University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Archive for the ‘OWL-OEP Weekly Links’ Category

OWL News Links 08/29/2012

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on August 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Good afternoon,

While the second week of school is upon us, there is still a lot of focus on last year’s achievement. Below are a few articles from Arkansas and around the nation.

News from Around the Natural State

Students in State Top Mark in Math

The majority of Arkansas students in grades 3-9 have exceeded the nationwide average on the Iowa Test of Basic skills in Math but did not fare as well in the reading and language sections. Overall, Arkansas students performed better this year than last year. Some observers prefer to analyze results of nationally norm-referenced exams because they can provide a better sense of Arkansas’ students ability to compete nationally for further education and/or jobs.

State’s ACT Average Score Rises to 20.3, up from 19.9

Arkansas high schools scored an average of 20.3 on this year’s 36-point ACT college admission test, which is an improvement from last year’s 19. 9 average score. This is comparable to the nation-wide average score of 21.1.

News from Around the Nation

The Irreplaceables: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools

A recent study, released by The New Teacher Project, claims that many urban lower-performing schools are not doing enough to retain the right teachers. The report shows that districts are not placing enough emphasis on teacher quality, so the best teachers are not being recognized, and no extra effort is being put forward to retain the best teachers.

ACT Finds Most Students Still Not Ready for College

Though this year’s ACT scores were steady, 60% of 2012 students have failed to meet the “college-ready” benchmark (as defined by the ACT organization) in two of the four tested subjects, putting the students in jeopardy of failing in their pursuit of a college degree and career.

Hunger in Our Schools

A recent report released by Share Our Strength shows that child hunger is a growing problem.  Three out of five US teachers report that they have kids who come to school regularly hungry.

OWL Education News Links 05/30/2012

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on May 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm

As we wrap up the 2011-12 academic year, we want to congratulate all of this year’s graduates and wish them well on their post-secondary pursuits. Now that summer break is upon us, the OEP will be doing its customary sign-off for the next few months – meaning there will be no regular weekly OWL email hitting your inboxes. However, before we sign off, we have this reminder for you over the summer:

Don’t forget, there are two interesting conferences coming up this summer: The 2012 UCA Summer Leadership Institute (note: ‘early bird’ registration ends tomorrow June 1st ), and the Seventh Annual Literacy Symposium hosted by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Arkansas. For a one-stop source of information on these two events, check out our blog post which features the dates, location, and costs of each conference. We hope you will take advantage of these great conferences.

We hope you all have a great summer. See you in August!

News from Around the Natural State

Judge Finalizes NLR District’s Unitary Status

U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., acting on the directions of a federal appeals court, declared the North Little Rock School District unitary and released from any further supervision of its desegregation efforts by federal officials. Marshall’s two-paragraph order was a procedural step necessary after a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on Dec. 28 overturned a portion of a lower court decision and concluded that the 9,000-student North Little Rock district was entitled to release from decades of federal court monitoring of its operations.

Racial Disparity Seen on School Waiting Lists

As many as 5,276 students are on waiting lists for the Little Rock School District’s six original magnet schools. Eighty-three percent, or 4,385, of the students on the district’s 2012-13 waiting lists are black students, according to data provided by the district. Many won’t be called to fill a vacancy – even in cases where a vacant seat might open. In comparison, there are 891 students who are white or of other races on the waiting lists for the special-program schools. The magnet schools were established to have a 50-50 black-to-“non-black” racial ratio with an allowed variation of up to 5 percentage points.

Program Aims to Create More Bilingual Teachers

The Bilingual Scholars Initiative hopes to produce 90 teachers who will work to bridge that language gap in the district’s classrooms, said Don Love, Springdale’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning at the secondary level. The collaborative initiative is a five-year effort of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville and the Springdale district. Focusing mainly on scholarship support for future teachers, the initiative begins with the 2012-13 academic year. “We need to have more bilingual teachers in our school district,” Love said. “We’ve just got to grow that applicant pool.” The Walton Family Foundation helped fund the initiative with a $775,000 grant, $615,000 of which will go toward the newly created Northwest Arkansas Bilingual Teacher Scholarship.

News from Around the Nation

How Much Will the Common Core Cost?

States face key spending decisions as they implement the Common Core State Standards, and a new study finds that they could save about $927 million—or spend as much as $8.3 billion—depending on the approaches they choose in three vital areas: curriculum materials, tests, and professional development. The report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, examines the net costs of three hypothetical transition routes to the new standards in mathematics and English/language arts.

NC Senate Works to Revamp Education Policy

The North Carolina Senate is working on revamping public school policies ranging scrapping job-protecting tenure laws for teachers to protecting home-packed bagged lunches from child nutrition oversight. While the state House shapes a $20 billion annual state budget that decides how much North Carolina should spend on education and where the money goes, the Senate is taking on more than a dozen changes on how schools will operate with that money. The proposal’s most controversial provision would do away with tenure for veteran public school teachers who now receive certain job protections — given to most after a four-year probationary period working in the same district. Tenured teachers are able to appeal their firings to school boards and ultimately to an impartial judge, a step that critics say makes it hard to

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

 

Ed News Links 5/9/12

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on May 10, 2012 at 5:35 am

From the OEP

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! There a many outlets saying “thanks” to all of our hard-working teachers across the country this week. In fact, if you exist on the “Twittersphere,” #ThankATeacher is currently trending. While you are checking out Twitter to see all the #ThankATeacher comments, consider following the OEP @Office4EdPolicy. It is one more way to stay in touch with our office.

It’s a busy week at the OEP, as we have TWO new releases to discuss. This morning the OEP posted a new policy brief that analyzes the funding for Arkansas’ traditional public schools and charter schools. Since a big chunk of funding follows students as they leave a traditional school district to attend a charter school, some are concerned that charter schools pull money away from the traditional public schools. Conversely, since charters do not have access to the capital funds available through the local millage, some fear that charters are inadequately funded and as such cannot provide their students, enrolled in a public school, with the facilities or other aspects of a high-quality education. Check out the full policy brief in detail here.

As the school year winds down and the testing window closes for the year, eyes will begin to turn toward test results. This week, we’ve jumpstarted that process by posting a new database to the OEP Data Resource Page. The 2010-2011 school-level End of Course (EOC) Exam Database includes performance on the Algebra, Biology, Geometry, and Grade 11 Literacy EOC exams for each school in the state. Throughout the rest of the spring and summer, we will be posting more EOC databases … as well as databases with benchmark performance, SAT-10/ITBS performance, demographics, and finances dating back to the 2004-05 academic year. Stay tuned in the coming months for more.

We also have information on another interesting conference this summer. The Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Arkansas will be hosting their Seventh Annual Literacy Symposium June 22-23, 2012 at the Fayetteville Town Center. This year’s conference theme is “Literacy & Common Core: What Does The Future Hold?” More information including speakers, times, and registration can be found here.

Finally, don’t forget that registration for our conference is up. If you are interested in attending – and let us just say it’s going to be well worth your time – please register. We expect this conference to quickly fill up, so we encourage prompt registration! You can find our full program here.

Annual OEP Conference
May 17, 2012

Using Technology to Increase Student Achievement

Peabody Hotel

Continental Breakfast and Registration starting at 7:30 AM

Conference Starts at 8 AM and ends at 12:00 PM

News from Around the Natural State

Shinn Honored as Educator of the Year
Bridget Sweetser Shinn, an English teacher at Horace Mann Magnet Middle School, received the 2012 Marian G. Lacey Educator of the Year Award at the Little Rock School District’s annual Crystal Awards banquet Monday night at the Embassy Suites Hotel. A handful of other educators from around the district were also honored.

E-Stem Schools Honor Teachers
Lenny Bryan, a history teacher at eStem Public Charter High School, received the charter school system’s 2012 Vicki Saviers eStem Educator of the Year Award at a ceremony Monday evening at the Darragh Center in the main branch of the Central Arkansas Library System. Bryan, who teaches U.S. history and Advanced Placement U.S. history, has worked at eStem since the school opened in 2007-08. He holds certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. John Bacon, chief executive officer of the charter school system, said Bryan’s students describe him as a caring, dedicated teacher who challenges them to do their best. Awards also were presented to teachers at the elementary, middle and high schools.

Pulaski Teachers Unions Sue over Ruling
Unions representing teachers and staff at the Pulaski County School District have filed a lawsuit to challenge a state decision to cancel their contracts with the district. The unions sued Friday in the hope of stopping a plan to address fiscal problems at the district by removing the unions.

News from Around the Nation

FCC To Tell Phone Companies to Follow Low Price Rules for Schools
After 15 years of neglect, federal regulators are finally planning to tell phone companies selling services to schools and libraries how to comply with a rule requiring them to charge bargain prices. Last week ProPublica revealed that the Federal Communications Commission had failed to provide guidance for the low pricing rule case since the 1997 launch of the school program, called E-Rate. Lawsuits and other legal actions in four states turned up evidence that AT&T and Verizon charged local school districts much higher rates than it gave to similar customers or more than what the program allowed.

U.S. News Releases High School Rankings
To help guide parents through the universe of public high schools, U.S. News today released the fourth edition of the Best High Schools rankings, available exclusively online. While the previous high school rankings published in December 2009 included information on 1,800 schools, the 2012 rankings include data on nearly 22,000 public high schools from 49 states and the District of Columbia. (Nebraska did not report enough data to be included in the rankings.)

Do Schools Begin Too Early?
What time should the school day begin? School start times vary considerably, both across the nation and within individual communities, with some schools beginning earlier than 7:30 a.m. and others after 9:00 a.m. Districts often stagger the start times of different schools in order to reduce transportation costs by using fewer buses. But if beginning the school day early in the morning has a negative impact on academic performance, staggering start times may not be worth the cost savings.

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

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

Site Seeing

Arkansas’ Talk Business journalist, Steve Brawner takes a look at a variety of shifting data to determine how Arkansas’ business, political and educational landscape may shift by the year 2025: The Class of 2025: The Workforce of Tomorrow.

Mark Your Calendar

May 14, 2012: State Board of Education Meeting, Little Rock, AR

May 17, 2012: OEP Conference, Peabody Hotel, Little Rock

June 15, 2012: UCA Summer Leadership Institute

Final Thought:

“No other profession carries a greater burden for securing our economic future & no other profession deserves more respect.” – Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan tweeting under the #ThankATeacher trend on Twitter for National Teacher Day/Week

Ed News Links 05/02/12

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm

It’s been an interesting week in Arkansas education news. Check out the links below. Be sure and check out our blog tomorrow morning when we post two new policy briefs. The first, the Arkansas Report Card, provides a comprehensive look at school performance in the state based on 2011 test scores, teacher salary, and other indicators of performance. Second, we will post a policy brief that examines funding in Arkansas for traditional school districts and public charter schools. Look for it tomorrow!

Don’t forget that registration for our conference is up. If you are interested in attending, and let us just say it’s going to be well worth your time, please register. We expect this conference to quickly fill up, so we encourage prompt registration! You can find our full program here and more information about the conference here.

Annual OEP Conference
May 17, 2012

Using Technology to Increase Student Achievement

Peabody Hotel

Continental Breakfast and Registration starting at 7:30 AM

Conference Starts at 8 AM and ends at 12:00 PM

News from Around the Natural State

Math Policy Could Mean No Algebra for Some
The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Friday approved an amended freshman assessment and placement policy that allows public higher education institutions to replace college algebra as a graduation requirement for most students. The state Department of Higher Education recommended the move, which calls for the course to continue to be required for students in majors related to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Students outside of those majors may enroll in a “comparable college-level mathematics course” that would count toward their degree, according to the new language in the policy adopted by the board.

E-Books Powered Down
Area students probably won’t be using digital textbooks in the next few years. School districts submitted three-year technology plans to the Arkansas Department of Education in March. The plans fell short of including digital textbooks, but technology administrators were hopeful they could lighten students’ backpack loads. Now administrators are sitting back and taking a more cautious approach.

Special Education Agreement OK’d
School Board members approved increased involvement in a special education consortium and tabled a request for more office space at the Benton County School of the Arts meeting Tuesday. The $60,954 Western Benton County Special Education Consortium agreement will give the school access to a Medicaid clerk to help families file, an administrative assistant to pull reports, a Local Educational Agency supervisor and a special education transition coach for the high school and continue their consulting teacher agreement. The partial week positions add up to 95 percent of a single full-time job. All five jobs will be contracted through the Gentry School District and the consulting teacher is the only one who will actually visit the school. The school currently has an agreement with Gentry for a twice-weekly consulting teacher and that will not change.

News from Around the Nation
Tennessee Students Now Have Stakes in State Test Scores

Tennessee students in elementary and middle school will have a greater stake in the scores they earn on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests that start this week. This is the first year that those scores will make up between 15 percent and 25 percent of the second-semester grades for students. Tennessee legislators wanted students to be just as accountable for those grades as their teachers, whose evaluations depend on how well students do on the tests. Also in high schools this year, end of course exams in several subjects, including U.S. history, English and biology, will count as 25 percent of the second-semester grades, an increase from 20 percent last year. TCAP scores now count for 35 percent of teachers’ evaluation scores. Teachers and principals say the changes will make students take the tests more seriously and they’ve worked all year to prepare the students.

Standards Open the Door to Best Practices in Special Education
Some instructional approaches associated closely with special education are gaining traction more quickly than ever as more states and districts look to them as the ideal tools to implement the Common Core State Standards. In particular, two strategies—universal design for learning and response to intervention—are being cited by states in requests for waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act in the section about how they will implement the standards. Those familiar with the techniques say the pairings are logical, and the timing is right.

Social Entrepreneurs Try to Offer Solutions to K-12 Problems
Despite the often-intense competition for financial backing—and having their ideas rigorously scrutinized in the process—social entrepreneurs and their out-of-the-box ways of thinking are driving a movement of sorts that works to apply the approach of a startup business venture to solving problems in K-12 education. With their enterprising approach to school improvement comes an expectation of measurable results for both students and teachers, a blend that has led to the building of education “incubators” to identify promising ideas and help the entrepreneurs behind them get their ventures off the ground.

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

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

Site Seeing

Education Next published and interesting and inspiring piece this week on the effect of great teaching on students. Check it out and be challenged and inspired: Great Teaching.

Mark Your Calendar

May 7-8, 2012: Joint Commission on Education Committee Meetings, State Capitol, Room171

May 14, 2012: State Board of Education Meeting, Little Rock, AR

May 17, 2012: OEP Conference

Ed News Links

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on April 26, 2012 at 10:44 am

April 26 2012

From the OEP

Good morning to you all!

We have uploaded our final program for the Office for Education Policy Conference on Improving Student Achievement through Technology. The program will feature global and local leaders in education and technology. We have a great line-up of speakers including Sundar Subarrayan, from Khan Academy, who will speak about their innovative virtual programs that are being used in public schools to improve student achievement. Also, we will hear from Bevil Wooding, who works in numerous roles in technological development. Mr. Wooding will discuss how to integrate technology in instructional practices and how to build the infrastructure for that integration in local schools.

Registration for our conference is up. If you are interested in attending, and let us just say it’s going to be well worth your time, please register. We expect this conference to quickly fill up, so we encourage prompt registration!

Annual OEP Conference
May 17, 2012

Using Technology to Increase Student Achievement

Peabody Hotel

Continental Breakfast and Registration starting at 7:30 AM

Conference Starts at 8 AM and ends at 12:00 PM

News from Around the Natural State

School District’s Union Goes to Court
The Pulaski County Special School Disrict’s two unions said Monday night that they will not strike but will fight in court to preserve their negotiated contracts and recognition as bargaining agents. The decisions came in an emergency meeting of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers and the Pulaski Association of Support Staff—known as PACT and PASS. On Friday, Arkansas Education Commissioner directed state-appointed Superintendent Jerry Guess to terminate union recognition along with the unions’ current contracts and proceed with nearly $11 million in cuts for the 2012-13 school year.

Arkansas School for Gifted Names Finalists
The field of candidates to be director of Arkansas’ school for gifted high school juniors and seniors has been narrowed to two. Officials say Cory Alderdice and Marcella Dalla Rosa will visit the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science, and the Arts in the coming weeks to talk with students, faculty, and staff. Each will make a public presentation about their vision for the school this week.

Students, Teachers Honored with Stephens Award for Academic Excellence
A total of four teachers and eight students were honored with the Stephens Award from The City Education Trust at a ceremony Monday afternoon at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. Teachers and students from seven different schools in the Little Rock area were honored for both their academic excellence and for teaching and learning in the classroom, along with being known as exemplary individuals.

Proficiency on State Tests is Subjective
An article in the Northwest Arkansas Times examines the manner in which standardized tests are scored. Gayle Potter, director of student assessment for the Arkansas Department of Education contrasted the scoring process with that which takes place in classrooms. The process involves a two-step grading process: determining the number of raw points a student earns for correctly answering questions and equating those points with a fixed range of “scale” scores.

News from Around the Nation

Concerns Abound Over Teacher Preparedness for Standards
A quiet, sub-rosa fear is brewing among supporters of the Common Core State Standards Initiative: that the standards will die the slow death of poor implementation in K-12 classrooms. By any accounting, the challenge of getting the nation’s 3.2 million K-12 public school teachers ready to teach to the standards is enormous. With new assessments aligned to the standards rapidly coming online by 2014-15, the implementation timeline is compressed. Teachers are wrestling with an absence of truly aligned curricula and lessons. Added to those factors are concerns that the standards are pitched at a level that may require teachers themselves to function on a higher cognitive plane.

Assessment Consortia Offer Technology-Purchasing Guidelines
The new tests for the common standards aren’t expected to be fully operational for three more years, but schools are already wondering what they’ll need to do, technologically speaking, to be ready for the new assessments. The answer is rolling out in stages, but one stage rolled out today: The two consortia of states that are designing the tests issued joint technology-purchasing guidelines to help schools and districts as they buy technology now. The outline helps them decide on hardware and operating systems that lend themselves to the new tests.

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

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

Site Seeing

Any of you who have ever looked with suspicion on your cafeteria hamburger, you might enjoy this fun video put out by NPR: The 26-Ingredient School Lunch Burger.

Mark Your Calendar

May 7-8, 2012: Joint Commission on Education Committee Meetings, State Capitol, Room171

May 14, 2012: State Board of Education Meeting, Little Rock, AR

May 17, 2012: OEP Conference

Final Thought:

“It is a capacity-building process, without question. We’re not at square one, but we’re not at the end of the path, either. And we don’t want to just bring superficial understanding of these standards, but to deepen the understanding, so we have an opportunity to deliver instruction in a way we haven’t before.”Jim Rollins, Superintendent of Springdale School District, as quoted in Education Week

Weekly Links

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on April 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

From the OEP

Happy Thursday to you all!  We are getting closer to conference time and wanted to direct your attention to a few posts we have featured this week on Khan Academy, an innovative education company that will be featured at the conference. First, we have a post which features an article discussing Khan Academy. In the article, our featured speaker, Sundar Subarrayan, discusses the benefit of this free resource to public schools.

And speaking of public schools, we heard a rave review of the Khan Academy program by a teacher in the Little Rock School District. Not only did she provide a review, but she also sent a video presentation her students made for the district school board. Check out this video and more at our blog!

Registration for our conference is now up. If you are interested in attending, and let us just say it’s going to be well worth your time, please register. We expect this conference to quickly fill up, so we encourage prompt registration!

News from Around the Natural State

Former President Bill Clinton Encourages High School Students in El Dorado
Former President Bill Clinton served as the keynote speaker at the sixth annual El Dorado Promise event where seniors pledge to go to college with money provided by the El Dorado Promise Scholarship program. The promise event was held for the first time at the new El Dorado High School. Established in 2007 by El Dorado-based Murphy Oil, the Promise is a $50 million dollar scholarship commitment by the private company that can be used at any accredited two or four year university—public or private.

Parents Fight School Transfer Law
A state law that allows parents to move their children to schools outside of their home districts unconstitutionally restricts some of those transfers based on the children’s race, attorneys for a group of parents argued in federal court Monday. The parents want to transfer their children, who are white, from the Malvern School District, which is about 60 percent white, to the Magnet Cove School District, which is about 95 percent white.

State Gets 2 Plans to Cut Costs

The Pulaski County Special School District and its two employee unions submitted to state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell by Monday’s deadline conflicting proposals for cutting about $11 million in costs in the state-controlled, fiscally distressed district. In a letter late last week, Kimbrell “respectfully request[ed]” that the school district, the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers and the Pulaski Association of Support Staff provide to him “specific, written recommendations on how the staffing and the fiscal practices of the [district] should be modified in order to realize $11 million in cost savings by the end of the 2012-13 school year.” Kimbrell told the two sets of parties that the Arkansas Department of Education staff will use the proposals in deciding “what binding recommendations” to impose on the district.

School Leaders to Attend National Conference
School leaders from across the nation will get to hear about the Fayetteville School District this weekend when the National School Boards Association gathers in Boston for its annual meeting. The School District has been invited to make two different presentations: one on implementing sustainability in the learning environment and the other on how the district gained voter approval in an ailing economy to finance a portion of the $95 million expansion and renovation of the Fayetteville High School.

News from Around the Nation

Study Links Zoning to Educational Disparities

The mantra of real estate agents and their clients alike is now the target of a new report from the Brookings Institution linking housing prices and zoning practices to effectively depriving low-income student of high-quality schools. Using test scores from schools in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, senior research analyst Jonathan Rothwell found that housing costs an average of 2.4 times more—close to $11,000 more per year—near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring one. Housing prices can be a barometer of zoning practices because near high-scoring schools, the homes are typically larger and fewer and more expensive than in the areas surrounding low-scoring schools. Zoning regulations that intend to keep population density low segregate cities and towns by race and income, according to the study released today.

States’ Waivers Weak on Extended Learning Time
Most of the dozen states that have already gotten wiggle room from the No Child Left Behind Act don’t have very good plans in place when it comes to a key piece of the U.S. Department of Education’s requirements for turning around low-performing schools: extending learning time, according to a report out by the Center for American Progress today. The Washington-based think-tank singled out three applications—Colorado, New Mexico, and Tennessee—as exceptionally thin, when it comes to adding time to the school day or extra time for teachers to collaborate.

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

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

Site Seeing

A new report examines the contractors involved in the school improvement grants, a topic of significant interest to educators and policymakers in Arkansas. Check out the detailed report and suggestions from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Education Should Take Additional Steps to Enhance Accountability for Schools and Contractors

Mark Your Calendar

May 7-8, 2012: Joint Commission on Education Committee Meetings, State Capitol, Room171

May 14, 2012: State Board of Education Meeting, Little Rock, AR

May 17, 2012: OEP Conference

Save the Date: May 17th, 2012

Annual OEP Conference

Using Technology to Increase Student Achievement

Clinton Presidential Center

Breakfast and Registration starting at 8:00 AM

Final Thought:

From our city perspective we realize we do have a role to play through our planning and zoning process. When we put our resources and our time and our talent into things, we can really move the needle,” –Chris Poynter, spokesman for City of Louisville on zoning to improve desegregation purposes.

 Thanks for reading!  See you next week!


In the News

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on April 12, 2012 at 8:00 am

April 12, 2012

From the OEP

Good morning to you all!

It is benchmark week for many across the state so we want to extend our best wishes to all. In the spirit of benchmark week, we decided to get your mind off math and science a little with a post on arts education. A report published by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that arts education programs are not in decline, as many feared would be the result of an increased focus on math and science scores through accountability policies, such as No Child Left Behind. Though the overall findings are encouraging, there are some discrepancies between the opportunities available to low-income students and their more advantaged peers that have caused concern. Furthermore, there are some, specifically in the arts community, that question whether the quality of arts programs is high enough. Check out our post for the full scoop.

Registration for our conference is now up. If you are interested in attending (and let us just say it’s going to be well-worth your time) please register. Registration is free, but we expect this conference to quickly fill up, so we encourage prompt registration!

News from Around the Natural State

State Board Adds 5, 10 Years to 2 Charters
The Arkansas Board of Education approved a 10-year renewal of its charter with Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville and a five-year charter extension–plus a 200-student increase–for LISA Academy in Little Rock, two of the state’s highest achieving public schools. The state board also approved a three-year renewal for both the Vilonia Academy of Technology and the Vilonia Academy of Service and Technology run by the Vilonia School District on Tuesday. On Monday, the board renewed 4 charters including Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle, Benton County School of the Arts in Rogers, Arkansas Virtual Academy, and Cabot School District’s Academic Center of Excellence.

Board Prepares the Way to Grade State Teachers

Arkansas is preparing to launch its first uniform statewide system for evaluating teacher performance. The Teacher Excellence and Support System (TESS) was created when state lawmakers passed Act 1209 of 2011, which requires the Arkansas Board of Education to approve rules for the evaluations using a framework created by the law. The evaluations, which will apply to about 35,000 teachers in the state, will go into effect in the 2014-15 school year.

County Schools Seek State OK to Cut $6.8 Million in Benefits
The state-controlled Pulaski County Special School District is seeking state approval of a proposal to remove millions of dollars of benefits from teacher and support-service employee contracts as a way to cut expenses in the coming 2012-13 school year. Superintendent Jerry Guess and his staff have asked Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell–who serves as the district’s board in the absence of a locally elected board–to approve a revised financial-improvement plan that would reduce, eliminate or phase out assorted employee benefits totaling $6.8 million.

News from Around the Nation

Study Points to Drop in Per-Pupil Spending for Pre-K

Enrollment in state-funded preschool programs has more than doubled over the last decade–ticking upward even through the recession years-but an accompanying slide in per child spending in many states has caused concerns on the quality of early-childhood programs designed to serve poor children according to a new national report. In 2010-11, 26 of the 39 states with public prekindergarten programs, which serve mostly low-income 4-year-olds, cut funding for an overall decline of $60 million from the previous year.

 

The Common Core Math Standards

Ze’ev Wurman and W. Stephen Wilson assess the merits of the Common Core math standards in an article on Education Next.  Ze’ee Wurman is a former U.S. Department of Education official under George W. Bush. W. Stephen Wilson is a professor of Mathematics at John Hopkins University and author of Stars by Which to Navigate? Scanning National and International Education Standards in 2009: An Interim Report on Common Core, NAEP, TIMSS, and PISA, and also served on the National Governors Association-Council on Chief State School Officers “feedback group” for the Common Core Standards.

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

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

Site Seeing

A new report, Technology Counts 2012 covers the shift in the virtual education landscape. The report examines the growth of district-based programs designed with more local control in mind, and it tracks state legislative efforts to expand online education while also evaluating its effectiveness. Check it out: Technology Counts 2012: Virtual Shift.

Mark Your Calendar

May 7 & 8, 2012: Joint Commission on Education Committee Meetings, State Capitol, Room171

May 17, 2012: OEP Conference, Little Rock, 8 AM -12 PM

Save the Date: May 17th, 2012

Annual OEP Conference

Using Technology to Increase Student Achievement

Breakfast and Registration starting at 7:30 AM with Opening Sessions at 8 AM

Final Thought:

“There are plenty of legitimate debates about what works in education, but the importance of early-childhood education is not one of them. High-quality early-childhood programs help kids in school and in life.”
Andy Rotherham, TIME magazine

 Thanks for reading!  See you next week!

The Office for Education Policy
University of Arkansas

Director:  Gary W. Ritter Ph.D.

Chief of Staff: Misty Newcomb

Research Associates:

Caleb P. Rose

James L. Woodworth

Alexandra M. Boyd

Gregory F. Michel

Charlene A. Reid

If you would like to be added or removed from this list, please send an e-mail to oep@uark.edu

In the News

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on April 5, 2012 at 8:17 am

Good morning to you all!

We are finalizing our program for the Office for Education Policy Conference this week and will have a full agenda for all to view by our next OWL. At that time, we will also open our registration up for interested individuals. The conference will be free of charge and will most certainly be worth taking a half-day to attend. Details coming soon. Until then, enjoy these news links!

We do have a few slots left in our schedule and want to fill those vacancies with thoughtful and engaging presenters. Please take a moment to fill out our online poll and let us know what you think would be beneficial for your school or district.

News from Around the Natural State

Changes in Math Courses Coming
Names of math courses taught in middle and high schools will remain the same, but the content will be different and more challenging in some of those courses as a result of Arkansas School Districts adapting to the new national Common Core Standards. Much of what is now taught in Algebra I will become part of eighth grade math, and the course labeled Algebra I will now include many of the concepts now in Algebra II, LRSD curriculum directors said Monday at a district-hosted public forum about the new math and English/language arts standards at the Clinton Presidential Center.

Fiscal Distress on Horizon for South Arkansas School

Next month is when the Drew Central School District will officially be put on fiscal distress according to the Arkansas State Department of Education. The decision was made after it was determined that Drew Central had a declining balance, which could jeopardize the financial integrity of the school district. The Drew Central School District will have 2 years to make necessary budget changes in order to be taken off of fiscal distress or risk that their district will be shut down.

Retirement System Denies Ex-Teacher’s Claim for 2nd Time
For the second time in the past three years, the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System on Monday denied a former Greenbrier Junior High School teacher’s claim for about a year’s worth of additional retirement benefits. In a 13-1 vote, the trustees approved a recommendation by administrative hearing officer Ann P. Faitz that they reject the claim for these benefits. System attorney Laura Gilson told the trustees that Hodge alleges she retired at the age of 66 rather than when she was 65 based on “incorrect information” from the system’s staff.

News from Around the Nation

States Gird to Report Revised Graduation Rates

States are grappling with a federal requirement that is forcing them to use a new, more uniform method of calculating high school graduation rates–a method that, in some states, is yielding rates that are 20 percentage points lower than those states have reported in the past. Under a 2008 update to federal education rules, the states were required to replace their patchwork of graduation-rate formulas with a four-year “cohort” rate, beginning in the 2010-11 school year, and to use that number this school year to determine whether schools are making adequate progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.

 

Arts Education in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: 1999-2000 and 2009-10

A new federal report was released this week that presents selected findings from a congressionally mandated study on arts education in public K-12 schools. The data were collected through seven fast Response Survey System (FRSS) surveys during the 2009-10 school year. Education Week’s Curriculum Matters Blog writers provided a synopsis of the report. Over the last decade the availability of music and visual arts instruction has changed little, and remains high, according to the report.

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

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

Site Seeing

The New Teacher Project released an open-source library of proven resources for building a thriving teaching team. From the Teacher Talent Toolbox teachers and administrators can download more than 250 free tools from innovative schools, districts, and states around the country: The New Teacher Project releases the Teacher Talent Toolbox.

Mark Your Calendar

March 27, 2012 & April 3, 2012: Dealing with Challenging Youth courses offered at the University of Arkansas

March 30 and March 31, 2012: Autism Symposium, Fayetteville, AR

April 9-10, 2012: Joint Commission on Education Committee Meetings, State Capitol, Room171

May 17, 2012: OEP Conference

Save the Date: May 17th, 2012

Annual OEP Conference

Using Technology to Increase Student Achievement

The Peabody Hotel in Little Rock

Breakfast and Registration starting at 8:00 AM

Final Thought:

“In the year where finally accountability is real, waivers come along and challenge it,”

Robert W. Balfanz on the potential for NCLB Waivers to undermine hopes for accountability with new graduation rate measurements.

 Thanks for reading!  See you next week!

The Office for Education Policy
University of Arkansas

Director:  Gary W. Ritter Ph.D.

Chief of Staff: Misty Newcomb

Research Associates:

Caleb P. Rose

James L. Woodworth

Alexandra M. Boyd

Gregory F. Michel

Charlene A. Reid

If you would like to be added or removed from this list, please send an e-mail to oep@uark.edu

In the News

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on March 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

Good Wednesday to you all! We hope you enjoyed a relaxing spring break. We assume everyone is busy preparing for the spring benchmarks. We want to remind you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel: our OEP Spring Conference on May 17, 2012. As you may have seen on our blog yesterday, our keynote speaker will be from Khan Academy. But that is not the limit to the conversation that will take place. We are anticipating a very substantial conversation about both the benefits and the challenges associated with increasing technology in Arkansas’ classrooms.

News from Around the Natural State

Arkansas Superintendent Wins National Award
At ASCD’s 67th Annual Conference and Exhibit Show in Philadelphia, PA, Matt McClure, superintendent of Cross County Schools in Cherry Valley was announced as a winner of the association’s prestigious 2012 Outstanding Young Educator Award. According to the AP report, McClure is credited with improving student achievement in his rural district. McClure also has instituted daily physical fitness classes, student tutoring, and homework help. McClure will receive a $10,000 cash award and an ASCD institutional membership.

Let State out of School Case, Court is Urged
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Assistant Attorney General Scott Richardson submitted the motion for release from the 23-year old settlement agreement to U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall, Jr. According to the attorney general’s office, the state has substantially complied with its obligations under a 1989 Pulaski County school desegregation case settlement–including total payments of more than $1 billion in desegregation-related aid-and is now entitled to be released from those obligations. “In those two decades, the education system in Arkansas and Pulaski County has changed dramatically,” the state attorneys wrote.

County District to Pay Intervenor’s Fees

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on Monday ordered the Pulaski County Special School District to pay nearly $150,000 in legal fees and costs to the group of black students in Pulaski County known as the Joshua intervenors. In the same order, the appeals court panel directed Arkansas to pay $69,972.66 to the Little Rock School District in legal fees and costs.

News from Around the Nation

More States Retaining Struggling 3rd Graders

Several states have recently adopted reading policies that–with limited exceptions–call for 3rd graders to be held back if they flunk a state standardized test. Supporters of these policies say that retention is intended as a last resort, and that a key goal of the policies is to place a greater focus–and apply some extra pressure–to make sure schools intervene early with struggling readers. Without an adequate ability to read, they say, children are ill-equipped and may never catch up.


Cheating our Children

Reporters from the Atlanta Journal Constitution suggests that numerous across the US are involved in cheating scandals similar to what was recently exposed in the Atlanta school district. The reports have flagged districts, including a few in Arkansas, that have higher than expected growth in test scores for cohorts from year to year. According to the AJC, 196 of the nation’s largest school districts had enough suspect tests that the odds of the results occurring by chance alone were less than one in 1,000. For 33 of those districts, the odds were less than one in a million. The report has received both criticism and praise. The OEP is investigating the quality of this report.

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

Don’t forget, you can always keep up with more education news on the In the News section of our website.

Site Seeing

If you are interested in the state by state breakdowns of the No Child Left Behind Waivers, check out Ed Week’s interactive report: NCLB Waivers: A State by State Breakdown

Mark Your Calendar

March 27, 2012 & April 3, 2012: Dealing with Challenging Youth courses offered at the University of Arkansas

March 30 and March 31, 2012: Autism Symposium, Fayetteville, AR

April 9-10, 2012: Joint Commission on Education Committee Meetings, State Capitol, Room171

May 17, 2012: OEP Conference

Save the Date: May 17th, 2012

Annual OEP Conference

Using Technology to Increase Student Achievement

Clinton Presidential Center

Breakfast and Registration starting at 8:00 AM

Final Thought:

“If we are going to make important decisions based on test results — and we ought to be doing that — we have to make important decisions about how we are going to ensure their trustworthiness,” she said. “That means districts and states taking ownership of the test security issue in a way that they haven’t to date.”–Daria Hall, The Education Trust

 Thanks for reading!  See you next week!

The Office for Education Policy
University of Arkansas

Director:  Gary W. Ritter Ph.D.

Chief of Staff: Misty Newcomb

Research Associates:

Caleb P. Rose

James L. Woodworth

Alexandra M. Boyd

Gregory F. Michel

Charlene A. Reid

If you would like to be added or removed from this list, please send an e-mail to oep@uark.edu

OWL: Weekly Education Links – Spring Break Edition

In OWL-OEP Weekly Links on March 20, 2012 at 10:05 am

News from Around the Natural State.

Arkansas’ Graduation Rate Falling, Study Finds

A new study says the percentage of Arkansans earning high school degrees is on the decline. Arkansas’ high school graduation rate decreased by almost one percent between 2002 and 2009. The report says the number of “dropout factories,” or high schools where fewer than 60 percent of students graduate on time, increased from five to 12 around the same period of time. However, the number of Arkansans taking advanced placement courses increased about 30 percentage points from 2001 to 2011. The findings were released in “Building a Grad Nation,” a report co-authored by Civic Enterprises, a public policy firm, and Johns Hopkins University. An Arkansas Department of Education spokesman said graduation rates are one of many benchmarks used to determine a student’s success.

3 NLR Schools Officially to Close

The North Little Rock School Board has made it official: Belwood Elementary and the Poplar Street and Rose City middle schools will cease to operate beginning with the coming 2012-13 school year as part of the district’s $265.6 million plan for building new schools and renovating others over the next five years. The closing of the particular school programs was anticipated throughout the campaign for a 7.4-mill school-tax increase approved by voters Feb. 14.

News from Around the Nation

Center for Education Policy Issues Report Card for School Improvement Grants

Two years into the implementation of the federal School Improvement Grant program, which aims to help states turn around some of their lowest-performing schools, state officials are generally optimistic about its potential, but have a lot of ideas for perfecting it, according to a pair of reports released today by the Center on Education Policy, a research and advocacy organization in Washington. For this study, CEP surveyed 46 state Title I directors from November 2011 through January 2012. The group also did some close “case-studies” of three very different states that are using a variety of school turnaround approaches: Idaho, Maryland, and Michigan. CEP interviewed 14 state and district officials and 21 principals, teachers, and other school staff. Together, the reports provide some of the best insight yet into a program a very smart researcher once described to me as “a black hole.” The SIG effort got $3 billion—and a slew of new federal strings—under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the stimulus. (For more background on SIG and its four models, which many education advocates see as inflexible and limiting, here).

Survey: Teachers Place Little Value on Standardized Tests

Most teachers do not believe standardized tests have significant value as measures of student performance, according to a new report published jointly by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The report, based on a survey of more than 10,000 public school teachers, finds that only 28 percent of educators see state-required standardized tests as an essential or very important gauge of student achievement. In addition, only 26 percent of teachers say standardized tests are an accurate reflection of what students know. One potential explanation for those low marks lies in another of the survey’s findings—that is, only 45 percent of teachers think their students take standardized tests seriously or perform to the best of their ability on them. Overall, according to the report, teachers see ongoing formative assessments, class participation, and performance on class assignments as much more important measures of student learning. At the same time, most teachers (85 percent) agree that their students’ growth over the course of the year should contribute significantly to evaluations of their own performance.