University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

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Chronic Absenteeism in Arkansas

In The View from the OEP on September 12, 2018 at 12:56 pm

September is Attendance Awareness Month, and this week we learned that Little Rock School District is aiming to cut chronic student absenteeism by partnering with The Campaign for Grade Level Reading, ArKids Read, Heart of Arkansas United Way, and Optimist Club of Greater Little Rock. The idea is that academic performance will improve if students come to school.

But what IS chronic absenteeism?

Chronic Absenteeism is when students are missing a lot of school.  How many absences are chronic? It depends on who you ask.

From a national perspective, schools were first required to submit information on chronic absence to the Office of Civil Rights in the 2013-14 school year.  The OCR defined chronic absence as missing 15 days or more of the school year.  Data from 2015-16 showed an increase in chronic absenteeism, but researchers believe it is due to improved reporting.  Unfortunately, chronic absence data will now be collected through the US Department of Education’s Ed Facts Division.  These data will not be comparable, because chronic absence is defined differently.  Ed Facts will define chronic absenteeism as missing 10 percent or more of school days.

Chronic Absenteeism Impacts Kids

Chronic absence links to poor academic performance, delayed graduation, and higher dropout rates, and it correlates strongly with school climate issues such as bullying and poor transportation.

According to the new report Data Matters; Using Chronic Absence to Accelerate Action for Student Success, Arkansas had a lower percentage of students chronically absent than in the nation as a whole. While the national rate of chronic absenteeism was 15.5%, only 14.1% of Arkansas students missed 15 days or more of school during the 2015-16 year.

Hedy N. Chang, one of the authors of the report, stated that attendance is strongly associated with academic success. Regular absences are an alert that students may need additional support and an investment of resources to have the opportunity to learn and thrive, Chang said. Barriers to good attendance include illness, trauma, unreliable transportation, negative school experiences such as bullying, lack of engagement and relevance to a child, poor discipline that pushes kids out and family failure to realize importance of school attendance. Although researchers have found a connection between poverty and absenteeism, there isn’t a strong correlation in Arkansas between school poverty rates and chronic absenteeism rates.

The map below shows the 2015-16 reported rates of chronic absenteeism in Arkansas school districts.  You can access an interactive map that drills down to the school level here.

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Chronic Absenteeism Impacts Schools

Chronic absenteeism has become a national education metric because the 2015 Every Student Success Act (ESSA) required states to include an indicator of School Quality and Student Success (SQSS).  This ‘fifth indicator’ indicator allowed states to place a value on elements of learning that are not typically measured on assessments. States had a substantial amount of freedom to decide which SQSS indicator(s) to include. Arkansas, like the majority of the states, selected chronic absenteeism as one of the measures of School Quality and Student Success used in the state accountability system.

Chronic absenteeism is one of several measures used to indicate SQSS in Arkansas.  Schools are awarded a point for each student who is present at least 95% of the school year, and a half a point for each student who missed between 6 and 9% of the school year.  Schools receive no points for students who are absent 10% of the year or more.  These attendance points are combined with the other SQSS indicators, so attendance doesn’t actually have a large impact on the overall score, but schools may feel incentivized to overlook reporting absences. When data are not valid and reliable, we can’t use them to support students.

As noted with the national attendance data collection, monitoring will be needed to ensure that good data are collected so we can reliably use it to determine relationships with student success in our schools. High rates of absenteeism signify the need to dig deeper to understand the underlying challenges.

Improving attendance rates requires an intentional shift away from punitive action and blame that have no evidence of yielding sustained improvements in attendance.  Arkansas has been working on moving away from such punitive action with Act 1329, banning Out of School Suspension as a consequence of truancy.  As OEP will report to the State Board on Friday, however, over 1,000 referrals for truancy resulted in OSS in the most recent school year.

Like Little Rock’s initiative, communication is key. Attendance Works provides a framework for improving student attendance in which educators starting with positive engagement and problem-solving to identify and address barriers to getting to school.

We celebrate all the schools that are examining the root causes of why students are missing school.  Let us know how we can help!

 

September Happenings!

In The View from the OEP on September 5, 2018 at 11:31 am

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This week, we wanted to give you a heads up about a bunch of education-related events happening in September!

ESSA School Index reports will be open for Private Viewing on My School Info. from September 18 through 24, 2018.  School and district leaders should take advantage of this time before the public release to get prepared to explain to their stakeholders

  • what the ESSA School Index says about their school(s),
  • what the plans are to continue to improve, and
  • how stakeholders can support the work.

Remember that A-F school grades and rewards and recognition money will also be based on the ESSA school index, so a clear understanding and pro-active communication plan seems like a good idea to us!

Thanks to the hard work and planning of ADE staff, we have this information early in the school year so you can use it to inform your practices!  If you have questions about your report, or how to communicate the results, we are happy to help – just email us at oep@uark.edu.

National Merit lists should be released soon as the PSAT selection criteria for 2019 graduates were just released. Arkansas students need a score of 214 to be selected as a Commended Student.


We also wanted to be sure you were aware of several interesting conferences scheduled for September:

Education Innovation Summit: September 27th and 28th in Rogers, $300

This is the fourth year for this conference and they have a great lineup of international, national and local speakers! The conference is a partnership between Office of Innovation for Education (OIE) and ADE and the speakers include Derek Wenmoth, from New Zealand, Susan Patrick from iNACOL and  Stephen Spaloss with City Year.

There are a bunch of breakout sessions from practitioners implementing the work of innovation, along with policy sessions, design sessions, and opportunities to work in small groups with experts in mentor sessions.  If you haven’t been before, you can check out videos of past conferences here.

Data and Policy Symposium: September 27th 8am-1pm in Little Rock, FREE

ForwARd Arkansas, in partnership with the Institute for Chief Data Officers at UA Little Rock are bringing together national experts to discuss the importance of creating a longitudinal data system to track educational outcomes in the state of Arkansas. The keynote will be provided by John Easton, former director of the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.   Access to quality, integrated longitudinal data to track outcomes between Pre-K, K-12, post-secondary education/training and workforce participation is essential to inform future planning and resource allocation.

Arkansas Association of Gifted Educators: September 27th in North Little Rock, $105 for Members. Topics include: How GT fits with the Science of Reading Act, Strategies to Identify and Service Students of Low Income, and Closing the Identification Gap.

Arkansas Association of Federal Coordinators: September 19th-21st in Hot Springs $225 for Members. Topics include: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Programs and Budgeting, Utilizing School Index Reports to Analyze Effectiveness of Title Schools, and ADE and Legislative updates.


Meetings:

State Board of Education: September 13th and 14th*

*OEP will be presenting the latest schools discipline research on the 14th at 9

Education Caucus: September 24th at noon

Topic: Student transportation -or- teacher salaries

House and Senate Interim Committees on Education: September 24th and 25th

Topic: 2018 Adequacy Report and issues related to Educational Adequacy

        A draft of the 2018 Adequacy Report can be found here

Does Arkansas Have a Teacher Shortage?

In The View from the OEP on August 29, 2018 at 1:16 pm

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Amid national conversations about teacher shortages, we’ve been wondering if Arkansas has a teacher shortage.  We’ve been doing some research, and are excited to release our Policy Brief and Arkansas Education Report on Teacher Supply in Arkansas.


Does Arkansas have a teacher shortage?

Well, it’s difficult to tell.  One measure of teacher supply could be the number of teachers available to students, and Arkansas seems to do okay here.  According to ADE’s Recruitment and Retention Report, Arkansas students have greater access to teachers than their peers across the country. In Arkansas there is one classroom teacher to every 14.3 students, compared to the national average of 16.1 students per teacher (NCES).

Another measure of teacher supply could be the number of licensed educators in the state.  We have a bunch in Arkansas! According to Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), there were 33,228 certified teachers employed in Arkansas schools in 2017-18, and 60,317 people in Arkansas with a teaching license of any type as of 2017-18. That’s 81% more licensed teachers than are currently employed in the public schools.

A third measure of teacher supply considers the number of students enrolled in educator preparation programs, and the number of education program graduates entering the workforce. The ADE references the decline in the number of enrollees in education preparation programs as particular cause for concern.

All of these measures, however, focus on the overall supply of teachers in the state, and do not address current teacher supply realities faced by districts. It is possible there could be a shortage in some regions and subjects, but a surplus in others.


What do districts say?

We use a more intuitive and immediate measure of teacher supply: a ratio of the number of applicants for each open teaching position. This is the first study to define teacher supply in this way. By examining the ratio of applications to vacancies at the district level, we get a more direct, localized, measure of teacher supply and can investigate the relationship district characteristics may have on supply.

There is no centralized source to obtain the number of teaching vacancies and applicants in Arkansas, because each district posts their own position announcements and handles applications independently. In fact, over 46% of districts use only paper applications for teacher positions.

To gather information on the number of teaching vacancies and associated applications from school districts, we administered a survey to all districts in the Spring of 2017.  Overall, 74% of districts responded and the respondents were representative of statewide districts on examined characteristics.

We examined the reported teacher supply by student characteristics, district enrollment, district location, and beginning teacher salary. We also examined the relationship between teacher supply and the grade level and subject area of the vacancy.


What did we find?

  • There is not an overall teacher shortage across the state, but teacher supply is unequally distributed.
  • On average, districts reported receiving 6 applications per teacher vacancy. 
  • Districts that have the most favorable teaching supply are larger districts with enrollment greater than 3,500. On average, these districts get 8 applications per vacancy.
  • Urban and suburban districts, as well as districts in the Northwest appear to have a significant advantage in attracting teaching applicants.
  • Districts that face a greater challenge in attracting teaching supply are those in the Central, Southwest, and Southeast regions, and those in rural areas.
  • Beginning teacher salary is not found to be significantly related to district teacher supply, although districts who pay the most recieve more applications per vacancy.

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What do we recommend?

Today the Learning Policy Institute released a report about six evidence-based policies that states are taking to solve teacher shortages:

  • Service scholarships and loan forgiveness (Arkansas does this!)
  • High-retention pathways into teaching (Arkansas does this!)
  • Mentoring and induction for new teachers
  • Developing high-quality school principals
  • Competitive compensation (Arkansas does this!)
  • Recruitment strategies to expand the pool of qualified educators

Arkansas is highlighted several times throughout the report, and we applaud the work that the state is doing to attract and retain teachers.  We do, however, worry that the current method Arkansas uses to identify teacher supply focuses more on the overall intended (future) supply, than on the current supply districts experience through the number of applications they receive.

Issues related to district level teacher supply may be different from statewide challenges and policies to address them must  be considered. Rather than focus on overall supply, Arkansas should consider examining teacher supply at a more localized level and examine ways to better match prospective teachers to positions.  To that end, we suggest the following recommendations:

  • To better understand how teacher supply is distributed across districts, the state should consider collecting application and vacancy information at the district level.
  • To make it easier for applicants to find district vacancies and districts to find applicants, a statewide online application process could be used. Teachers may be more likely to complete an application online than go ‘old-school’ and mail in a paper application.
  • Starting the hiring process earlier, especially for low-supply districts, could increase both the quantity and quality of candidates.
  • Examining ways to purposefully place student teachers in districts, and developing more district-university partnerships where they are limited or may not exist, would also facilitate getting teachers to where they are most needed.
  • Expand communication of any incentives available for teachers, especially those in small districts and districts in the Southeast and Southwest regions of the state.

Teachers are critical to Arkansas’ success, and there is a lot of great work being done to support them. We want to make sure we have quality teachers in all our clasrrooms.  A deeper understanding of variations in teacher supply throughout the state can maximize the impact of the policies being used to solve any teacher shortages, and provide reliable data about their effectiveness.

National Opinions on Teacher Salary

In The View from the OEP on August 22, 2018 at 11:34 am

This week the education journal Education Next released its annual poll examining nation-wide attitudes toward major issues in K-12 education.  The poll surveyed more than 4,600 respondents (a nationally-representative sample), covered 10 main topics, and compared the results with those of prior years. Today we wanted to focus on questions in the EdNext poll about teacher salaries and consider the issue through an Arkansas lens.

Teacher Salary_EdNext2018

  • Respondents underestimated annual average teacher salaries by over  31%. The average response for a yearly salary of a public school teacher in their local district was $40,181, which was more than $18,000 less than the actual average teacher salary of $58,297.
  • Parents underestimated local teacher salaries by 30%, an amount similar to the general public.
  • Teachers’ guesses about annual teacher salary were closer to the actual amount than were those of parents or the general public, but still underestimated teacher salaries by over 20%.

Average Arkansas Teacher Salaries: The average salary for classroom teachers in Arkansas was $49,615 for school districts including charters (2016-17). In June, the Bureau of Legislative Research produced a brief and report on Arkansas teacher compensation, which indicated that Arkansas teacher salaries are near the middle of the pack when compared to surrounding states and those in the broader region as well.  You can check salaries for your district here. As mentioned here, OEP examined teacher salaries in depth in this report and policy brief.  We found that differences in teacher salary are greatest within regions of the state, and are most associated with student-to-teacher ratios and enrollment.

Teacher Salary Change_EdNext2018Scale

  • Respondents widely supported increasing teacher salaries, with 67% of the general public, 74% of parents, and 86% of teachers indicating that they felt teacher salaries should increase.

Teacher Salary Given_EdNext2018Scale

  • When provided with the actual amount that teachers are making, however, respondents were less supportive of increasing teacher salaries.  When told how much teachers earn, 49% of the general public and 53% of parents indicated that salaries should increase, a decline of 20% from when the question was asked without salary information included. Teachers, however, were only slightly less supportive of salary increases when actual salary information was provided.
  • Compared to last year’s results, however, the respondents were 13 percentage points more likely to support increases in teacher salary when provided the actual salary information.  This may reflect the impact of teacher strikes and widespread discussions of teacher salary throughout the nation.

Changes to Arkansas Teacher Salaries: Changes to Arkansas teacher salaries are being discussed, with gubernatorial candidates proposing increases.  Statutory minimum teacher salary has increased in each of the last four years, and the vast majority (87%) of districts in the state have a minimum salary that is higher that legally required. We support attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, but we want to make sure that changes in teacher salary are implemented in a way that makes a difference for Arkansas students.


National perspectives on education like those presented in the EdNext poll are interesting, but education policy is generally set at the state or local level.  We thought it was helpful to compare the national results to what is happening in Arkansas. If you would like to read more about the national perspectives, you can go here, and if you would like to know more about what is happening in education in Arkansas- you are already where you need to be!

ACT Aspire: The Summer Sequel with a Bummer Ending

In The View from the OEP on July 12, 2018 at 4:47 pm

This summer it seems like all the movies are sequels: and the preliminary scores from the spring administration of the ACT Aspire for the 2017-18 school year seems like a sequel too!

Unfortunately, even though student performance hasn’t changed, ESSA Weighted Achievement scores will decline for most schools!! This bums us out because we hate it when systems send inconsistent messages about how well schools are doing. 

In today’s blog we share new data visualizations, review ACT Aspire performance patterns by subject overall and by grade, and explain why your school’s ESSA achievement scores will likely be lower this year than last year.


Show me the Data!

We are excited about some new interactive data visualizations of performance patterns across the state. Maps are available for both district and school-level, and you can select specific districts/schools and see how they scored. Unlike other data currently available, we have combined the grade level results to provide an OVERALL score for each district/ school.

We use the OEP GPA as this overall indicator of performance. The OEP’s GPA is a weighted measure of student performance that gives the most credit to students who have exceeded expectations and the least credit to those that are in need of support. In this GPA measure, we treat the ACT Aspire test scores similar to the familiar grade point average for individual students: 1.0 is the lowest score, indicating that all students in a districts were In Need of Support, while 4.0 is the highest score, indicating that all students in a districts were Exceeding Expectations on the ACT Aspire.

ACT Aspire_map

As you can see in the maps above, districts in the upper left hand half of the state are more likely to be blue, indicating higher performance. This is not surprising since we are showing performance on the ACT Aspire, which is highly correlated with the percentage of students in the district participating in the Free/ Reduced Lunch program.

If you want to see more detailed district- and school- level information, both by grade level and OVERALL, you can find it on the OEP website here! Also, check out our interactive data visualizations of district and school performance. You can select specific districts/schools (no limit) and see how they scored, or limit the view to particular regions or levels of FRL participation.


ACT Aspire Performance:

The figure below presents the percentage of Arkansas students who met or exceeded expectations in each content area by year since we began administering the ACT Aspire in 2016. Overall, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding benchmarks stayed exactly the same in mathematics, science, English, and reading. This year, unlike prior years, writing scores were not provided. Note: From here on, we use the Benchmark percent meeting or exceeding benchmarks so we can compare Arkansas performance with national results.

Figure 1. Percentage of Arkansas students meeting or exceeding expectations on the ACT Aspire, by content area, 2016 to 2018.

ACT_Aspire_18_Text

While overall ACT Aspire results did not change at all, there were some changes by grade level within each content area. We examine each content area by grade level and consider the national average performance as well.


Math: Performance in math declined somewhat in the middle grades, with 6th grade evidencing the greatest decline from the prior year (-6 percentage points). Since 6th grade experienced an increase of 7 percentage points in 2016-17, this year’s performance is similar to that of 6th graders in 2015-16. There were increases in the percentage of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders meeting or exceeding expectations. This continues a pattern of improvement in these grades, which is good news, since these grades have lower math performance than earlier grades. Math performance in 7th and 8th grades was above the national average (indicated by the red diamonds).

Figure 2. Percentage of Arkansas students meeting or exceeding expectations on the ACT Aspire Math, by grade, 2016 to 2018.

ACt_Math_Grade_2018


Science: Performance in science was generally consistent with prior performance, but declined somewhat in the middle grades, with 6th grade again evidencing the greatest decline from the prior year (-3 percentage points). Even with the decline, however, 6th grade maintained the highest performance across the grades. Science performance in 4th, 7th, and 8th grades was above the national average (indicated by the red diamonds).

Figure 3. Percentage of Arkansas students meeting or exceeding expectations on the ACT Aspire Science, by grade, 2016 to 2018.

ACT_Science_2018


English: Performance in English was generally consistent with prior performance. Scores for 8th grade students increased by 2 percentage points. English performance in grades 3-8 was above the national average (indicated by the red diamonds).

Figure 4. Percentage of Arkansas students meeting or exceeding expectations on the ACT Aspire English, by grade, 2016 to 2018.

ACT_English_Grade_2018


Reading: Performance was generally consistent with prior performance. The greatest increase was for 5th graders, with a 4 percentage point increase. Reading performance in grades 3-8 was at or near the national average (indicated by the red diamonds).

Figure 5. Percentage of Arkansas students meeting or exceeding expectations on the ACT Aspire Reading, by grade, 2016 to 2018.

ACT_Reading_Grade_2018


Plot Twist:

Every good sequel has a plot twist, and this year’s ACT Aspire results are no different. The one that has everyone scratching their head (okay- maybe just us here at OEP) is the updated cut-points for ELA and STEM readiness benchmarks. As you can see in the figure below, these new cut points (which are, according to ACT Aspire, more aligned with the performance expectations of the ACT) decreased the percentage of students meeting readiness benchmarks. In ELA, the change was a decrease of 8 percentage points from last year, but in STEM the new cut points resulted in a 25 percentage point decrease.

Figure 6. Percentage of Arkansas students Meeting Readiness Benchmarks on the ACT Aspire.

ACT_readiness_2018

The decrease in STEM readiness is startling, especially considering that we saw NO CHANGE in statewide math or science performance, but won’t have an impact on schools because STEM readiness is not used in accountability.

The decrease in ELA readiness, however, will impact schools because ELA scores are used to calculate the Weighted Achievement score in the ESSA school index. As we’ve discussed before, although stakeholders intended for growth to ‘count more’, Achievement continues to be the primary factor driving school letter grades. On a positive note, however, these changes to the ELA cut points should not impact growth scores in any way!

Decreases in ELA readiness are apparent in grades 4-10, with declines in the double digits for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. This means that schools serving students in these grades are going to receive LOWER achievement scores on the ESSA index even though performance in English and reading was unchanged. It is unfortunate that this change was made, as Arkansas schools were just gaining familiarity with the ACT Aspire and the new ESSA metrics.

ACT_ELA_2018_arrow


So- what are the big takeaways from the preliminary ACT Aspire results? 

  • Performance on the ACT Aspire is related to school/ district poverty rates
  • Performance is generally the same as last year
  • Arkansas is scoring at or near the national average in most subjects/ grades
  • ELA cut points for meeting readiness benchmarks were changed this year by ACT Aspire, so schools should expect to have lower Weighted Achievement scores than last year on the 2018 ESSA reports
  • Growth scores should be unrelated to changes in the ELA and STEM cut points.
  • You can use the data resources from OEP to see overall district and school values
  • Data visualizations can help us see statewide patterns in performance and compare performance to other schools/ districts of interest.

We are happy to be able to share these resources with you and looking forward to seeing the Growth Scores on the ESSA reports in September. Stay tuned to OEP for more info.

Update 7/23: The cut scores for 2018 A-F school letter grade assignment have been lowered to compensate for the new ACT Aspire ELA cut points. You can find the new cut points here. 

 

 

School Report Cards for NWA and Pulaski County (new!)

In The View from the OEP on June 27, 2018 at 2:48 pm

NWARC        PCRC

Today we are pleased to release the 2017 Northwest Arkansas and Pulaski County Education Report Card.  These report cards provide an easy to understand overview of how students in the area schools are performing. OEP has produced a regional review of Benton and Washington county schools for several years, but this year is the inaugural release of a report card that focuses on the school systems in Pulaski County.

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

Springdale

The Report Cards put district-level information about academic growth, academic achievement, school quality, and A-F letter grades into a one-page context for quick interpretation. The performance data used in the report card are from the 2016-17 school year, the most recent data available at this time.

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


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

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

An average district, where students are growing academically just as predicted, will have a growth score of 80. In some districts, however, students are demonstrating greater increases in their academic performance from one year to the next than we would have predicted. To have a ‘good’ growth score, to be in the top 25% of schools in the state, Elementary schools need a growth score of 83 or higher, Middle level schools need a growth score of 82 or higher, and High Schools need a growth score of 81 or higher.

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How Are NWA Schools Doing?

Overall: Northwest Arkansas students are demonstrating greater growth in achievement and earning higher scores on the ACT Aspire than are the students in the state overall. Schools in NWA also have higher School Quality and Student Success scores, higher graduation rates, and are more likely to receive an “A” or “B” rating than are other schools across the state.

Academic Growth: Springdale School District had the highest overall growth score among the traditional districts, and was the only one where students demonstrated high academic growth at all levels: Elementary, Middle, and High School. Springdale students at the Elementary and Middle levels demonstrated the greatest academic growth in NWA, and nearly 70% of Springdale schools are in the top 10% of schools in the state for academic growth. Haas Hall Academy and Haas Hall Bentonville had the highest growth scores at the High School level. Many NWA districts had high growth at one or two levels, and we recommend they focus on identifying how they are supporting student learning at the schools where students are not demonstrating high growth overall.

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

School Quality: Lincoln School District had the highest School Quality/ Student Success Indicator Score at the Elementary Level. Bentonville School District had the highest Indicator Score at the Middle Level and Haas Hall Academy and Haas Hall Bentonville had the highest School Quality/ Student Success Indicator Score at the High School level.


How Are Schools in Pulaski County Doing?

Overall: Pulaski County students are demonstrating greater growth in achievement at the Elementary and High School levels than are the students in the state overall, and academic growth for students in Middle level schools is similar to the state average. This is particularly noteworthy since schools in Pulaski County serve a higher percentage of students who are likely to be at risk for not achieving in school than are served by the state overall. Pulaski County schools have lower academic achievement, School Quality and Student Success scores, and graduation rates than students in the state overall. Due to lower scores in these areas, Pulaski County schools are less likely to receive an “A” or “B” rating than are other schools across the state.

Academic Growth: eStem students demonstrated the greatest academic growth overall, with students at the Elementary, Middle, and High School levels receiving high growth scores. North Little Rock School District had the highest overall growth score among the traditional districts, reflecting high growth at the High School level. Little Rock School District had the highest growth at the Middle level and Pulaski County Special School District had the highest growth at the Elementary level.

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

School Quality: eStem had the highest School Quality/ Student Success Indicator Score at the Elementary level, Exalt Academy had the highest score at the Middle level, and Quest Academy was the highest scoring in School Quality at the High School level. Among the traditional public schools, Jacksonville had the highest School Quality/ Student Success Indicator Score at the Elementary level, Little Rock School District and Pulaski County Special School District tied at the Middle level, and North Little Rock was the highest scoring in School Quality at the High School level.



What’s the Takeaway?

In both the NWA and Pulaski County region, there are educational settings where students are demonstrating high growth by making larger academic gains than predicted based on their past performance. We want to point out that high academic growth can be found at all different types of schools:

  • schools like Haas Hall Bentonville that serve few “at risk” students,
  • schools like Covenant Keepers where 95% of students participate in the free/reduced lunch program and 30% are non-native English speakers,
  • schools like Janie Darr Elementary in Rogers which has high academic achievement,
  • schools where academic achievement is low,
  • open-enrollment charter schools, like eStem High and
  • traditional public school districts, like Springdale.

Growth scores for schools in NWA and Pulaski County also appear unrelated to resources like per-pupil expenditure or student:teacher ratio. Here at the OEP, we think growth scores are a meaningful reflection of increased student learning, and that high growth scores can be achieved by any type of school.

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

On a side note: this is the first year for School Quality and Student Success scores to be reported. The School Quality score reflects a variety of indicators, and there may be a lack of consistency in how different districts report them, so here at OEP we are not freaking out about those scores.

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

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

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

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

Summer is fun, but the Fall holds Promise

In The View from the OEP on June 20, 2018 at 2:10 pm

El Dorado Promis logo

We’re reaching the middle of summer—the time when college dorm room furniture starts popping up in prominent store displays and kids run past shelves of notebooks on sale because it’s too soon to be thinking about going back to school. While we’d all love an endless summer, classes, homework, and late night studying will again be the norm for college students across the state. For many students and families, the start of college brings anxiety not just about schoolwork, but about the rising cost of tuition and fees. According to the College Board, 60% of Bachelor’s recipients in the 2015-16 school year graduated with some debt. Concern about college debt may deter students from attending college, or it may lead students to work instead of study while in college. Thanks to the El Dorado Promise, hundreds of students coming to campus won’t have this anxiety impacting their postsecondary decisions.

The El Dorado Promise, announced in 2007, guarantees a full scholarship to all students who attend El Dorado School District from kindergarten through 12th grade, and a partial scholarship to students who attend at least from 9th-12th grade. The scholarship is capped at the maximum cost of tuition fees for an in-state resident at any public university in Arkansas—in the 2017-18 school year, this was a little over $9,000/semester. Students can combine this scholarship with other forms of financial aid, like the Arkansas Lottery Scholarship or Pell Grants, up to the full cost of attendance at any accredited university in the country. The Promise has impacted thousands of students from El Dorado since its establishment by Murphy Oil in 2007, and has now been around long enough for us to be able to analyze its impact.

In a recent paper and policy brief, we at the OEP asked what impact the El Dorado Promise has had on students’ postsecondary outcomes. Specifically, we wanted to know whether the Promise increased the rate at which El Dorado graduates enrolled in college and completed a Bachelor’s degree. To do this, we worked with folks at the El Dorado Promise office and the National Student Clearinghouse to gather data on whether students had received a Promise scholarship, if they went to college, and if they earned a BA within 6 years of graduating high school.

We can’t know the impact of a program like the Promise just by looking at how postsecondary enrollment and graduation rates have changed over time, because there are multiple factors that impact students’ college decisions—for example, during the Great Recession more people went to college to delay entering the workforce, and as the economy gradually recovered more people went straight to work after high school. So, we conducted what’s called a difference-in-differences analysis. We compared students who were eligible for the Promise (e.g. attended the district from at least 9th-12th grade) with students who weren’t eligible for the Promise (e.g. transferred to El Dorado in 10th grade or later). We examined the difference in college enrollment and completion rates between these two groups before the Promise was introduced (students who graduated between 2004 and 2006) and the difference in enrollment and completion rates between these two groups after the Promise was introduced (between 2007 and 2016 for enrollment, and 2007 and 2011 for completion). The descriptive results are shown in Figure 1. From this, it looks like the Promise was associated with a 16.5 percentage point increase in enrollment. That’s great news for El Dorado students!

pre and post promise chart

But, we wanted to be confident in our results, since students who were and were not eligible for the Promise could have been different in other ways besides mobility. We put this basic analysis into a regression framework, so we could control for things like high school GPA and student demographics. When we did this, we found that the Promise led to an 11.4 percentage point increase in enrollment, and a 10.7 percentage point increase in 6-year BA completion! 

In past work by folks at the OEP, we’ve found that the El Dorado Promise attracted families to the area, increasing enrollment in El Dorado Public Schools, and that the Promise led to a change in culture throughout the district—students, teachers, and parents are more focused on ensuring all students are ready for college. These efforts are paying off—the Promise is helping students get to and through college!

There’s a lot to celebrate about summer vacation—getting to spend time with your kids and/or friends, a chance to sleep in, and a reason to get outside. But there’s also a lot to look forward to in the Fall—including, for many students, a Promising postsecondary experience.

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

In The View from the OEP on June 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm

BTO in ELA 2017BTO in Math 2017

We are so excited to release our “Beating the Odds” Outstanding Educational Performance Awards!  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.  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.

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

We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth rather than proficiency rates because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students .  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.

Although school-level growth scores are 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 (-0.283).  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, 2017

Growth FRL

 

If we limit the plot to only those schools with 66% or more student 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, 2017

Growth 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 how to ensure all schools are growing the knowledge of Arkansas students.

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 months 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.


“Beating the Odds” Elementary Level Schools

The top “Beating the Odds” elementary school overall is Salem Elementary from Salem School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 67% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  Salem Elementary students demonstrated the greatest growth of all elementary schools in the state on the ACT Aspire. Many of these top 10 Beating the Odds schools were also among the high growth elementary schools in the state, regardless of student demographics. The top 10 elementary schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Salem Elementary, Salem SD (67% FRL)
2. Central Elementary, Batesville SD (66% FRL)
3. Green Forest Elementary, Green Forest SD (84% FRL)
4. John Tyson Elementary, Springdale SD (77% FRL)
5. Bismarck Elementary, Bismarck SD (69% FRL)
6. Jones Elementary, Rogers SD (84% FRL)
7. Oscar Hamilton Elementary, Foreman SD (73% FRL)
8. Sonora Elementary, Springdale SD (70% FRL)
9. Jones Elementary, Springdale SD (98% FRL)
10. Wakefield Elementary, Little Rock SD (97% FRL)

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

“Beating the Odds” Middle Level Schools

Garland Learning Center from Hope School District is the top middle school beating the odds overall. Garland Learning Center serves a K-8 student population where 85% 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. Garland Learning Center, Hope SD (85% FRL)
2. Beryl Henry Upper Elementary, Hope SD (89% FRL)
3. Little Rock Prep Academy Middle, Little Rock Prep Academy (86% FRL)
4. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% FRL)
5. Riverview Junior High, Riverview SD (74% FRL)
6. J.O. Kelly Middle, Springdale SD (87% FRL)
7. Cedarville Middle, Cedarville SD (73% FRL)
8. Oak Grove Middle, Paragould SD (74% FRL)
9. Nashville Junior High, Nashville SD (71% FRL)
10. William O. Darby Junior High, Fort Smith SD (93% FRL)

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

 

“Beating the Odds” High School

The top high school beating the odds is Trumann High in Trumann School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 69% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, it is also among OEP’s top 20 high growth high schools throughout the state.  Trumann 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. Trumann High, Trumann SD (69% FRL)
2. Southside Charter High, Southside SD (Independence) (68% FRL)
3. Danville High, Danville SD (70% FRL)
4. Timbo High, Mountain View SD (78% FRL)
5. Wilbur D. Mills High, Pulaski County Special SD (66% FRL)
6. Gosnell High, Gosnell SD (70% FRL)
7. Shirley High, Shirley SD (80% FRL)
8. Southwest Junior High, Springdale SD (71% FRL)
9. Augusta High, Augusta SD (84% FRL)
10. Des Arc High, Des Arc SD (66% 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!

 


 

Outstanding Educational Performance: High Growth High Schools

In The View from the OEP on June 6, 2018 at 1:16 pm

UA Achievement Awards 2017 BEST GROWTH MATHUA Achievement Awards 2017 BEST GROWTH ELA

Today’s 2016-17 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards) are for High Growth High SchoolsThis 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 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, 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 months 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 71.8 to 86.7 at the high school level, although when math and ELA are examined separately, the range increases somewhat (70.2 to 90.9).  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 2.5 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 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.

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: High School Level

The top High School level school for overall student growth is LISA Academy North High, with a growth score of 86.66.  Bismarck High had the highest math growth with a score of 90.85, while Miner Academy from Bauxite School District had the highest growth in ELA at 88.05.

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

1. LISA Academy North High, LISA Academy (34% FRL)
2. Haas Hall Academy Bentonville, Haas Hall Bentonville (0% FRL)
3. Bismarck High, Bismarck SD (54% FRL)
4. Greenbrier Junior High, Greenbrier SD (32% FRL)
5. Van Buren Freshman Academy, Van Buren SD (56% FRL)
6. Haas Hall Academy, Haas Hall Academy (0% FRL)
7. Russellville Jr. High, Russellville SD (56% FRL)
8. Arkansas Arts Academy High, Arkansas Arts Academy (25% FRL)
9. Trumann High, Trumann SD (69% FRL)
10. Southside Charter High, Southside SD (Independence) (68% FRL)
11. Arkansas School For The Deaf High School, Ark. School For The Deaf (53% FRL)
12. Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy High, Responsive Ed. Solutions NWA Classical Academy (9% FRL)
13. Eureka Springs High, Eureka Springs SD (49% FRL)
14. Danville High, Danville SD (70% FRL)
15. Timbo High, Mountain View SD (78% FRL)
16. eStem High Charter, eStem Public Charter (27% FRL)
17. Rural Special High, Mountain View SD (56% FRL)
18. Wilbur D. Mills High, Pulaski County Special SD (66% FRL)
19. Cabot High, Cabot SD (27% FRL)
20. Greenbrier High, Greenbrier SD (32% FRL)

We were pleased to see the variety of high 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 0% to a high of 78%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!  You can find the high school 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!”

Outstanding Educational Performance Awards: High Growth Middle Schools

In The View from the OEP on May 30, 2018 at 12:56 pm

UA Achievement Awards 2017 BEST GROWTH ELAUA Achievement Awards 2017 BEST GROWTH MATH

Today’s 2016-17 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards) are for High Growth middle schools.  This 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 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, 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).  Overall content growth scores have a mean of 80, and range from 70.7 to 86.5 at the middle level, although when math and ELA are examined separately, the range increases somewhat (69.5 to 90.5).  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 3 points.  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

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 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.

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 LISA Academy North, with a growth score of 86.45.  LISA Academy North also had the highest math growth with a score of 90.50, while Garland Learning Center from Hope School District had the highest growth in ELA at 89.45.

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

1. LISA Academy North, LISA Academy (53% FRL)
2. Valley Springs Middle, Valley Springs SD (43% FRL)
3. Cabot Middle, Cabot SD (39% FRL)
4. Heber Springs Middle, Heber Springs SD (52% FRL)
5. Greenwood Junior High, Greenwood SD (36% FRL)
6. Lincoln Junior High, Bentonville SD (26% FRL)
7. Nemo Vista Middle, Nemo Vista SD (63% FRL)
8. Garland Learning Center, Hope SD (85% FRL)
9. Cabot Junior High North, Cabot SD (36% FRL)
10. Greenbrier Middle, Greenbrier SD (40% FRL)
11. eStem Middle, eStem Public Charter (29% FRL)
12. J. William Fulbright Junior High, Bentonville SD (19% FRL)
13. Eureka Springs Middle, Eureka Springs SD (57% FRL)
14. Bismarck Middle, Bismarck SD (60% FRL)
15. Beebe Junior High, Beebe SD (49% FRL)
16. L. A. Chaffin Jr. High, Fort Smith SD (41% FRL)
17. Beryl Henry Upper Elementary, Hope SD (89% FRL)
18. Hellstern Middle, Springdale SD (50% FRL)
19. Little Rock Prep Academy Middle, Little Rock Prep Academy (86% FRL)
20. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% 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 19% to a high of 89%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!  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!”