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Arkansas’ Best High Schools

In The View from the OEP on April 19, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Today, U.S. News & World Report released their annual “Best High Schools” rankings, and we want to clarify what the rankings do (and do not) mean.

First, congratulations to those Arkansas high schools that made the Best High School list!  Below are the Top 10 in Arkansas:

#1: Haas Hall Academy

#2: Bentonville High School

#3: Rogers High School

#4: Greenbrier High School

#5: Lakeside High School

#6: Rogers Heritage High School

#7: Green Forest High School

#8: Arkansas Arts Academy High

#9: Springdale High School

#10: Berryville High School

Here at the OEP, we are big advocates for assessment literacy, which essentially means understanding different types of assessment information, having the skills to determine if the information is dependable,  and knowing how to use it productively to support or certify achievement.

The first thing you need to know about the U.S. News rankings is that they are based on state assessment data from the 2013-14 school year, so the ranking is reflecting student performance from nearly 2 years ago. Anyone remember that year?  This was the one year that we used the PARCC assessment, the first year students and teachers across the state used computer- based assessments, and the first time Arkansas’ 9th and 10th graders were assessed on English Language Arts.

Even though it was a ‘unique’ year, this shouldn’t impact the rankings US News, which  compare the performance of students in each Arkansas high schools to the performance of students in other Arkansas high schools, because all schools were facing the assessment challenges. In addition, it is not a simple ‘direct’ comparison of how the students performed, but includes information about how the students would be EXPECTED to perform given the percentage of students enrolled that are economically disadvantaged.

There are four aspects to the ranking: 1) the performance of students on state assessments in literacy and mathematics; 2) the performance of disadvantaged student subgroups; 3) graduation rate and 4) the degree to which high schools prepare students for college by offering a college-level curriculum.

Schools must pass the first step by performing better than expected based on their student population in order to continue in the ranking process.

STEP 1: Identify High Schools Performing Better than Expected

To determine if schools are performing better than expected, U.S. News created a Performance Index for each high school by examining student performance on state assessments, and compared it to the percentage of students participating in Free/Reduced Lunch Programs (which are an indicator of low socioeconomic status). This model reflects the understanding that students who face economic challenges outside of school are typically less likely to achieve at the same levels at their peers who do not face economic hardships.  We are going to skip the details, but you can read more about it here.

The figure below represents Arkansas high schools’ school-level Performance Index scores plotted against the school percentage of students participating in Free/Reduced Lunch Programs. The figure below present the information used in Step 1 of the Best High School rankings. You can see the relationship between Performance and the percentage of students who are identified as economically disadvantaged. The red line represents the ‘typical performance’ of schools in Arkansas given the percentage of students in the school that are disadvantaged. Yellow markers represent schools where students performed BETTER than expected, and light blue markers represent schools where students performed AS expected. Dark green markers indicate schools where students performed BELOW what is typical for schools with the same percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

 

AR_USNEWS_16

 

The yellow dot on the far left side is easily identified as Haas Hall because they are the only high school in the state that reports 0% of students participating in FRLP. The Performance Index for Haas Hall is more than 140, which is 20 points above the expected performance. As you move to the right side of the graph, the percentage of students participating in FRLP increases. At the far right hand side of the graph are dots representing schools with 100% of students participating in FRLP. The highest yellow dot on the right hand side shows a school whose enrollment is entirely low-income, but whose Performance Index is also 20 points higher than expected!

 

Only schools whose Performance Index is ABOVE the gray performance zone and represented by yellow dots and passed on to the next step. This is the critical step for Arkansas high schools. A majority of Arkansas’ high schools do not pass this step, and are therefore unranked. This year, 100 (35%) of Arkansas high school were performing above expectations and move on to Step 2 of the ranking.

STEP 2: Identify High Schools Performing Better than State Average for Their Least Advantaged Students

For this step, the performance of African American, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students on the state assessments are compared to state averages.  Schools where these disadvantaged students are performing as well or better than state averages are automatically considered bronze-medal high schools and move on to Step 3 of the ranking to determine silver or gold medal.

STEP 3: Ensure Graduates Rates Are Above 68%

This step of the of the U.S. News ranking process is new for 2016 and requires that high schools have graduated at least 68% of students. Arkansas’ graduation rate is 85% overall, so this is an EXTREMELY low bar for Arkansas, and only a couple of high schools fall below this bar.

 

STEP 4: Identify High Schools That Performed Best in Providing Students with Access to Challenging College-Level Coursework

For this final step, the participation of 12th grade students in AP or IB examinations was used to determine which high schools passed Step 4 to become silver-medal high schools, and also was used to rank high schools across states to distinguish the gold-medal high schools from silver medalists.

So, is the “Best” really the best?

We like the U.S. News rankings because it provides information that can be helpful! We want to know which high schools are performing better than expected, serving their most disadvantaged students and preparing kids for college. We also like being able to compare to other high schools across the country.  It is a somewhat clumsy comparison, however, since each state currently uses a different test to measure performance, and we look forward to the day when cross- state comparisons are facilitated by common assessments. We DON’T like that the data used by U.S. News are nearly two years old and hope that stakeholders will keep that in mind as they search for their school on the “Best” list.

The final stage of the rankings is focused on College- Level coursework. Here at OEP, we would like to see them including more indices of career readiness, because not everyone wants to go to college. Just like ‘the best’ colleges, just because it is ‘the best’ doesn’t mean it is the best for your student.

 

 

 


A few notes:

Towards the low and high ends of the economically disadvantaged distribution, however, it can be difficult to predict where a ‘typical’ school should be. For example, there is only one high school in Arkansas with less than 20% economically disadvantaged (Haas Hall), so the ‘prediction’ of how the students should be performing may not be as accurate as it is for the schools in the range of 40-70% economically disadvantaged where the majority of the high schools are identified.

A high school’s low performance may be the result of the entire school system that the students attended BEFORE the high school. However, many of the significantly under-performing schools are small rural high schools that serve grades 7-12.

2016 Arkansas Education Report Card

In The View from the OEP on April 19, 2017 at 10:35 am

2016 ARRC

Today, OEP is pleased to release our annual Arkansas Education Report Card.  Also this week, the Arkansas Department of Education released the annual School Performance Reports.  Although both reports provide information about student performance on state and national assessments, the reports have different perspectives;  OEP’s Report Card compiles the information to inform a state and regional analysis, while ADE reports district- and school-level information.

OEP’s Report Card includes summary information and analysis of student performance, high school graduation rate, college readiness, student growth, school discipline, National Board Certified teachers,  and education spending in one easy-to-access report.

Highlights from this year’s report card include:

  • ACT Aspire:  Arkansas students in grades 3-10 completed ACT Aspire assessments in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science in Spring 2015, and performed the highest in ELA, with 48% meeting readiness benchmarks. In math, 43% of students statewide met the benchmarks, but in science only 38% of students met the readiness benchmark. Students in 6th grade were most likely to meet the benchmarks in all three subjects.

 

  • ITBS: In 2015-16, Arkansas’ 1st and 2nd grade reading scores held steady, and math scores rebounded to previous levels after a sharp decline in 2014-15.

 

  • ACT: For the first time, all 11th graders in the state completed the ACT in Spring 2015, and the results, similar to the results for the graduating class of 2016, show that Arkansas students are more likely to meet college-readiness benchmarks in English and reading than in math and science.

 

  • High School Graduation Rate: Arkansas’ 2014-15 graduation rate of 85% is above the national average but declined slight;y from the prior year.   continued an upward trend.  The 2015-16 graduation rate released this week, however, bounced back to 87%. In addition, we find that the gap between graduation rates for at-risk students and their more advantaged peers has been reduced by more than half in the past six years.

 

  • Value-Added Student Growth: The new student growth model examines how students are growing academically. Measuring individual student growth
    over time provides a different perspective than the percentage of students meeting readiness benchmarks. The current two years of growth information are based
    on a variety of assessments but we are optimistic that future years based on consistent assessments may inform educators and policy makers about which schools are providing students high-quality learning experiences.

 

  • School Discipline: During the 2015-16 school year, school districts reported 59 disciplinary incidents per 100 students. Over 80% of the reported infractions are minor and non-violent. The majority of consequences received by students for misbehavior exclude students from their learning environment, with 57% of the consequences reported as in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension.

 

  • National Board Certified Teachers: Arkansas is a leader in the percentage of teachers that have received National Board Certification, but we find that they are more likely to work in low-poverty schools.

 

  • Education funding: Arkansas ranks 11th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. with respect to the percentage of taxable resources that are spent on education.  Education is consistently supported in the state budget, and progressive for regions in need of support.

 

We hope the 2016 Arkansas Education Report Card can inform parents, teachers and policy makers as they work to ensure all Arkansas students are on track for success.

 

Superintendent Salaries in Arkansas

In The View from the OEP on April 12, 2017 at 1:46 pm

CAP

Last month, a bill limiting superintendent salaries to 250% of the lowest teacher salary in the district passed out of the House education committee. HB1917, sponsored by Representative Walker, didn’t go any further before the end of the session, but it got us thinking.

Representative Walker’s stated intention was to use the bill as a level to increase teacher salaries in the state.  As we’ve discussed before, teacher salaries are determined by local school boards, so perhaps the proposed Superintendent salary limitation would  incentivize school boards to increase teacher salaries to be able to pay more for a quality superintendent, or perhaps the Superintendent would pressure an increase in teacher salaries to ensure his/her own.

Comparing Superintendent and Teacher Salaries

Here at the OEP, we decided to take a look at the salary data, and hope these short analyses will help you learn more about superintendent salaries in Arkansas, how HB1917 would work in practice, and some modifications that could make the salary comparisons more equitable.

First, we had to find how much each district paid the “lowest paid classroom teacher”.  Teacher salary varies by experience and education, but we used the public salary scales to determine how much each district paid teachers with a BA and no experience- the lowest point on the salary scale.  Beginning teachers in Arkansas have an average of salary of $33,645.

Next, we had to find how much each superintendent is currently paid.  This information was more difficult to locate.  While each district is required to post the salaries of all employees on their website, it often takes some digging to find.  Like teachers, superintendents vary in their experience and education which impacts their salary.  In addition, some superintendents receive additional benefits like a car, a phone allowance, or a housing allowance. For the purposes of this analysis, we just consider the most recently available annual salary. The average superintendent in Arkansas makes $113,801 annually.

The HB1917 Ratio would apply at the district level, with each superintendent’s salary compared to the salary of the teachers employed by his/her district.  We’ve developed a handy spreadsheet so you can find all the data here. A quick note about charter schools: Charters were excluded from these analysis because many have waivers for salary scales and other requirements, but we included what data we would locate in the spreadsheet.

HB1917 Ratio: Superintendent Salary Compared to Base Teacher Salary

The table below examines the district-level comparison, and the proposed HB1917 Ratio.  Statewide, superintendents are paid 338% of beginning teacher salaries. The lowest HB1917 Ratio is 218%, while the highest is 639%.  Note that the district with the lowest ratio pays beginning teachers more than the state average, and pays the superintendent less than the state average.

In fact only 5 districts (2% of the traditional districts in the state) currently have a HB1917 Ratio less than 250%. Although the intention of the cap seems to be to incentivize districts to raise teacher salaries, two of the districts with low ratios, below 250%,  pay starting teachers less than the state average, and the reason why the ratio is low is due not to better teacher salaries but rather to the relatively low superintendent salaries.

Statewide Average Lowest Ratio Highest Ratio
Base Teacher Salary        (BA+0 years experience) $33,656 $33,750 $35,232
Superintendent Salary $113,647 $73,494 $225,000
HB1917 Ratio   Superintendent Salary / Teacher Salary 338% 218% 639%

HB1917 Ratio v2: Superintendent Salary Compared to Average Teacher Salary

Given how few districts would meet the 250% threshold under the proposed bill,  we think it might be more meaningful to compare superintendent salaries to the average teacher salary in each district.  The average teacher in Arkansas has 12 years experience and 41% have a Master’s degree. District average teacher salary is a more equitable comparison because superintendents have more education and experience than the brand-new teachers in their districts. We call this ratio HB1917 Ratio v2

When examining average teacher salary under HB1917 Ratio v2, 60% of districts (139 of the traditional districts in the state) have a HB1917 Ratio v2 of less than 250%.  The table below examines the district-level comparison of the modified ratio.  Over all districts, the average HB1917 Ratio v2 is 232%, while the lowest is 168% and the highest is 416%.

Statewide Average Lowest Ratio Highest Ratio
Average Classroom Teacher Salary $48,976 $55,819 $51,740
Superintendent Salary $113,801 $94,000 $215,000
HB1917 Ratio v2 Superintendent Salary / Average Teacher Salary 232% 168% 416%

HB1917 Ratio v3: Adjusting for Contract Length

One more thought: Superintendents generally are contracted to work 25% more days than teachers. Teachers typically have 190-day contracts, while Superintendent contracts are usually for 240 days. It makes sense to calculate a daily salary based on the number of days contracted to work and compare that rate between Superintendents and teachers.
HB1917 Ratio v3– the ratio of the daily superintendent salary to the daily average teacher salary, has an average of 183% over all districts. Under this model which is adjusted for days worked, 88% of the districts in the state have a HB1917 Ratio v3 less than  250%.

Statewide Average Lowest Ratio Highest Ratio
Daily Average Classroom Teacher Salary $258 $294 $272
Daily Superintendent Salary $474 $392 $896
HB1917 Ratio v3 Daily Superintendent Salary / Daily Average Teacher Salary 184% 133% 329%

HB1917 Ratio v4: Adjusting for Number of Students Served

A teacher in Arkansas is responsible for, on average, 12 students, but the average superintendent is responsible for over 1,800.  Some superintendents oversee around 350 students, while Little Rock’s superintendent supports over 20,000.  District size and superintendent salary are correlated at +.84 , meaning that superintendents in larger districts generally get paid more than superintendents in smaller districts. Examining salary on a per pupil basis provides further insight into the relationship between superintendent and teacher salaries in the state.

HB1917 Ratio v4– the ratio of the daily per pupil superintendent salary to the daily per pupil average teacher salary, has an average of 1.23% over all districts. As you would expect, teachers make much more per student than superintendents, with the average teacher earning $21 per pupil per day, and the average superintendent earning $0.25 per pupil per day.  Under this student enrollment-adjusted model, the largest districts have the lowest superintendent cost per pupil, and smaller districts have higher superintendent costs per pupil.

Statewide Average Lowest Ratio Highest Ratio
Daily per pupil Average Classroom Teacher Salary $20.78 $24.96 $15.18
Daily per pupil Superintendent Salary $0.25 $0.04 $1.03
HB1917 Ratio v4               Daily per pupil Superintendent Salary /    Daily per pupil Average Teacher Salary 1.23% 0.17% 6.8%

There are issues with this ratio, however, because examining only the superintendent’s salary likely provides a distorted view of the per pupil cost.  In larger districts there are typically additional administrators supporting the superintendent whose salaries we are not including, while in small districts Central Administration staff is limited.

Summary and recommendations:

Here at OEP, we like the idea of examining teacher salaries, superintendent salaries, and how schools are using their resources to support student learning.  It is interesting to note that neither superintendent salary or average teacher salaries were correlated with district performance in 2015-16 (values were .09 and .24 respectively). While we like the idea of examining school spending, we like it best when it makes sense and compares apples to apples as much as possible.

By using average teacher salary instead of base teacher salary, and adjusting for the difference in the number of days contracted, the ratio of superintendent salary and average teacher salary shows that superintendents are typically making 184% of the average teacher in their district.  Given that 88% of the districts in the state have a ratio below  the proposed 250%, we suggest that this is the more reasonable ratio to use to examine the relationship between Superintendent and teacher salaries.

For smaller districts, it might be helpful to examine the per pupil cost of superintendent and teacher salaries to ensure that resources are being allocated appropriately.  Teacher-student ratios are below the funded level in every district throughout the state, but particularly in small districts.  Current teacher-student ratio is one teacher per twelve students, while the state standards and the funding matrix allow a for a ratio of more than double the current teacher-student ratio of one teacher per twelve students.  Increasing the number of students per teacher to nearer the funded ratio allows for greater resources to be allocated to teacher salaries or other district needs.

How much SHOULD districts be spending?

Every district receives the same funding per student for teacher and administrative salaries and benefits. Funding for teacher salaries and benefits is set at $4,290 per student for the 2015-16 school year, and about 75% of school districts are allocating that amount or more.

The only central office position required by the state accreditation standards is the superintendent.  In the funding matrix, central administration is indirectly funded at $376 per student, and includes the salaries and benefits of the superintendent as well as administration personnel (legal, fiscal, human resources, communications, etc.), district instructional and pupil support directors, and clerical staff.  Only one district was spending more than $376 per pupil on the superintendent salary, and the HB1917 Ratio v4 captures the difference between the relatively high superintendent salary and the low teacher salary.

Examining the relationship between per pupil funding and spending on salaries and benfits, as well as comparing to ‘similar districts’ can help schools ensure that their resources are being allocated appropriately.

Growth versus Proficiency in Arkansas

In The View from the OEP on April 5, 2017 at 12:55 pm

One of our favorite topics came up recently during the confirmation hearing for the Federal Secretary of Education when the question about “Growth- versus- Proficiency” as the best method for measuring schools was raised. This is an important question for students, parents, educators and policymakers and we think it is important for all to understand how these measures of school quality are being used in Arkansas, the difference between using growth and proficiency to evaluate school performance, and how these measures relate to school-level characteristics.

Tall to Ride.pngProficiency measures if students met the criteria set by the state to measure ‘grade level’ performance on the state test. We like to think of it as the “You Must Be This Tall To Ride” signs like they have at amusement parks.

Wall Growth.png

Growth measures if students grew academically from one year to the next as much as we expected them to grow based on what we know about them. This is similar to marks on a wall that parents use to track their child’s increasing height over time.

In today’s blog we examine Arkansas’ use of growth measures and how they relate to other school characteristics.

Proficiency rates have been the main measure of Arkansas school quality since No Child Left Behind, but Growth has been included in the state’s A-F school letter grades since 2014. Arkansas is currently developing a new plan to evaluate and report school quality and to identify schools in need of additional support under the federal requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In addition to these applications of proficiency and growth rates, under the Arkansas School Recognition Program, schools in the top 10% of the state in proficiency and those in the top 10% of the state in growth are provided monetary rewards (you can find the list of top schools here: and read our prior blog about it.

Success is more than “Proficiency”

Over the past 15 years since No Child Left Behind, students, parents, educators and policymakers have realized that proficiency rates have serious limitations when describing the quality of a school.

  • Certain types students are more likely to be proficient on the state test. Those who come into kindergarten already reading vs. those who may not have been exposed to books often in the home. Students who were well fed, both before and after birth, as opposed to those suffering from food insecurity. In Arkansas, as elsewhere, non-minority, non- disadvantaged students tend to be more likely to meet state “Proficiency” standards. When we use proficiency to evaluate schools, like we did under NCLB, it is very difficult for schools serving minority and disadvantaged students to be successful. Even if the schools are doing an excellent job educating the students, it is difficult to get students who started school behind to meet grade level expectations.
  • Can lead to focus on improving the skills of students who are ‘close’ to meeting proficiency targets, and neglecting high-performing students who are definitely going to exceed the proficiency target or struggling students who are very unlikely to meet the proficiency target at the end of the year.
  • States created their own assessments and set their own ‘proficiency’ criteria, meaning that a student ‘proficient’ in one state may not be ‘proficient’ in another.

How Can We Measure Student Growth?

To try to quantify how effective a school is at increasing the knowledge of its students, many states, including Arkansas, are measuring changes in individual student achievement over time. There are many different models for measuring growth, but Arkansas’ model uses a student’s prior academic performance on state assessments to predict where the student will likely score, then compares the actual score to the predicted score.

The process is illustrated in Figure 1. The dark blue dots represent an individual student’s score history on state assessments from third to seventh grade. Using these prior scores, researchers generate a trajectory (represented by the dotted line) that predicts what the student would be likely to score on the 8th grade test. If the student scores at the light blue dot, which is on the trajectory, then the student grew as expected. If the student scored at the level of the green dot, the student grew more than expected, and if the student scored at the level of the red dot, the student grew less than expected. It is important to note that student “Proficiency” is not indicated in the figure. This student may be well below, well above, or right at ‘grade level’, but this standard is not considered in relation to the student’s academic growth over time. You can learn more about the process here.

Figure 1: Example of Arkansas’ Longitudinal Growth Model

Growth Model

Students included in Arkansas’ growth model were tested on the state assessment in English Language Arts and Math, in grades 2 through 10, and had prior state assessment scores.  When predicting student scores, we should use as many years of a student’s score history as are available. Although two students scored similarly on state assessments in the year immediately prior to the prediction, they could have had very different score histories; perhaps one was declining but the other was increasing.

This student-level growth model becomes a “Value-Added” model when the growth is attributed to the school. The student-level growth scores are averaged at the school–level, and this is a measure of how “effective” the school has been at educating students, or, in other words how much “Value” the school has “Added” to its students’ learning.

Interpreting Value-Added scores

Schools that receive a growth score close to 0 enroll students who grew academically at the expected rate. Positive values indicate that the school had students, on average, grew more than expected, while negative values indicate the average student at the school grew less than predicted. These value-added scores have a mean value of 0, and the standard deviation at the school level is about 0.07.

What do we know about school-level growth scores?

Arkansas has reported school level values from the current growth model for two years. The results can help inform educators, parents, and policymakers about schools that are making greater than predicted academic improvements, and which schools might need additional support to ensure that all students are growing academically.


So, quick question…

Given what you know about Arkansas’ growth model- do you think the scores will be related to other school characteristics such as school size, the percentage of students eligible for Free/ Reduced Lunch, or proficiency rates? 


School size:

Do you think school size would be related to its students’ academic growth? We have no reason to think that smaller schools or larger schools would produce better growth rates, but want to use it as an introduction to interpreting school-level value-added scores.

We examined the relationship between 2015-16 school value-added scores and the number of students included in the model. Students included were tested on ACT Aspire English Language Arts and Math in grades 3-10, or the ITBS in grade 2, and had prior state assessment scores.

The scatter plot of the values for all for Arkansas schools is presented in Figure 2. The vertical axis presents the school value-added score, and ranges from -0.5 to +0.5. The horizontal axis represents the number of students included in the growth model for the school and ranges from 0 to 3,000 (we trimmed a few extremely large schools from the graph for illustrative purposes).

As you can see from the scatter plot, there is essentially no relationship between the number of student tested at a school and the value–added score that the school received. The correlation is essentially zero at +0.08.

Figure 2: Arkansas’ School-level Value-Added Scores and Number of Students Assessed/Included in Growth Model, 2015-16.

ENROLL_VAS.png

Free/Reduced Lunch:

Do you think schools serving more economically-advantaged students would have higher growth rates? Or would you expect a school with high enrollment of disadvantaged students would have “more room to grow” and that this would be reflected in higher growth scores? We examined the relationship between 2015-16 growth values and rates of FRL eligibility for all for Arkansas schools.

The scatter plot of the values for all for Arkansas schools is presented in Figure 3. The vertical axis presents the school value-added score, and ranges from -0.5 to +0.5.  The horizontal axis represents the school-level percent of students eligible for Free/ Reduced Lunch, a proxy measure for low socio-economic status, and the values range from 100% to 0%.

As you can see from Figure 3 below, there is some relationship between the number of student tested at a school and the value –added score that the school received. While at the majority of Free/ Reduced Lunch rates there are schools that received higher value added and lower value-added scores, almost all school with fewer than 30% of students eligible for FRL received positive growth values. The correlation is between value-added and school- level FRL is and moderately negative at -0.48.

Figure 3: Arkansas’ School-level Value-Added Scores and Percentage of Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch Program, 2015-16.

FRL_VAS.png

Proficiency Rate:

Would you expect schools with students who are higher achieving to have higher growth rates? Or would you expect that school with more low-performing students would have higher value-added scores because the students have “more room to grow”. We examined the relationship between 2015-16 growth values and proficiency rates for all for Arkansas schools. Because 2015-16 proficiency rates would be directly impacted by student growth (higher growth would lead to higher proficiency), we used the 2014-15 school proficiency rates to examine the relationship between proficiency and growth.

The scatter plot of the values is presented in Figure 4. The vertical axis represents the school value-added score, and ranges from -0.5 to +0.5. The horizontal axis represents the percent of students meeting or exceeding benchmarks on the 2015 PARCC Math and ELA assessments in grades 3-10, and the values range from 0% to 100%.

As you can see from Figure 4, there is a moderate relationship between the number of students scoring proficient at a school and the value –added score that the school received: schools that had proficiency rates over 50% in 2015 also had higher value-added scores in 2016. School with lower proficiency rates had greater variability in the value-added scores but were more likely to receive low value-added in 2016. The correlation between value-added and prior year proficiency is moderately positive at +0.57.

Figure 4: Arkansas’ School-level Value-Added Scores (2015-16) and Percentage of Students Scoring Proficient, 2014-15.

PRO_VAS.png

In Figure 5, we overlay the scatte rplot presented in Figure 4 with colored zones to facilitate visualizing the patterns in the data.  In Figure 5, the upper-left quadrant represents schools where students were below the state average in proficiency rates, but demonstrated greater than expected growth (note schools in the white band are representing expected growth). The upper-right quadrant represents schools where students were above the state average in proficiency rates, and demonstrated greater than expected growth. The lower-left quadrant represents schools where students were below the state average in proficiency rates, and demonstrated lower than expected growth, and the lower-right quadrant represents schools where students were above the state average in proficiency rates, but demonstrated lower than expected growth.

While no one would argue that we should celebrate the schools with high proficiency and high growth, and support the schools with low proficiency and low growth, many disagree about whether we should be more concerned about schools with low proficiency and high growth or schools with schools with high proficiency and low growth.

Figure 5: Arkansas’ School-level Value-Added Scores (2015-16) and Percentage of Students Scoring Proficient, 2014-15 with Highlighted Quadrants.

PRO_VAS_color

How Consistent are Value Added Scores?

A common concern regarding value-added scores is that they are inconsistent – fluctuating up and down over time. Arkansas only has two years of Value-added data, but we looked to see how consistent the values were. The scatter plot of the values in presented in Figure 6. The vertical axis represents the 2016 value-added score while the horizontal axis represents 2015 value-added score. The axes both range from -0.5 to +0.5.

As you can see from Figure 6, there is a weak relationship between the school-level value–added scores from 2015 and 2016. Some schools that scored positively in 2015 had negative value-added for 2016 and vice versa. The correlation between school-level value-added from 2015 and 2016 is weak at 0.35.

Figure 6: Arkansas’ School-level Value-Added Scores,  2014-15 and 2015-16.

VAS_VAS


What does all this this mean?

Arkansas’ longitudinal student growth model measures the academic improvement of students over time and attributes that “Value-Added” to the school that they attend. When we examine the value-added information for the two years for which data are available, we find that the values are moderately correlated with FRL and the percent of students proficient at the school in the previous year, and that the school-level value–added scores from 2015 and 2016 are only weakly related.

We strongly support measuring student level growth, and think it is definitely the right thing to do.

That said, we were surprised that the value-added scores were so correlated with prior year proficiency and FRL rates. We were hoping they would be more independent, like school size, because when they aren’t it makes us wonder why individual student growth would be related to these school characteristics.

We must remember, however, that we are just examining the correlations, and ‘correlation is not causation’. Perhaps high-achieving schools are presenting students with more rigorous material that promotes student growth? Maybe some low performing schools have ineffective practices, or feeling defeated after years of “not meeting proficiency”. The goal of using student growth is to isolate the impact of the school as much as possible, excluding external factors from our measurements of school quality.  When we see the relationship between proficiency, poverty, and growth we are concerned that we may not yet have achieved success.

We are also somewhat concerned that the value-added score for the two available years are only weakly related at 0.35. On the one hand, we can see that things may change within a school that might have a positive or negative impact on school growth (teachers, principal, curriculum, etc.), and we may not WANT consistency but some variability to reflect the impact of changes in the school on student growth. On the other hand, we are somewhat surprised that the two years are so weakly correlated while proficiency is strongly correlated across the two years at 0.81.

Although the student growth model is well suited for measuring change even over different assessments like Arkansas has experienced, perhaps all the changes have resulted in inconsistent growth data. Not because of the model itself, but because of the different test content/ format, different performance expectations, students getting used to taking the assessments on the computers, etc.

Next Steps:

It may take some time for parents, educators, and policymakers to better understand what the value-added scores mean and how to act on the information to support student learning, but there are some things we recommend doing right now in regards to value-added scores.

  • Learn more about Arkansas’ value-added Scores (you can check this one off already!)
  • Check out your school’s value-added from 2015 and 2016 (you can access it here)
  • See how your school’s value-added score compares with “similar schools”- remember to consider differences of 0.04 or less as being essentially the same as your school.
  • State department personnel are likely reviewing schools that have had very low value-added scores for the past two years to see if additional support is needed, while schools that have had very high value-added scores should be reviewed to see if they are implementing any unique practices that could transfer to other schools.
  • Don’t get TOO wrapped up in the value-added scores yet. We look forward to examining the 2016-17 value-added scores to see if the relationship between these key variables is changing.
  • Chime in on ESSA planning.  You now have a better understanding than Betsy DeVos of the proficiency-versus-growth issue, and particularly how it impacts schools in Arkansas.  Let your voice be heard on the new state plan!

Perhaps this was more than you wanted to know about the ins and outs of growth and proficiency, but here at OEP, we believe the more you know about the measures being used to measure student and school success, the better decisions we can make to support our schools.

SB 555: Changes to National Board Bonuses

In The View from the OEP on March 29, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Did you know that Arkansas has one of the highest percentages of National Board Certified teachers in the county?  With 2,901 Board-certified teachers making up about 7% of the public school teaching population we are in the top 10!

One of the reasons for such a relatively high rate of Board-certification may be the significant financial rewards provided by the state to teachers who achieve certification.  The state pays for certification fees and up to three days of substitute teachers for educators pursuing Board certification. In addition, teachers, counselors, library/media specialists, literacy specialists, math specialists, principals, assistant principals, and other instructional leaders can receive an annual bonus for Board certification. Currently, Board-certified teachers receive an annual bonus of $5,000 for a period of ten years. Given that about 100 Arkansas teachers get Board-certified each year, that’s $5 million in bonuses per cohort!

Changes may be in store for these bonuses, however.  The bonuses compile for each cohort and get pretty expensive, so it is important to ask if the bonuses for teachers are making a difference for students. It is also important to remember that many districts in the state provide additional financial incentives for Board certification.

 

Is it making a difference for Arkansas students?

 

There are no studies measuring the academic impact of Board-certified teachers on Arkansas students, but we can see what type of schools Board-certified teachers are working in. In 2013-14,  only 31% of the 2,172 NBC teachers in Arkansas were working with the most at-risk students in the state, those attending high-poverty schools in high-poverty districts (at least 70% of students on FRL). Conversely, 69% of NBC teachers were working in schools that were not high-poverty.

Even further, as we have addressed previously, NBC teachers in Arkansas are far more likely to work with the most-advantaged students: 22% of NBC serve students in the most advantaged 10% of Arkansas districts, while only 2% of NBC teachers work in the poorest 10% of districts.

 

Where Arkansas’ Board-certified teachers worked in 2013-14:

NBCT

Differentiated Bonuses: SB 555

 

Many states offer additional bonuses to incentivize Board-certified teachers to work in high-need schools.   Under SB555, teachers receiving Board-certification after January 2018 will be eligible for differentiated bonuses depending upon where they teach.  Teachers teaching in more at-risk students will receive $10,000 per year for ten years, while those teaching less disadvantaged students will receive $2,500 annually for five years. You can find more about SB 555 in today’s policy brief.

School/ District where NBC is teaching High-poverty school in a high-poverty district High-poverty school in a non- high-poverty district Non-high-poverty school
Annual Bonus $10,000 $5,000 $2,500
Term 10 years 5 years 5 years

Teachers who are currently Board-certified will not be impacted by SB 555 and will continue to receive $5,000 per year for the remainder of the ten-year period. Board-certified teachers in high-poverty schools may, however, elect to receive the new bonus amounts.

Given the current distribution of NBC teachers in Arkasnas’ schools, these new bonus structure would save $1.6 million per cohort.

Good idea for kids and teachers!

 

Nearly half of Arkansas’ districts and over 40% of schools meet the definition of ‘high-poverty’ under SB 555. Over 40% of Arkansas’ students attend these schools that often experience low performance and student growth.

We believe that the significant increase in the annual bonus for Board-certified teachers working in high-poverty schools could create important learning opportunities for both students and staff. The $10,000 annual bonus is nearly a 25% increase in average teacher pay for high-poverty districts. This large bonus may incentivize current teachers to achieve Board certification and perhaps develop further expertise in their craft. The large bonus may also motivate those who are already Board-certified to remain in high-poverty schools, providing quality leadership increasing stability in the staff. In addition, teachers who are relatively new to the profession may elect to work in these districts for the incentive, and over the 10-year period adding to the economic and cultural development of the surrounding community.

While we don’t imagine many current NBC teachers will make major geographic moves due to the differentiated bonuses, in the future, board-certified teachers may elect to make a small change to receive the larger bonus. Instead of teaching in non-high poverty schools, Board-certified teachers may opt to teach in a local high-poverty school and that could provide increased opportunities and greater educational equity for students.

We are excited to see policymakers using existing funds to leverage human resources in a way that may increase educational opportunities for our state’s most at-risk students. SB 555 has passed through both the full House and Senate.  The amended bill was re-referred to the Senate Education committee on 3/28 and is anticipated to be approved.

 

For more information about this, please read the policy brief


What is National Board Certification?

 

National Board Certification for teachers began over 25 years ago, and is modeled after the practice in the medical and legal fields, where Board certification identifies practitioners as having met an exceptional level of expertise. Arkansas’ teacher licensure system sets the basic requirements to teach, while completion of National Board Certification (NBC) is a voluntary professional certification process developed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Proponents of National Board Certification for teachers cite research that indicates the students of NBC teachers show greater academic growth than other students, and that NBC teachers demonstrate higher quality teaching practices. It is not clear, however, if the process of becoming certified increases teacher effectiveness, or if more effective teachers are simply more likely to self-select to pursue certification.

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

In The View from the OEP on March 15, 2017 at 11:04 am

BTO 2016We are so excited to release our “Beating the Odds” Outstanding Educational Performance Awards!  These special OEP awards are for schools whose students are achieving at a high level 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.

Elementary Schools

The top elementary school beating the odds overall is Salem Elementary from Salem School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 69% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  75% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the ACT Aspire. Salem Elementary was also among OEP’s top 10 for elementary schools throughout the state, regardless of student demographics, demonstrating that achievement is not always tied to demographics. The top 10 elementary schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Salem Elementary (Salem)
2. Clinton Elementary (Clinton)
3. (tie) Bismarck Elementary (Bismarck)
3. (tie) Forest Heights STEM Academy (Little Rock)
5. Nemo Vista Elementary (Nemo Vista)
6. (tie) College Station Elementary (Pulaski County Special)
6. (tie) Amanda Gist Elementary (Cotter)
8. (tie) Eagle heights Elementary (Harrison)
8. (tie) Des Arc Elementary (Des Arc)
10. Eastside Elementary (Rogers)

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

Middle Schools

Clinton Intermediate from Clinton School District is the top middle school beating the odds overall. Clinton Intermediate serves a student population where of students are 77% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, and 61% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the ACT Aspire. The top 10 middle schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Clinton Intermediate (Clinton)
2. Atkins Middle (Atkins)
3. Leslie Intermediate (Searcy County)
4. Mena Middle (Mena)
5. Mountain View Middle (Mountain View)
6. (tie) DeQueen Middle (DeQueen)
6. (tie) Lingle Middle (Rogers)
8. (tie) Southside Middle (Southside (Independence))
8. (tie) Oakdale Middle (Rogers)
9. Cave City Middle (Cave City)

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

Junior High

Clinton Jr. High was the top junior high beating the odds.  Despite serving a student population that is 69% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  56% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the ACT Aspire. Clinton Jr. High ranked first among high-poverty junior high schools in every subject area, and is also among OEP’s top 20 high achieving junior high schools throughout the state.  Given the  regardless of student demographics, demonstrating that achievement is not always tied to demographics. The top 10 junior high schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Clinton Jr. High (Clinton)
2. DeQueen  Jr. High  (DeQueen)
3. Southwest  Jr. High (Springdale)
4. Morrilton  Jr. High (South Conway County)
5. (tie) Clarksville  Jr. High (Clarksville)
5. (tie) Nashville  Jr. High (Nashville)
7. Nettleton Jr. High (Nettleton)
8. Malvern Middle (Malvern)
9. Trumann Intermediate 7-8 (Trumann)
10. Magnolia Jr. High (Magnolia)

You can find the top BTO junior high schools by subject in the full report.

High School

The top high school beating the odds is Norfork High in Norfork.  Despite serving a student population that is 82% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch,  53% of students Met or Exceeded Expectations on the ACT Aspire. Norfork High ranked first among high-poverty high schools in math and science, and is also among OEP’s top 20 high achieving high schools throughout the state.  Norfork 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. Norfork High (Norfork) 
2. Timbo High  (Mountain View)
3. Des Arc High (Des Arc)
4. County Line High (County Line)
5. Oark High (Jasper)
6. (tie) Omaha High (Omaha)
6. (tie) Bradley High (Emerson-Taylor-Bradley)
8. Cave City High (Cave City)
9. Hoxie High (Hoxie)
10. Gosnell High (Gosnell)

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

Congratulations to all the OEP “Beating the Odds” award winners!  Keep up the great work and we look forward to recognizing you again next year!

 


How are OEP awards different?

There are many lists of “Best Schools”, so why is the OEP’s list special?  It’s simple- we use the most recent assessment data and a methodology that is easy to understand, accounts for students at all performance levels, and doesn’t include self-reported (unverified) data. We have addressed our concerns with the Niche rankings before, Schooldigger uses a modification the old-school % proficient measure, and Greatschools uses assessment data from 2014!

Unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, Jr. High and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest and Southeast).  In addition, we include science as well as ELA and math in calculating overall achievement, and report high achieving schools by individual subjects as well.

The OEP calculates a GPA for schools in each subject based on the number of students that performed at each level on the most recent state exams.  Because of changes in the state assessment system, GPAs for 2016 are not directly comparable to prior years. For ACT Aspire performance, students scoring ‘Exceeded Expectations’ are assigned 4 points, those ‘Ready to Learn’ are assigned 3 points, students who are ‘Close to Meeting Expectations’ get 2 , and students ‘In Need of Support’ receive 1 point.  If all students in a school scored at the highest level, Exceeded Expectations, the school would get a 4.0, while if all scored at the lowest level the school would be assigned a GPA of 1.0.

OEP Awards for high schools are different from the US News Best High Schools in several ways:

  • OEP uses the most recent assessment data available, while US News is a year behind,
  • OEP includes all subject areas: US News doesn’t include science performance,
  • OEP Awards are only for high schools in Arkansas,
  • OEP and US News both use a weighted performance method, but US News now factors in school FRL rates to determine if a school is performing ‘better than expected’ given the student population,
  • OEP reports high-achievers by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest and Southeast) and high achieving schools by individual subjects, and
  • OEP limits our analysis to overall performance on state assessments, and does not consider the performance of disadvantaged student subgroups or the degree to which high schools prepare students for college by offering a college-level curriculum.

More information about the US News Best High Schools determination can be found in our blog post.

Outstanding Educational Performance Awards: High Achieving High Schools

In The View from the OEP on March 8, 2017 at 11:28 am

best-2016Here at the OEP  we are excited to celebrate the achievement of the highest-performing schools across the state in our 2015-16 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards)!  Each year, we celebrate two types of schools: “High-Achieving” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Achieving schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest performance on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest performing schools serving low-income communities.

Today’s awards for High Achieving high schools are based on the performance of students on the ACT Aspire Math, English Language Arts, and Science assessments. These assessments were taken by students in grades 3-10.

Highest Achievement: High School

Again this year, the top high school overall is Haas Hall Academy, a public charter school in Fayetteville with 91% of students meeting or exceeding readiness benchmarks in all subjects combined. Haas Hall Academy Bentonville was a close second, with 90% of students meeting or exceeding readiness benchmarks in all subjects combined.

Haas Hall Academy ranked first in the state in every subject tested: math, ELA and science.

The top high schools for overall achievement are:

1. Haas Hall Academy (Haas Hall Academy)
2. Haas Hall Academy Bentonville (Haas Hall Bentonville)
3. Rogers New Technology High (Rogers)
4. Valley View High (Valley View)
5. Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy High (Responsive Ed Solutions)
6. Greenwood High (Greenwood)
7. (tie) Taylor High (Emerson-Taylor-Bradley)
7. (tie) Mt. Vernon/Enola High (Mt. Vernon/Enola)
7. (tie) Arkansas Arts Academy High (Arkansas Arts Academy)
10. Greenbrier High (Greenbrier)
11. (tie) Norfork High (Norfork)
11. (tie) Lisa Academy North High Charter (Lisa Academy)
13. Concord High (Concord)
14. Bentonville High (Bentonville)
15. Timbo High (Mountain View)
16. Emerson High (Emerson-Taylor-Bradley)
17. (tie) Magnet Cove High (Magnet Cove)
17. (tie) Bismarck High (Bismarck)
19. (tie) Salem High (Salem)
19. (tie) McCrory High (McCrory)

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

Half of the high schools are new to the top 20 list this year!  Like the high-achieving elementary, middle, and junior high schools, most of the schools high-achieving high schools serve smaller a student population that is less economically disadvantaged than their peers across the state.

Haas Hall campuses do not serve lunch to their students, so do not report the percentage of students that are eligible for the National Free/Reduced Lunch (FRL) program which provides meals to students of low-income families. Excluding these two campuses, the group of overall high-achieving  high schools serve a population where 33% of students participate in FRL, compared to a statewide high school average of 61%.

Some of this year’s overall high-achieving high schools, however, serve a population where over half of their students are eligible for FRL. We want to highlight these high-achieving schools and their student populations:

#7 Mt Vernon/Enola High: 50% FRL
#3 Rogers New Tech High: 51% FRL
#19 McCrory High: 58% FRL
#19 Salem High: 62% FRL
#17 Bismark High: 63% FRL
#13 Concord High: 64% FRL
#15 Timbo High: 81% FRL
#11 Norfork High: 82% FRL

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

Next week, we will release “Beating the Odds” awards for schools like those mentioned above who are serving a high percentage of students from low-income communities that are nevertheless reaching high levels of achievement.  We will release these awards for elementary, middle, junior high and high schools on March 15th.

We celebrate all the high-achieving high schools recognized with OEP awards today!

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 a methodology that is easy to understand, accounts for students at all performance levels, and doesn’t include self-reported (unverified) data. We have addressed our concerns with the Niche rankings before, Schooldigger uses a modification the old-school % proficient measure, and Greatschools uses assessment data from 2014!

OEP Awards are different from the US News Best High Schools in several ways:

  • OEP uses the most recent assessment data available, while US News is a year behind,
  • OEP includes all subject areas: US News doesn’t include science performance,
  • OEP Awards are only for high schools in Arkansas,
  • OEP and US News both use a weighted performance method, but US News now factors in school FRL rates to determine if a school is performing ‘better than expected’ given the student population,
  • OEP reports high-achievers by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest and Southeast) and high achieving schools by individual subjects, and
  • OEP limits our analysis to overall performance on state assessments, and does not consider the performance of disadvantaged student subgroups or the degree to which high schools prepare students for college by offering a college-level curriculum.

More information about the US News Best High Schools determination can be found in our blog post.

Unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, Jr. High and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest and Southeast).  In addition, we include science as well as ELA and math in calculating overall achievement, and report high achieving schools by individual subjects as well.

The OEP calculates a GPA for schools in each subject based on the number of students that performed at each level on the most recent state exams.  Because of changes in the state assessment system, GPAs for 2016 are not directly comparable to prior years. For ACT Aspire performance, students scoring ‘Exceeded Expectations’ are assigned 4 points, those ‘Ready to Learn’ are assigned 3 points, students who are ‘Close to Meeting Expectations’ get 2 , and students ‘In Need of Support’ receive 1 point.  If all students in a school scored at the highest level, Exceeded Expectations, the school would get a 4.0, while if all scored at the lowest level the school would be assigned a GPA of 1.0.

Outstanding Educational Performance Awards: High Achieving Middle and Junior High Schools

In The View from the OEP on March 1, 2017 at 10:56 am

best-2016

Here at the OEP  we are excited to celebrate the achievement of the highest-performing schools across the state in our 2015-16 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards)!  Each year, we celebrate two types of schools: “High-Achieving” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Achieving schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest performance on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest performing schools serving low-income communities.

Today’s awards for High Achieving middle and junior high schools are based on the performance of students on the ACT Math, English Language Arts, and Science assessments.

Highest Achievement: Middle School

The top middle school overall is Bright Field Middle from Bentonville School District, with 75% of students meeting or exceeding readiness benchmarks in all subjects combined.

Bright Field ranked first in the state in science achievement, placed second behind McNair Middle (Fayetteville) in ELA, and second behind Pottsville Middle (Pottsville) in math.

The top middle schools for overall achievement are:

1. Bright Field Middle (Bentonville)
2. McNair Middle (Fayetteville)
3. Harrison Middle (Harrison)
4. East Hills Middle (Greenwood)
5. Pottsville Middle Grade (Pottsville)
6. Greenbrier Middle (Greenbrier)
7. (tie) Bethel Middle (Bryant)
7. (tie) Ruth Barker Middle (Bentonville)
9. Lisa Academy (Lisa Academy)
10. Bergman Middle (Bergman)
11. Nemo Vista Middle (Nemo Vista)
12. Benton Middle (Benton)
13. Hellstern Middle (Springdale)
14. (tie) Valley Springs Middle (Valley Springs)
14. (tie) Old High Middle (Bentonville)
14. (tie) Kirksey Middle (Rogers)
17. (tie) Cabot Middle South (Cabot)
17. (tie) Ruth Doyle Middle (Conway)
17. (tie) Ardis Ann Middle (Bentonville)
17. (tie) Gravette Middle (Gravette)

Highest Achievement: Junior High School

The top junior high school overall is  J. William Fulbright Jr. High from Bentonville School District, with 69% of students meeting or exceeding readiness benchmarks in all subjects combined.

J. William Fulbright Jr. High ranked first in the state in science performance, was second behind Valley View Jr. High (Valley View) in ELA, and third behind Ahlf Jr. High (Searcy) and Woodland Jr. High (Fayetteville) in math.

The top junior highs for overall achievement are:

1. J. William Fulbright Jr. High (Bentonville)
2. Valley View Jr. High (Valley View)
3.Woodland Jr. High (Fayetteville)
4. Ahlf Jr. High (Searcy)
5. L. A. Chaffin Jr. High (Fort Smith)
6. Lincoln Jr. High (Bentonville)
7. Greenwood Jr. High (Greenwood)
8. Greenbrier Jr. High (Greenbrier)
9. Washington Jr. High (Bentonville)
10. Harrison Jr. High (Harrison)
11. Benton Jr. High (Benton)
12. (tie) Clinton Jr. High (Clinton)
12. (tie) Ramay Jr. High (Fayetteville)
14. (tie) Pottsville Jr. High (Pottsville)
14. (tie) Central Jr. High (Springdale)
16. Buffalo Island Central Jr. High (Buffalo Is. Central)
17. Vilonia Middle (Vilonia)
18. (tie) Cabot Jr. High North (Cabot)
18. (tie) Pocahontas Jr. High (Pocahontas)
20. (tie) Cabot Jr. High South (Cabot)
20. (tie) Brookland Jr. High (Brookland)

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

Similar to the elementary awards, many of these high achieving middle and junior high schools enroll a relatively low percentage of students eligible for the Free/Reduced Lunch program and have been OEP High-Achievers before. Overall, in the high-achieving middle and junior high schools only 38% of students eligible are for FRL and only 5% are identified as English Language Learners.

Some of this year’s overall high-achieving schools, however, serve Free/Reduced Lunch (FRL) to over 50% of their students and enroll a relatively high percentage of English Language Learners (ELL). We want to highlight these high-achieving schools and their student populations:

Middle schools: Bergman MS is 59% FRL, Nemo Vista MS is 63% FRL, Kirksey MS is 60% FRL and 42% ELL, and Hellstern MS is 50% FRL and 28% ELL.

Junior high schools:  Ahlf JH is 51% FRL, Clinton JH is 71% FRL, Ramay JH is 53% FRL and 11% ELL, Central JH is 51% FRL and 28% ELL, Buffalo Is. Central is 56% FRL and 13% ELL, and Pocahontas JH is 55% FRL).

We celebrate all the high-achieving middle and junior high schools recognized with OEP awards today!

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

Next week we will share “High Achieving” High Schools.

Because the relationship between students’ background characteristics and academic achievement is well-known and persistent, OEP created a separate set of awards, the “Beating the Odds” awards, for schools serving a high percentage of students from low-income communities that are nevertheless reaching high levels of achievement.  We will release these awards on March 15th.

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 a methodology that is easy to understand, accounts for students at all performance levels, and doesn’t include self-reported (unverified) data. We have addressed our concerns with the Niche rankings before, Schooldigger uses a modification the old-school % proficient measure, and Greatschools uses assessment data from 2014!

Unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, Jr. High and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest and Southeast).  In addition, we include science as well as ELA and math in calculating overall achievement, and report high achieving schools by individual subjects as well.

The OEP calculates a GPA for schools in each subject based on the number of students that performed at each level on the most recent state exams.  Because of changes in the state assessment system, GPAs for 2016 are not directly comparable to prior years. For ACT Aspire performance, students scoring ‘Exceeded Expectations’ are assigned 4 points, those ‘Ready to Learn’ are assigned 3 points, students who are ‘Close to Meeting Expectations’ get 2 , and students ‘In Need of Support’ receive 1 point.  If all students in a school scored at the highest level, Exceeded Expectations, the school would get a 4.0, while if all scored at the lowest level the school would be assigned a GPA of 1.0.

Outstanding Educational Performance Awards 2016: High Achieving Elementary Schools

In The View from the OEP on February 22, 2017 at 3:07 pm

best-2016Here at the OEP  we are excited to celebrate the achievement of the highest-performing schools across the state in our 2015-16 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards)!  Each year, we celebrate two types of schools: “High-Achieving” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Achieving schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest performance on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest performing schools serving low-income communities.

Today’s awards for High Achieving elementary schools are based on the performance of elementary students on the ACT Math, English Language Arts, and Science assessments.

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 a methodology that is easy to understand, accounts for students at all performance levels, and doesn’t include self-reported (unverified) data. We have addressed our concerns with the Niche rankings before, Schooldigger uses a modification the old-school % proficient measure, and Greatschools uses assessment data from 2014!

Unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, Jr. High and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest and Southeast).  In addition, we include Science as well as ELA and Math in calculating overall achievement, and report high achieving schools by individual subjects as well.

The OEP calculates a GPA for schools in each subject based on the number of students that performed at each level on the most recent state exams.  Because of changes in the state assessment system, GPAs for 2016 are not directly comparable to prior years. For ACT Aspire performance, students scoring ‘Exceeded Expectations’ are assigned 4 points, those ‘Ready to Learn’ are assigned 3 points, students who are ‘Close to Meeting Expectations’ get 2 , and students ‘In Need of Support’ receive 1 point.  If all students in a school scored at the highest level, Exceeded Expectations, the school would get a 4.0, while if all scored at the lowest level the school would be assigned a GPA of 1.0.

Highest Achievement: Elementary

The top elementary school overall is Vandergriff Elementary from Fayetteville School District, with 83% of students meeting or exceeding readiness benchmarks in all subjects combined.  Vandergriff was also the top performing school in the state in each subject area, with 89% meeting readiness expectations in math, 80% in ELA, and 81% in science.

The top elementary schools for overall achievement are:

1. Vandergriff Elementary (Fayetteville)
2. Forest Park Elementary (Little Rock)
3. Gillett Elementary (Dewitt)*
4. Don Roberts Elementary (Little Rock)
5. (tie) Park Magnet (Hot Springs)
5. (tie) Bellview Elementary (Rogers)
7. Baker Interdistrict Elementary (Pulaski County Special)
8. Bernice Young Elementary (Springdale)
9. Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy (responsive Ed. Soltions)
10. Salem Elementary (Salem)
11. Root Elementary (Fayetteville)
12. John P. Woods Elementary (Fort Smith)
13. Chenal Elementary (Pulaski County Special)
14. (tie) Central Park At Morningstar (Bentonville)
14. (tie) Armorel Elementary (Armorel)
16. Euper Lane Elementary (Fort Smith)
17.Valley View Intermediate (Valley View)
18. Mount Pleasant Elementary (Melbourne)
19. (tie) Hunt Elementary (Springdale)
19. (tie) R.E. Baker Elementary (Bentonville)

We were pleased to see a variety of districts on our list this year and to see schools with more diverse populations having such success. While the majority of these high achieving elementary schools enroll a relatively small percentage of students eligible for the Free/Reduced Lunch program (due to low household income), two of the top five schools serve Free/Reduced Lunch to over half of their students (Gillett is 60% FRL and Park Magnet is 55%).  We are also pleased to note that Hunt Elementary is ranked 19th in the state, and serves a population of students where 29% are identified as Limited English Proficient, compared to 4% LEP in the rest of the top 10 schools.

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

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

Next week we will share “High Achieving” Middle and Junior High schools, followed by High Schools.  On March 15th we will release the list of high performing school serving high poverty populations, those who are “Beating the Odds!”

 

Local Control and Teacher Salaries

In The View from the OEP on February 15, 2017 at 1:24 pm

appleThis week, we consider actions school districts can take to attract and retain teachers.  Last week we addressed how education is a local issue, and we know that many of the most important decisions impacting student education take place locally.  One of those local decisions is teacher compensation.

In response to our recent blog post about several bills in the legislature to incentivize teachers, and we received feedback from teachers who were frustrated that these incentives are not helpful to them. These veteran teachers are at the top of the salary scale, and given rising healthcare contributions, feel they are earning less each year. Arkansas is developing incentives to bring folks into the profession, but how can we keep them from leaving?

Although Arkansas has a lower percentage of teachers leaving the profession than most other states, many teachers exit each year. In a recent Bureau of Legislative Research survey,  26% of Arkansas teachers who responded indicated they are currently considering leaving the teaching profession.  New teachers leave at a high rate,  36% of new Arkansas teachers left the profession within five years.  Older teachers leave at high rates as well, with about 10% of teachers between 40 and 60 leaving the profession, and exit rates sharply increasing for teachers over 60.

Although teachers leave for a variety of reasons, it is often about the money.  District leaders who responded to the survey identified difficultly in offering competitive salaries was the greatest challenge when it comes to retaining teachers, and 54% of teachers indicated that higher salaries/better benefits would keep them in the profession.

Arkansas teachers are not underpaid compared to the national average and regional states. Arkansas teacher salaries are increasing and about average nationally and regionally when cost of living is figured in. Arkansas’ average classroom teacher salary for 2015-16 was $48,976 but there is variation between districts throughout the state.

Who decides how much to pay teachers?

Your local school boards.

So, why can’t districts offer competitive salaries? They can.

Districts in Arkansas receive the guaranteed funding at the same per-student amount  according to the state funding matrix. In 2015-16 allocated $4,290 per student in teacher salary and benefits. Since the average teacher salary is 2015-16 was $48,976, assuming a benefit rate of 26% would make the average teacher cost $61,709 in salary and benefits to the district. Given the matrix funding per student, if the district allocated the matrix funding as suggested, the average teacher’s salary and benefits would be covered by just over 14 students. Note that this is based just on the foundation funding, not any additional mils that may be collected locally.

But teacher salaries are determined locally, so districts can essentially set the salaries as whatever they want.

The state legislated a minimum teacher salary, but districts set their own compensation schedules.  Interesting data about the differences in classroom teacher salaries come from examining district-level payments as a per student basis. On average, districts are spending near the per-student matrix amount on classroom teacher salaries and benefits. Some spend more, but others spend less.

For example, the Jonesboro school district spent less than average, about $3,962 per student on teacher salaries and benefits (again, assuming the 26% benefit). By contrast, Deer/ Mt. Judea school district spent more, with an estimated $5,357 per student on teacher salaries and benefits.

Although the district is spending more, teachers in Deer/ Mt Judea make about $10,000 less than the teachers in Jonesboro. In Jonesboro the average teacher makes a salary of $48,000, and in Deer/ Mt. Judea the average teacher makes $38,000.

How can there be such a significant difference in salary, given that the schools are funded similarly and that Deer /Mt Judea is spending more per student? It isn’t really due to district enrollment, there are large and small districts on both sides of the teacher salary data.  It has to do with staffing. In Jonesboro, the student–teacher ratio is 1 teacher to 13 students, while in Deer/ Mt. Judea, there is 1 classroom teacher to 7 students.

While we love small class sizes, this seems very low. And it isn’t just these districts: the state average ratio of classroom teachers to students is 1 to 12. State limitations on how many students can be in a teacher’s class vary from 20 (for Kindergarten) to 30 (for 7th grade and up), but every district in the state is well below the average of 1 teacher to 25 students. If the state were staffed in the 1 to 25 ratio, the average classroom teacher salary, using only existing salary funding, could double to over $90,000.

 

But teacher salaries are determined locally, so districts can choose to set the salaries as whatever they want!

So far we have addressed only the average teacher salary, and teacher salaries are typically based on years of experience and level of education. Arkansas teachers typically receive an increase in salary each year and additional increases for further education credits.

Districts determine how large annual salary increases are and when they ‘top out’. Some districts stop increasing teacher pay after 20 years, while others continue to 30 years or beyond.  Some districts only provide additional compensation up to a Master’s degree, while others provide additional pay through Specialist or Doctorate degrees.

So, districts should be strategic with their resources, and we have some suggestions:

Make sure spending is aligned with district priorities.

  • If high-quality teachers is your goal- make sure your salary schedule reflects that through high pay.
  • If you care more about small class sizes, make sure to communicate that being responsible for fewer students is a benefit of working with you.
  • If you want to keep experienced teachers in the classrooms, be sure your salary schedule continues increased for veteran teachers.
  • If you want to attract the best new teachers, be sure your salary schedule has high beginning salaries.

Ensure your staffing is aligned with student needs.

  • Identify your teacher needs now and hire early.
  • Actively seek out excellent candidates.
  • Have prospective teachers teach as part of the interview process, and ask for student input.
  • If trying to fill a position where there may be limited applicants (like secondary math/science), consider attract the best through a signing bonus, additional planning time, or other benefits.
  • Don’t feel like you need to hire full-time. If you just need a chemistry teacher, find one and offer a position for that amount of time. Many people like the flexibility of a less than full time job, and trying to find the best chemistry teacher who is also a tennis coach might not be the best choice for students.

Resource allocation is under district control and your local school board decides how much to pay teachers and how many students should be in each class. These decisions are under local control, so get involved!

On a side note, salary decisions aren’t limited to teachers. Principals, district staff and Superintendent salaries are also variable throughout the state and decided by local boards.  In Jonesboro, the superintendent was paid $145, 000 in 2014-15, while the superintendent in Deer/Mt Judea received $118, 000. While these salaries may seem reasonable, consider that Jonesboro served 5,382 students and Deer/ Mt. Judea served 338 students. In per student costs, the Jonesboro superintendent was paid about $26  per student per year, while in Deer/Mt Judea the superintendent was paid more than 10 times that amount.  Examining district expenditures using a ‘cost per student’ method can help districts compare their expenditures to other districts.