In summary, here at OEP we understand that raising teacher salaries is popular, but suggest that while the $60 million investment will lead to greater financial stability for the teachers in the affected districts, it likely won’t increase outcomes for their students. 

 


Q and A about Arkansas teacher salaries

Q: What is the average teacher salary in Arkansas?

  • $49,615 was the average salary for classroom teachers in Arkansas for school districts including charters (2016-17).

Q: Are teacher salaries in Arkansas higher or lower than in other states?

  • Arkansas’s average teacher salary ranks 40th in the nation but increases to 22nd after adjusting for our state’s low cost of living.
  • Compared to surrounding states, Arkansas’s average teacher salary ranks 3rd, moving up to 2nd among our neighbors after adjusting for cost of living.

Q: Where does the money for teacher salaries come from?

  • Arkansas schools are funded through a funding matrix, which determines the per-student cost of an adequate education. In 2016-17, all schools received $6,646 per student, of which 69% was associated with salaries and benefits for classroom teachers, pupil support staff, school principal, and school secretary. At this funding level, the average teacher salary (and 25% for benefits) could be covered by a class of 13 students. It is important to note, however, that although there is a matrix for funding, there is no matrix for spending, and districts can allocate the funds as they choose.

Q: Who decides how much teachers get paid?

  • Teacher salaries in Arkansas are determined by local school boards. There is a minimum salary enacted by Arkansas Code § 6-17-2403 ($31,400 for 2017-18). The minimum salary has increased in each of the last four years, and the vast majority of districts in the state (87%) pay higher salaries than legally required.  Arkansas teachers typically receive an increase in salary each year and additional increases for further education credits.

Q: What kinds of districts pay higher teacher salaries?

  • Given that districts all receive the same per-pupil funding from the state (read more here), we wondered WHY districts were paying teachers such different salaries. Even after we controlled for differences in experience and education of teachers, and median income of counties, there were still substantial variations in pay between districts. You can read the details in the full report or shorter brief, but we found that districts with lower student : teacher ratios paid lower salaries. In a district that employs 50 teachers, if each teacher’s class was increased by one student, the average teacher salary would be expected to increase by about $1,815, holding all other factors equal.

 

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

In The View from the OEP on December 5, 2018 at 11:36 am

We are so excited to release our “Beating the Odds” Outstanding Educational Performance Awards  for 2018!  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 (-0.24).  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, 2018

f1_BTO

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, 2018

f2_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 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 Crawford Elementary from Russellville School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 89% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, Crawford 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. Crawford Elementary, Russellville SD (89% FRL)
  2. Bismarck Elementary, Bismarck SD (71% FRL)
  3. Oscar Hamilton Elementary, Foreman SD (75% FRL)
  4. Parson Hills Elementary, Springdale SD (96% FRL)
  5. John Tyson Elementary, Springdale SD (78% FRL)
  6. Cross County Elementary Tech Academy, Cross County SD (73% FRL)
  7. Des Arc Elementary, Des Arc SD (69% FRL)
  8. Monitor Elementary, Springdale SD (85% FRL)
  9. Sonora Elementary, Springdale SD (74% FRL)
  10. Green Forest Elementary, Green Forest SD (85% FRL)

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


“Beating the Odds” Middle Level Schools

Oak Grove Middle from Paragould School District is the top middle school beating the odds overall. Oak Grove Middle serves a 5th-6th grade student population where 76% 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. Oak Grove Middle, Paragould SD (76% FRL)
  2. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% FRL)
  3. Cedarville Middle, Cedarville SD (74% FRL)
  4. Pleasant View Campus, Mulberry/Pleasant View Bi-County Schools SD (77% FRL)
  5. Helen Tyson Middle, Springdale SD (76% FRL)
  6. Butterfield Trail Middle, Van Buren SD (71% FRL)
  7. Beryl Henry Upper Elementary, Hope SD (89% FRL)
  8. O. Kelly Middle, Springdale SD (90% FRL)
  9. Little Rock Prep Academy Middle, Little Rock Preparatory Academy (76% FRL)
  10. Mansfield Middle, Mansfield SD (69% FRL)

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 Danville High in Danville School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 70% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, it is also among OEP’s top 20 high growth high schools throughout the state.  Danville 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. Danville High, Danville SD (70% FRL)
  2. Western Yell Co. High, Western Yell County SD (85% FRL)
  3. Cross County High A New Tech, Cross County SD (73% FRL)
  4. Trumann High, Trumann SD (70% FRL)
  5. Shirley High, Shirley SD (81% FRL)
  6. Gosnell High, Gosnell SD (74% FRL)
  7. Des Arc High, Des Arc SD (67% FRL)
  8. Izard Co. Cons. High, Izard County Consolidated SD (70% FRL)
  9. Cave City High Career & Collegiate Preparatory, Cave City SD (79% FRL)
  10. Maynard High, Maynard SD (70% FRL)
  11. Southwest Junior High, Springdale SD (71% 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!


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 weeks 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.

 

 

Outstanding Educational Performance: High Growth High Schools

In The View from the OEP on November 28, 2018 at 9:41 am

Today’s 2017-18 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards) are for High Growth High Schools.   Similar to last year, these awards are 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 has improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

After Sunday’s Democrat Gazette article about school letter grades we were asked,

Can schools with high achievement really make growth?”

Today’s list speaks directly to this question.  More than half of the high school receiving OEP awards for growth were also in the top 10% of high schools for achievement.  High achieving schools should worry about growth because if their students aren’t making growth- they are falling behind their peers across the state.

We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students rather than proficiency rates.  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. This means that schools are equally as likely to demonstrate high student growth regardless of the characteristics of the students that they serve.


Highest Growth: High School Level

The top High School level school for overall student growth is LISA Academy North High for the second year in a row, with a growth score of 86.63.  Haas Hall Academy at the Lanes had the highest math growth with a score of 88.05, while Washington Academy from Texarkana School District had the highest growth in ELA at 85.95.

The top 20 High School level schools for overall content growth are:

  1. LISA Academy North High Charter School, LISA Academy (40% FRL)*
  2. Southside Charter High School, Southside SD (Independence) (51% FRL)*
  3. Van Buren Freshman Academy, Van Buren SD (57% FRL)*
  4. Haas Hall Academy At The Lane, Haas Hall Academy (3% FRL)
  5. Haas Hall Academy Jones Center, Haas Hall Academy (0% FRL)
  6. Washington Academy, Texarkana SD (56% FRL)
  7. Eureka Springs High School, Eureka Springs SD (48% FRL)*
  8. Greenbrier Junior High School, Greenbrier SD (35% FRL)*
  9. South Side High School, South Side SD (Van Buren) (57% FRL)
  10. Haas Hall Academy Bentonville, Haas Hall Bentonville (0% FRL)*
  11. Danville High School, Danville SD (70% FRL)*
  12. Dardanelle High School, Dardanelle SD (62% FRL)
  13. Greenwood Freshman Center, Greenwood SD (27% FRL)
  14. Haas Hall Academy, Haas Hall Academy (0% FRL)*
  15. Russellville Jr. High School, Russellville SD (53% FRL)*
  16. Ouachita High School, Ouachita SD (47% FRL)
  17. Hazen High School, Hazen SD (62% FRL)
  18. Arkansas Arts Academy High School, Arkansas Arts Academy (20% FRL)*
  19. Arkansas High School, Texarkana SD (60% FRL)
  20. Concord High School, Concord SD (63% FRL)

*Schools with an asterisk were also on the top 20 list last year! Half of the schools on our list demonstrate that high growth can be achieved year after year. These are schools that are consistently growing student’s academic performance more than would be expected. Excellent Job!!

A variety of schools have shown high growth when observed through the lens of the percentage of students served Free/Reduced Lunch. The proportion of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth schools ranges from a low of 0% to a high of 70%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!

You can find the high schools with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.

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

Next week we will release the list of high growth schools serving high poverty populations, those who are “Beating the Odds!”


About OEP Awards:

OEP Awards are different than other awards because we examine growth specifically by content area. We do this because we think it is important to examine each subject separately, as just looking at the combined growth doesn’t provide school leaders with the information that they need. For example, learning that growth in Math is high, but growth in ELA is lagging would provide valuable information about the effectiveness of each program. We limit the growth score to just subject areas, without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners, because this should also be examined separately.  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few weeks ago, OEP awards for High Schools do not include graduation rate in the growth calculation.  In addition, OEP’s awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

Overall content growth scores have a mean of 80, and range from 72.4 to 91.6 at the high school level, although when Math and ELA are examined separately, the range increases somewhat (68.5 to 91.6).  Understanding the range of scores is important because small point differences in growth scores can indicate large differences in growth rates – as the standard deviation is only 2.4 points for high schools. 

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 the growth information will spark discussions among stakeholders about how to ensure all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas students.

We celebrate two types of schools: “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.

Outstanding Educational Performance: High Growth Middle Schools

In The View from the OEP on November 14, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Today’s 2017-18 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards) are for High Growth middle schools. These awards are 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 has improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

OEP Awards are different than other awards because we examine growth specifically by content area.  We do this 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).

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

We give OEP Awards based on student growth because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students rather than proficiency rates. 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. This means that schools are equally as likely to demonstrate high student growth regardless of the characteristics of the students that they serve.

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.

Highest Growth: Middle Level

The top middle level school for overall student growth is Heber Springs Middle from Herber Springs School District, with a growth score of 86.35. Paragould Junior High from Paragould School District had the highest Math growth with a score of 88.75, while Pleasant View Campus had the highest growth in ELA at 86.65.

The top 20 middle level schools for overall content growth are:

  1. Heber Springs Middle, Heber Springs SD (51% FRL)*
  2. Valley Springs Middle, Valley Springs SD (42% FRL)*
  3. LISA Academy North Middle Charter, LISA Academy (49% FRL)*
  4. Oak Grove Middle, Paragould SD (76% FRL)
  5. Cabot Middle North, Cabot SD (37% FRL)*
  6. Lincoln Junior High, Bentonville SD (26% FRL)*
  7. A. Chaffin Jr. High, Fort Smith SD (42% FRL)*
  8. Cabot Junior High North, Cabot SD (34% FRL)*
  9. Manila Middle, Manila SD (56% FRL)
  10. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% FRL)*
  11. William Fulbright Junior High, Bentonville SD (18% FRL)*
  12. Swifton Middle, Jackson Co. SD (63% FRL)
  13. Bismarck Middle, Bismarck SD (59% FRL)*
  14. Washington Junior High, Bentonville SD (26% FRL)
  15. Cedarville Middle, Cedarville SD (73% FRL)
  16. Gravette Middle, Gravette SD (48% FRL)
  17. Pleasant View Campus, Mulberry/Pleasant View Bi-County Schools (77% FRL)
  18. LISA Academy, LISA Academy SD (44% FRL)
  19. Helen Tyson Middle, Springdale SD (75% FRL)
  20. Butterfield Trail Middle, Van Buren SD (70% FRL)

We were pleased to see the variety of middle level schools on our list of those demonstrating high student growth. We included the percentage of students in the school who participate in the Free/Reduced Lunch program (due to low household income) to demonstrate why we like to talk about growth! The percentage of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth middle level schools ranges from a low of 18% to a high of 77%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!

*Schools with an asterisk were also on the top 20 list last year! Half of the schools on our list- demonstrate that high growth can be achieved year after year. These are schools that are consistently growing student’s academic performance more than would be expected. Way to go!

You can find the middle level schools with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.

 

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

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

 

Outstanding Educational Performance: High Growth Elementary Schools

In The View from the OEP on November 7, 2018 at 10:26 am

Here at the OEP we are excited to celebrate the highest-growth schools across the state in our 2017-18 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards)!

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 has improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

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 the growth information will spark discussions among stakeholders about how to ensure all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas students.

We give OEP Awards based on student growth because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students rather than proficiency rates.  Proficiency rates, even those that move beyond the ‘percent proficient’ like our OEP GPA and Arkansas’ weighted achievement score, are more correlated with student demographic characteristics, such as eligibility for the federal Free/Reduced Lunch program, than growth scores. This means that schools are equally as likely to demonstrate high student growth regardless of the characteristics of the students that they serve.

How are the OEP awards different?

Simple- OEP Awards are based 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 last week, 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 High Growth Elementary schools are based on the growth of elementary students on the ACT Aspire Math and English Language Arts assessments.

Highest Growth: Elementary Level

The top elementary school for overall student growth is Center Valley Elementary from Russellville School District, with a growth score of 90.55. City Heights Elementary from Van Buren School District had the highest Math growth with a score of 93.65, while Center Valley Elementary also obtained the highest growth score in ELA at 91.20.

The top 20 elementary schools for overall content growth are:

  1. Center Valley Elementary, Russellville SD (47% FRL)
  2. City Heights Elementary, Van Buren SD (62% FRL)*
  3. Greenbrier Springhill Elementary, Greenbrier SD (41% FRL)*
  4. Crawford Elementary, Russellville SD (89% FRL)
  5. Greenbrier Wooster Elementary, Greenbrier SD (43% FRL)*
  6. Salem Elementary, Salem SD (65% FRL)*
  7. Sequoyah Elementary, Russellville SD (43% FRL)
  8. Bismarck Elementary, Bismarck SD (71% FRL)*
  9. Oscar Hamilton Elementary, Foreman SD (74% FRL)*
  10. Parson Hills Elementary, Springdale SD (95% FRL)
  11. John Tyson Elementary, Springdale SD (77% FRL)*
  12. Cross County Elementary Tech Academy, Cross County SD (73% FRL)
  13. Genoa Central Elementary, Genoa Central SD (47% FRL)
  14. Des Arc Elementary, Des Arc SD (69% FRL)
  15. Monitor Elementary, Springdale SD (84% FRL)
  16. Eastside Elementary, Cabot SD (35% FRL)*
  17. Sonora Elementary, Springdale SD (74% FRL)*
  18. Cavanaugh Elementary, Fort Smith SD (60% FRL)*
  19. Hunt Elementary, Springdale SD (44% FRL)*
  20. Pottsville Elementary, Pottsville SD (53% FRL)*

*Schools with an asterisk were also on the top 20 list last year! Over half of the schools on our list- demonstrate that high growth can be achieved year after year. These are schools that are consistently growing student’s academic performance more than would be expected. Way to go!

Similarly 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. The proportion of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth schools ranges from a low of 35% to a high of 95%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!

You can find the elementary schools with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.

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

Next week we will share “High Growth” Middle level schools, followed by High Schools, and then we will release the list of high growth schools serving high poverty populations, those who are “Beating the Odds!”

Let’s Reward Growth!

In The View from the OEP on October 31, 2018 at 11:39 am

This week, Arkansas schools received nearly $7 million in reward money from the Arkansas’ School Recognition Program. This program provides funds for “outstanding schools”.  Schools are rewarded for being in the top 10 percent of schools in the state for academic achievement and/or academic growth.

Here at OEP, we are glad that schools are being rewarded, but think the program could be improved in three ways:

  1. Award all the funds to schools where students are showing high academic growth,
  2. Remove graduation rate from the calculations, and
  3. Reward schools for highest growth ranking within school level (Elementary, Middle, or High) instead of across all schools.

Put the Money Where the Growth is

We wish that all the reward and recognition funds were given to those schools where students are demonstrating high academic growth! Of course we think academic achievement is important, but suggest that it is not the best indicator of how well a school is educating students. We have talked before about the clear relationship between academic achievement and poverty, because students from homes with greater resources are likely to perform better on the annual assessments in in English Language Arts and Mathematics. Academic growth, on the other hand, reflects how much improvement the students are making from year to year, which is what school personnel can impact directly through high-quality instruction. Recognizing and rewarding schools where teachers are growing students’ academic performance is critical to ensure that our teachers feel supported in their work to help every student learn every day.

It is important we all understand that high academic achievement and high growth are not mutually exclusive! There are 10 schools (listed below) that were in the top 5% for both academic achievement and growth.

Table 1: Schools Identified in the top 5% of schools in the state for both Growth and Achievement, 2017-18.

top 5%Notice that among these 10 schools recognized for top-tier growth and achievement, there are schools with very small percentages of students eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch (a proxy for poverty), as well as schools with FRL rates above the state average of 63%. We are excited to see high growth and at all types of schools!  Salem Elementary and Bismark Elementary serve populations that are 65% and 71% FRL respectively, but are in the top 5% of schools in the state for both achievement and growth. We are excited to see that these top-tier schools serve different types of student populations, but are all serving their students so well!

In fact, half of the schools in the top 5% for growth serve a higher than average percentage of students eligible for FRL – topping out with Parson Hills in Springdale and Tilles in Forth Smith which both serve over 90% of students eligible for FRL.

When it comes to high-ranking in achievement, however, schools serving more disadvantaged populations are harder to find. Only five of the schools that made the top tier in achievement were above the state average %FRL (including Salem and Bismarck- that we already mentioned).

This means we have a bunch of high-achieving schools getting reward money that aren’t showing top tier student growth. Most of the schools recognized for high achievement demonstrate above average growth, ten rewarded schools had growth below the state average.  In fact, 4 schools rewarded for high achievement were in the bottom quartile for growth among all schools in the state. We aren’t going to name those schools here- but recommend that you check out how well your school performed in growth in these easy to interpret school info one-pagers. Just select your school see the percentile rank for achievement, growth, and SQSS indicators.


What’s The Deal with Graduation Rate?

For high schools, the current law requires that graduation rate be included in the ‘growth’ calculation. It’s odd, and likely a leftover from the old days when we didn’t have growth indicators for high school, but at least it isn’t biased against schools serving more at-risk students since graduation rates aren’t really correlated with poverty rates! (r=-0.17). This year, both the 4- and 5- year graduation rates were included, which we think is an improvement because it at least benefits schools that are going the extra mile to help all kids graduate, even if it takes extra time.  Overall though, we think the recognition program should remove graduation rate from the calculations, because they just inflate growth scores for high schools, and makes the system misaligned with ESSA.


Reward Within School Level

The legislation for the reward program clearly states that schools will be rewarded for being in the top tier “of all public schools”, but here at OEP, we would love to see schools awarded recognition and reward money based on their ranking WITHIN their school level.  Making this change would be more equitable for all schools, and would align more closely with the state’s ESSA plan. If we want to incentivize schools to show growth, we have to make sure schools in all levels have a chance for rewards and recognition.


We Do It Our Way

We give OEP awards according to our preferences: only for growth, without graduation rate consideration for high schools, and within school level. In addition, we separate out growth in math and growth in ELA, because we think schools should be rewarded for their successes.

Tune in next week to find out which Elementary level schools receive OEP Awards for 2018!

Grade 11 ACT Scores

In The View from the OEP on October 25, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Last week, we shared that the grade 11 ACT scores from last spring were essentially the same as the ACT scores from the prior year.  When we examined the school-level, however, there were some schools that had serious increases from prior ACT scores!

We’ve posted the data on our website and included change in scores so you can dig into it yourself.

Three high schools really caught our eye, and we want to celebrate Scranton High, Shirley High, and Eureka Springs High for the improvement made by their students since Grade 11 ACT testing began in the 2015-16 school year. We present the ACT data from these schools below.

School Name Percent Met All Four ACT Readiness Benchmarks School % FRL Number of Students Tested 2017-18
2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Scranton High 11 7 39 44% 28
Eureka Springs High 18 14 30 46% 43
Shirley High 3 4 20 77% 25
        State Average 14 14 14 54% 110

These schools have demonstrated large increases in the percentage of students meeting ACT college readiness benchmarks in all four subject areas (Math, English, Reading, and Science).  A student who meets the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks has at least a 50% chance of getting a “B” or better in the corresponding college course. Statewide, 14% of students meet this criteria, and the rates in these three districts are higher than in similar districts.

Scranton High, Shirley High, and Eureka Springs High Schools haven’t only shown improvements in the percentage of students meeting all four ACT readiness benchmarks, however.  Students from these schools also increased the average ACT score in each content area over prior performance and are outscoring districts serving similar populations.

You may notice that these schools serve a small number of students- meaning that the scores are more likely to fluctuate than those in larger districts. We agree, but many small schools have had big decreases in scores over time, and we think the three-year trend is a good start.

Scranton High, Shirley High, and Eureka Springs High schools also had strong ESSA growth scores last year, and were in the top 10% for growth overall, and the top 5% of high school for growth in ELA.  This got us to wondering about how ESSA growth (which doesn’t involve 11th graders at all) is related to ACT score improvement?  We were also wondering how 11th grade ACT scores are related to school poverty rates, and to the 10th grade ACT Aspire scores from the prior year.


ACT improvement and ESSA growth:

We might anticipate that ESSA growth values and ACT improvement would be related, because if a school is seeing growth from the students who complete the ACT Aspire (given in grades 3-10), then it would make sense that students who complete the ACT would also demonstrate growth. As you can see in the scatter plot below, however, there is essentially no relationship between the values at the school level (r=0.09).

ACT and Growth

While we presented English scores, the relationship was consistent for math growth as well. We thought maybe it was because some of the schools we are considering as ‘high schools’ serve a wider grade range than just 9-12, and so maybe the growth values was based on growth in lower grades, but when we limited the sample to only schools serving grades 9-12 the correlation remained as low as with the whole sample. We think this lack of relationship highlights the difference between the longitudinal growth model and a simple change value. The ESSA growth score includes more sensitive information about how students are performing longitudinally, while the ACT information which is just snapshots of the scores of two different groups of students in subsequent years.


ACT scores and 10th grade ACT Aspire scores:

This got us wondering about how correlated were these schools’ 10th grade ACT Aspire scores from 2016-17 with the 11th grade ACT  scores from 2017-18.  We would expect they would be correlated, since the ACT Aspire is meant to predict performance on the ACT!  Although the state-level values didn’t change for either assessment, we wanted to examine the relationship at a school level.  We use the OEP’s weighted GPA to examine the relationship between the scores, and find the values are strongly correlated (r=0.84).  Math scores were more correlated (r=0.92), while ACT science scores were less correlated with the 10th grade performance (r=0.70).

g10g11ACT

Given that the ACT scores are so correlated with ACT Aspire scores, students, parents, teachers, and other education stakeholders should take action on ACT Aspire results in earlier grades to address any areas of academic weakness well before the ACT.


ACT scores school poverty rates:

As we would expect with assessments measuring academic performance, we find that the ACT is negatively correlated with school poverty rates (r=-0.58), so it is important to compare your school’s performance to those serving similar student populations.

ACT- Poverty

We are so glad that the state is investing in our students and providing them with all the opportunity to take the ACT in 11th grade, but just testing students doesn’t help them learn.  We need to work hard to effectively use information from both formative and summative assessments to support students in their learning.

Play It Again Sam… Letter Grades and ACT Scores

In The View from the OEP on October 17, 2018 at 12:20 pm

It’s been a big week in Arkansas education, with A-F Letter Grades and ACT scores being released, but both scores are generally a repeat of last year’s results.

As expected, the majority of schools (67%) received the same letter grade as last year.  There was some movement up a level (16% of schools) or down a level (17%) of schools, but these were generally more reflective of schools crossing over a classification threshold than significant changes in performance.  ACT scores for Arkansas’ 2018 graduates were just the same as they were for the Class of 2017. The average composite score of 19.4 and the determination that 17% of Arkansas graduates met the readiness benchmarks in all four tested areas are both below the national average and exactly the same as last year’s results.

How are school leaders, parents, and policy makers to interpret the static results?  Here at the OEP, we hope to share some tools for interpreting the new data. We also want to get into the weeds about how the Achievement and Growth scores interact in the ESSA model.

Before we jump into the details, we have some good news to highlight!

First- we congratulate ADE on getting the school performance information out so quickly this year. This helps schools evaluate how their school is serving students and make changes in a timely manner to address areas where the numbers are low.

Second- we celebrate the transparency that ADE has built into the system, and we fully support Arkansas’ decision to provide all students the opportunity to take the ACT for free.  These are positive decisions for students!  We love the public availability of the school performance reports through myschoolinfo.arkansas.gov– especially the option to compare achievement and growth performance with similar schools.  This option is available within the Reports tab by selecting similar schools based on %FRL, racial percentages and/or geographic proximity (see images below). If you haven’t checked this out, you should!

School filter

apply filter

 

 


The data is a lot to take in, and it can be tough to try to figure out what’s important and what the patterns are. We have posted this interactive data viz of the Letter Grades and associated scores to help you see a statewide picture.  You can find your school, and filter by academic growth score and poverty rate to see how schools that are similar to yours have scored.

OEP’s Interactive 2017-18 ESSA Data Visualization

ESSA Viz

Even with all the data out there, however, we are concerned that it may be difficult for many stakeholders to understand how their school is performing. In addition, we think each indicator provides insight independently, and so we made these simple one-pagers for easy reference.  To ease interpretation for stakeholders, we assigned each school a percentile rank (within their assigned grade span) for the Achievement, Growth, and School Quality indicators.  While this is too superficial for school personnel to act upon, we hope you find it a helpful communication tool. You can get them from our website officeforeducation policy.org, or here:

OEP’s One-Page School Summary of 2017-18 ESSA Data

One Pager


Now we are going to dig into the school performance data, and consider the new letter grades. Don’t worry – there are pictures, and you can download the data we used here!

As expected, the majority of schools (67%) received the same letter grade as last year.  There was some movement up a level (16% of schools) or down a level (17%) of schools, but these were generally more reflective of schools crossing over a classification threshold than significant changes in performance. Overall, the percentage of schools receiving each letter grade was similar to last year.

Figure 1: School Letter Grade Percentages, 2016-17 and 2017-18.

2017-18 LetterGrade Chart


Certain types of schools are more likely to get A’s and B’s.

Once again this year, we find that schools serving a lower percentage of students who participate in Free/Reduced Lunch (FRL) generally get better grades than schools who serve a more disadvantaged population.  As you can see in Figure 2 below, there is a strong negative relationship between FRL and ESSA scores (r=-0.69) although schools with the same %FRL have a range of about 20 ESSA points. Take note that there are a lot of schools reporting 100% FRL, which is the result of districts participating in the community eligibility provision.  We like the CEP, but some of these schools reported much lower FRL rates in years past, so we should use caution when considering the performance of these schools since it may not be an apples-to-apples comparison.

Figure 2: School ESSA Index Score and %FRL, 2017-18.

ESSA FRL

As we’ve said before, the ESSA index is mainly driven by achievement, and two scores are almost perfectly correlated at r=.97.  This is frustrating because the model was supposed to consider growth more heavily than achievement, but in reality achievement scores overwhelm growth. In addition, you can see in Figure 3 that this year’s achievement is almost perfectly correlated with prior year achievement (r=.94). So high achieving schools (generally lower FRL schools) tend to get better grades both years.

Figure 3: Weighted Achievement, 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Achievement 2 year


What about GROWTH?

The good news is that academic growth (our favorite) is less associated with school FRL rates than achievement (see in Figure 4 (r=-.25)). Growth is the indicator that measures how students scored compared to how well we predicted they would score based on prior achievement.  We feel it is very important to examine this indicator carefully, as it is the best reflection of the learning occurring in our classrooms.

Figure 4: Academic Growth and %FRL, 2017-18.

growth FRL

Interestingly, as you can see in Figure 5, academic growth is strongly correlated with prior year growth (r=.80).  This means that schools with high growth in 2016-17 also had high growth in 2017-18. The reverse is also true, unfortunately, as schools where students performed lower than predicted in 2016-17 demonstrated the same pattern in 2017-18.

Figure 5: Academic Growth 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Growth 2 year

This is great news for Arkansas educators!  We have an indicator of student learning that is not very correlated with school poverty, but seems to be consistently identifying schools as high, average, or low growth. Keep an eye out for the OEP awards, which will celebrate the high growth school!


But does increased growth relate to increased achievement, as we would think it should? The figure below represents the change in growth score from 2016-17 to 2017-18 and the change in achievement score over those same two years. Although increased growth does not always correlate with positive changes in achievement (because students can be achieving at a higher level than predicted but not necessarily making it into another proficiency category), there are few schools in the lower right quadrant where growth decreased and achievement increased. Of greatest concern are the schools in the lower left quadrant, where growth and proficiency both decreased since the prior year.

Figure 6: Change in Academic Growth and Achievement, from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

Growth Achievement


So what should school leaders, parents, and policy makers do?

  1.  Get into the data!  Understand and communicate how your school is performing on each indicator compared to similar schools.  If there is an indicator where scores are relatively high, build on that success.  If there is an indicator where scores are relatively low, consider what might be contributing to that score and work to change students’ school experiences. Stakeholders and policy makers should celebrate school successes, and work to support development in low-performing indicators.
  2. Focus on the learning every day! The ESSA Index, the ACT Aspire, and the ACT tests are once-a-year snapshots of performance.  Teachers should be using high quality ongoing formative assessments to understand where their students are and work to help them move them forward in their learning. Stakeholders and policy makers should support schools as they work to make an opportunity for growth for their students.
  3. Stay the course! Change takes time. To move the needle on student achievement and success in Arkansas, we need to put in the work and give the work time.  Changing assessments or backing away from rigorous and high-quality school performance analyses will only add instability into the system.

Arkansas education is on the right track, so let’s keep playing that tune.