University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

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Summer is fun, but the Fall holds Promise

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

El Dorado Promis logo

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

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

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

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

pre and post promise chart

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

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

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

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

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

BTO in ELA 2017BTO in Math 2017

We are so excited to release our “Beating the Odds” Outstanding Educational Performance Awards!  These special OEP awards are for schools whose students are demonstrating high academic growth despite serving a population where at least 66% of the students participate in the Free/ Reduced Lunch Program, which is based on low household income.  While poverty can negatively impact student success, the schools awarded today demonstrate that their students are “Beating the Odds.”  The highlights are below, and you can read the full report here.

This year, the OEP Awards highlight schools in Arkansas based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

We choose to give OEP Awards based on student growth rather than proficiency rates because we think it is a better reflection of how the school is impacting students .  Proficiency rates, even those that move beyond the ‘percent proficient’ like our OEP GPA and Arkansas’ weighted achievement score, are more correlated with student demographics than growth scores.

Although school-level growth scores are less related to the percentage of students at a school who are participating in Free/Reduced Lunch than achievement scores, a negative correlation does exist (-0.283).  This means that students at schools serving higher poverty populations are more likely than their peers at more affluent schools to demonstrate less academic growth than predicted. As can be seen in the scatter plot below, schools with higher FRL rates are more likely to receive lower growth scores.

Figure 1. Combined Content Growth Score by School % FRL, Arkansas Public Schools, 2017

Growth FRL

 

If we limit the plot to only those schools with 66% or more student participating in FRL, as presented in Figure 2, the relationship between poverty and growth essentially disappears. Although all of these schools are serving high poverty populations, there is wide variation in the amount of academic growth that students at the schools are demonstrating.

Figure 2. Combined Content Growth Score by School % FRL, High-Poverty Arkansas Public Schools, 2017

Growth BTO

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

How are OEP awards different?

There are many lists of “Best Schools”, so why is the OEP’s list special?  It’s simple- we use the most recent assessment data and focus on student growth.  We examine growth specifically by content area because we think it is important to examine each subject separately and without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners (which should also be examined separately).  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

We celebrate two types of schools this year: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.

Today’s awards for schools “Beating the Odds” are based on the growth of students on the ACT Aspire Math and English Language Arts assessments.


“Beating the Odds” Elementary Level Schools

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

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

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

“Beating the Odds” Middle Level Schools

Garland Learning Center from Hope School District is the top middle school beating the odds overall. Garland Learning Center serves a K-8 student population where 85% of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, and was among the  high growth middle schools in the state, regardless of student demographics.  The top 10 middle schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Garland Learning Center, Hope SD (85% FRL)
2. Beryl Henry Upper Elementary, Hope SD (89% FRL)
3. Little Rock Prep Academy Middle, Little Rock Prep Academy (86% FRL)
4. Paragould Junior High, Paragould SD (71% FRL)
5. Riverview Junior High, Riverview SD (74% FRL)
6. J.O. Kelly Middle, Springdale SD (87% FRL)
7. Cedarville Middle, Cedarville SD (73% FRL)
8. Oak Grove Middle, Paragould SD (74% FRL)
9. Nashville Junior High, Nashville SD (71% FRL)
10. William O. Darby Junior High, Fort Smith SD (93% FRL)

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

 

“Beating the Odds” High School

The top high school beating the odds is Trumann High in Trumann School District.  Despite serving a student population that is 69% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, it is also among OEP’s top 20 high growth high schools throughout the state.  Trumann High students are demonstrating that they can achieve at levels similar to students who come from higher income communities. The top 10 high schools that are beating the odds are:

1. Trumann High, Trumann SD (69% FRL)
2. Southside Charter High, Southside SD (Independence) (68% FRL)
3. Danville High, Danville SD (70% FRL)
4. Timbo High, Mountain View SD (78% FRL)
5. Wilbur D. Mills High, Pulaski County Special SD (66% FRL)
6. Gosnell High, Gosnell SD (70% FRL)
7. Shirley High, Shirley SD (80% FRL)
8. Southwest Junior High, Springdale SD (71% FRL)
9. Augusta High, Augusta SD (84% FRL)
10. Des Arc High, Des Arc SD (66% FRL)

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

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

 


 

Outstanding Educational Performance: High Growth High Schools

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

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

Today’s 2016-17 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards) are for High Growth High SchoolsThis year, these awards are based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

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

Overall content growth scores have a mean of 80, and range from 71.8 to 86.7 at the high school level, although when math and ELA are examined separately, the range increases somewhat (70.2 to 90.9).  Understanding the range of scores is important because small point differences in growth scores can indicate large differences in growth rates – as the standard deviation is only 2.5 points for high schools. 

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

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

We celebrate two types of schools this year: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.


Highest Growth: High School Level

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

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

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

We were pleased to see the variety of high schools on our list of those demonstrating high student growth. We included the percentage of students in the school who participate in the Free/Reduced Lunch program (due to low household income) to demonstrate why we like to talk about growth!  The percentage of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth middle level schools ranges from a low of 0% to a high of 78%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!  You can find the high school with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.

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

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

Outstanding Educational Performance Awards: High Growth Middle Schools

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

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

Today’s 2016-17 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards) are for High Growth middle schools.  This year, these awards are based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

OEP Awards are different than other awards because we examine growth specifically by content area, because we think it is important to examine each subject separately and without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners (which should also be examined separately).  Overall content growth scores have a mean of 80, and range from 70.7 to 86.5 at the middle level, although when math and ELA are examined separately, the range increases somewhat (69.5 to 90.5).  Understanding the range of scores is important because small point differences in growth scores can indicate large differences in growth rates- as the standard deviation is only 3 points.  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

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

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

We celebrate two types of schools this year: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.


Highest Growth: Middle Level

The top middle level school for overall student growth is LISA Academy North, with a growth score of 86.45.  LISA Academy North also had the highest math growth with a score of 90.50, while Garland Learning Center from Hope School District had the highest growth in ELA at 89.45.

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

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

We were pleased to see the variety of middle level schools on our list of those demonstrating high student growth. We included the percentage of students in the school who participate in the Free/Reduced Lunch program (due to low household income) to demonstrate why we like to talk about growth!  The percentage of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth middle level schools ranges from a low of 19% to a high of 89%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!  You can find the middle level schools with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.

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

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

Outstanding Educational Performance Awards: High Growth Elementary Schools

In The View from the OEP on May 23, 2018 at 1:04 pm

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

Here at the OEP  we are excited to celebrate the highest-growth schools across the state in our 2016-17 Outstanding Educational Performance Awards (also known as the OEP Awards)!

This year, the OEP Awards highlight schools in Arkansas based on student growth on the ACT Aspire exams in mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA). Growth is calculated at the student level, and essentially reflects how much a student improved his or her score from the prior year compared to what was predicted based on prior achievement history.

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

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

How are OEP awards different?

There are many lists of “Best Schools”, so why is the OEP’s list special?  It’s simple- we use the most recent assessment data and focus on student growth.  We examine growth specifically by content area, because we think it is important to examine each subject separately and without including the English Proficiency progress for English Language Learners (which should also be examined separately).  Another difference is that unlike the state performance awards that were given out a few months ago, OEP awards are grouped by school level (Elementary, Middle, and High) and by Region (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast).

We celebrate two types of schools this year: “High-Growth” and “Beating the Odds”.  High Growth schools are those whose students demonstrated the highest growth on the ACT Aspire tests, and “Beating the Odds” are the highest growth schools serving low-income communities.

Today’s awards for High Growth elementary schools are based on the growth of elementary students on the ACT Aspire Math and English Language Arts assessments.


Highest Growth: Elementary Level

The top elementary school for overall student growth is Salem Elementary from Salem School District, with a growth score of 89.66.  Pottsville Elementary from Pottsville School District had the highest math growth with a score of 93.65, while Greenbrier Wooster Elementary from Greenbrier School District had the highest growth in ELA at 91.20.

The top 20 elementary schools for overall content growth are:

1. Salem Elementary, Salem SD (67% FRL)
2. Greenbrier Springhill Elementary, Greenbrier SD (41% FRL)
3. Central Elementary, Batesville SD (66% FRL)
4. Willowbrook Elementary, Bentonville SD (15% FRL)
5. Green Forest Elementary, Green Forest SD (84% FRL)
6. Greenbrier Wooster Elementary, Greenbrier SD (48% FRL)
7. John Tyson Elementary, Springdale SD (77% FRL)
8. City Heights Elementary, Van Buren SD (59% FRL)
9. Pottsville Elementary, Pottsville SD (52% FRL)
10. Bismarck Elementary, Bismarck SD (69% FRL)
11. Eastside Elementary, Cabot SD (34% FRL)
12. Cavanaugh Elementary, Fort Smith SD (65% FRL)
13. Hunt Elementary, Springdale SD (45% FRL)
14. Don Roberts Elementary, Little Rock SD (33% FRL)
15. Bernice Young Elementary, Springdale SD (22% FRL)
16. Westside Elementary, Searcy SD (40% FRL)
17. Jones Elementary, Rogers SD (84% FRL)
18. Oscar Hamilton Elementary, Foreman SD (73% FRL)
19. Sonora Elementary, Springdale SD (70% FRL)
20. Crestwood Elementary, North Little Rock SD (32% FRL)

We were pleased to see a variety of schools on our list of those demonstrating such high student growth. We included the percentage of students in the school who participate in the Free/Reduced Lunch program (due to low household income) to demonstrate why we like to talk about growth!  The percentage of students eligible for FRL among these high-growth schools ranges from a low of 15% to a high of 84%, reflecting how growth is possible for all types of schools!  You can find the elementary schools with the greatest student growth by subject and region in the full report.

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

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

Is Your High School one of the “Best”?

In The View from the OEP on May 16, 2018 at 2:04 pm

US BadgeLast week, U.S. News & World Report released their annual “Best High Schools” rankings, and we want to clarify what the rankings mean, share some thoughts about what we like (and don’t) about the methodology, and compare the rankings to Arkansas’ ESSA scores for schools.

First, congratulations to those Arkansas high schools that made the list for 2018!  We made it easy for you to find the US News information for all Arkansas high schools here. Below are the US News Top 10 for Arkansas (we added the Free/ Reduced Lunch Rate) :

#1: Haas Hall Academy (does not participate in FRL program)

#2: eStem High School (30% FRL)

#3: LISA Academy North High (35% FRL)

#4: Prairie Grove High School (35% FRL)

#5: Bentonville High School (23% FRL) 

#6: Rogers High School (52% FRL)

#7: LISA Academy High (40% FRL) 

#8: Arkansas Arts Academy High (26% FRL) 

#9: Fayetteville High School (35% FRL) 

#10: Scranton High School (47% FRL)

These rankings always make the news, but here at the OEP, we want to make sure that you understand what the “best” title is based on. There are four steps used to identify high schools that are performing better than expected:

STEP 1 | Students exceeded expectations in their states.

STEP 2 | Underserved students performed better than the state average.

STEP 3 | Student graduation rates met a threshold of 80%.

STEP 4 | Students were prepared for college-level coursework.

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


Things we like about the rankings:

1. Performance on state exams factors in the economic background of the students served by the school.

Schools serving a lower percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged typically have higher scores than schools serving a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students, but the US News ranking takes that into account.

The figure below represents Arkansas high schools’ school-level Performance Index scores plotted against the school percentage of enrolled students participating in the Free/Reduced Lunch Program. You can see the relationship between Performance and the percentage of students who are identified as economically disadvantaged. Schools who do not participate in the Free/Reduced Lunch Program are assigned the average FRL participation rate for the state.

The red line represents the ‘typical performance’ of schools in Arkansas given the percentage of students in the school that participate in the FRL program.

Dark green markers indicate schools where students performed BELOW what is typical for schools with the same percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

Light blue markers represent schools where students performed AS expected.

Yellow markers represent schools where students performed BETTER than expected and are selected for initial consideration for a “best” high school.

US Best

On the upper left hand side of the figure above, you can see a yellow marker indicating NWA Classical Academy where 13% of the students participate in FRL with a performance index of 92.  On the far right hand side of the figure you can see Clinton High School represented by the yellow marker with a performance index of 71 and 100% of students participating in FRL. Clinton High School is one of many schools identified as 100% FRL due to the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

Ninety- nine high schools were found to be performing above expectations, an increase of 8 school compared to last year. The schools with the highest performance indices (129 and 121) are Haas Hall Fayetteville and Bentonville. These schools are assigned the average FRL participation rate for the state as they do not participate in the Free/Reduced Lunch Program.

This year 8 more high schools performed above expectations!

2. Performance of historically underserved populations is considered.

Students who are black, Hispanic, and low-income traditionally score lower on state assessments than white, Asian, and/or economically advantaged students.  Only schools where these students outperformed the state average were selected for further consideration.

3. AP passing rates are considered as well as AP participation.

Under Arkansas’ ESSA plan, the number of students taking an AP class is rewarded, but there is no consideration to how well students perform on the AP tests.  This is particularly important because, unlike students in most other states, Arkansas students do not have to pay to take AP tests, so we can consider the passing rates a more reliable measure of how well the AP content is being taught.


Things we don’t like about the rankings:

1. The data are OLD

The data used by U.S. News are from the 2015-16 school year and are nearly two years old.  We hope that stakeholders will keep that in mind as they search for their school on the “Best” list.

2. Focus is just on College

Only ‘college ready’ indicators are considered.  We would like to see US News including more indices of career readiness, because not everyone wants to go to college and the ‘best’ high schools should meet the learning goals of all of their students.

3. Focus is on Proficiency, not Growth

Here at OEP, we are strong proponents of student-level growth models.  We understand that it is impossible to compare this type of student growth across states for now, because each state has a different assessment, but we feel it is important to point out that even though they consider the demographics of the students served by the school, Arkansas’ growth model provides better information about how well students are GROWING.


How do these US News rankings compare with Arkansas’ letter grades?

We wondered how the US News rankings compare to the recently released Arkansas grades for schools? It is important to note three major differences:

  • Arkansas’ scores and letter grades are based on 2016-17 data, while US News is based on data from 2015-16
  • Arkansas uses a student-level growth model in the calculation while US News does not.
  • Arkansas’ scores use a weighted performance measure that is different from US News:  While the weights are used at the lower levels, US News weights the highest performers at 1.5, while Arkansas uses a weight of 1.25

Below we provide the 2016-17 Arkansas ESSA information for the US News Top 10 high schools.  You can find this information for all Arkansas school here.  (Arkansas Achievement and Growth ranking is within 303 Arkansas high schools)

#1: Haas Hall Academy: Grade A, 1st in Achievement, 7th in Growth

#2: eStem High School: Grade A, 54th in Achievement, 19th in Growth

#3: LISA Academy North High: Grade A, 34th in Achievement, 2nd in Growth

#4: Prairie Grove High School: Grade B, 81st in Achievement, 76th in Growth

#5: Bentonville High School: Grade A, 16th in Achievement, 81st in Growth

#6: Rogers High School: Grade C, 127th in Achievement, 193rd in Growth

#7: LISA Academy High: Grade B, 110th in Achievement, 22nd in Growth

#8: Arkansas Arts Academy High: Grade A, 5th in Achievement, 9th in Growth

#9: Fayetteville High School: Grade B, 62nd in Achievement, 186th in Growth

#10: Scranton High School: Grade B, 100th in Achievement, 47th in Growth

Even though the data are from different years and use different criteria, almost every one of the US News high schools received a letter grade of A or B.  They vary in terms of achievement and growth, and you KNOW we love to focus on growth, but overall the indicators seem to be pointing in the same direction.  It will be interesting to see how the Arkansas and US News rankings line up for the 2016-17 school year.

Differences in methodology aside, the top 10 are some of the ‘Best’ high schools in Arkansas!

 

 

Growth, Poverty, and the Recognition Blues

In The View from the OEP on April 17, 2018 at 4:17 pm

school moneLast week, the ADE released a bunch of information about Arkansas schools, including A-F letter grades, state report cards, and ESSA reports.  Here at OEP, we feel that growth scores are the most important piece of information that was released, and today we want to share some more details about why growth is so important, and why some deserving schools may have missed out on the recognition and reward money.

Growth and Poverty

Growth is so important because it gives a different perspective on how well students are learning in a school, and is not as correlated with student demographics as achievement is. In the graph below, we present the weighted achievement scores and the % of FRL students enrolled at the school (a proxy for poverty).  Weighted achievement scores range from 2 to 105, and FRL rates range from 100% of students eligible to fewer than 5% (note: Haas Hall does not report FRL %ages and so are excluded from the graph).

The values are related in the way that we would expect (a lower percentage of FRL students= higher achievement), and are correlated at R=0.52.  There are some schools that have much higher than typical achievement given the % FRL in their student population, which is awesome, but in general, schools serving more FRL-eligibile students have lower achievement scores.

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By contrast, below we present the content growth scores and the % of FRL students enrolled at the school.  You can see that the values are not as related  (fewer FRL students doesn’t always mean higher growth), and have a lower correlation at R=0.21.  This is a good thing- because we want kids in all schools to be making growth in learning from one year to the next!

CG

You will also notice that the content growth values are all clustered around 80, making it is hard to tell a difference between ‘high growth’ and ‘low growth’ when the axis is scaled from 0 to 125 like the weighted achievement graph.  This is exactly what we mentioned in the OpEd last week– the growth values have a relatively small range (very small standard deviations) compared to the achievement scores.  Below we share a version of the content and a FRL graph with an ‘adjusted axis’ that runs from 70 to 90, so you can see differences in the growth scores.

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With the adjusted axis, you can see differences in content growth scores! There are some schools with low-FRL percentages with high content growth in the upper right corner of the graph.  One example is Willowbrook Elementary in Bentonville, with 15% of students eligible for FRL and content growth score of 89.35.  There are also some high-FRL schools with high content growth scores which are in the upper left corner of the graph. One example is Jones Elementary in Springdale where 98% of students are eligible for FRL, 84% are identified as limited English, and a content growth score of 88.96.  Despite the differences in the student populations served by these two schools, students at both schools demonstrated high growth scores. This is something to celebrate!


The Recognition Blues

Arkansas’ School Recognition Program provides funds for “outstanding schools”.  Schools are rewarded for being in the top 5% (or the 6th to 10th %) in achievement and/or growth.

Given what we know about the relationship between achievement and FRL rates, it should not be surprising that Willowbrook Elementary (with 15% FRL) received reward money for being in the top 5% for achievement, and that Jones Elementary (with 97% FRL) did not. However, both Willowbrook and Jones Elementary received a reward and recognition money for being in the top 5% of content growth among Arkansas schools.

When we were examining who else was rewarded, we noticed that most of the money went to elementary schools. In fact, 59% of the performance rewards, and 65% of the growth rewards went to elementary schools. This made us scratch our heads.

We know that elementary schools are different from schools serving middle and high schools in many ways, but school level also matters when it comes to achievement and growth. In the powerpoint that summarizes the ESSA Indicators, descriptive statistics for each indicator is provided by school level: Elementary, Middle, or High.  You can find the rules for how schools were assigned a level here.  There are substantial differences between the school level groups on achievement scores. For example, let’s examine the achievement score received by schools in the top 5% of each school level.

  • Elementary level = 93.79,
  • Middle level = 91.85, and
  • High school level = 76.53.

The top 5% of elementary schools have higher achievement scores than middle schools and much higher achievement scores (+17 points  or greater than 1 standard deviation) than high schools. It makes sense, then, that about 7% of elementary level and middle level schools were rewarded for highest 5% achievement, but only 1% of high schools received reward money for achievement.

The differences for growth scores between the groups are not as glaring as achievement differences, but remember that the standard deviation is only about 3, so the top 5% of elementary schools have growth scores again about 1 standard deviation higher than middle and high schools.

  • Elementary level = 87.09,
  • Middle level = 84.71, and
  • High school level = 83.94.

We expected to find the top 5% rewards again dominated by  elementary schools, but were surprised to find that 7% of elementary level schools were rewarded for growth along with 5% of high schools. Interestingly, NO middle level schools were rewarded for growth.

We saw that the top 5% of middle schools and high schools have similar growth scores, so why are middle schools not getting recognized?  The recognition program for high schools includes graduation rate, (70% for growth and 30% graduation rate), which generally increases the growth score because graduation rates are typically higher than growth rates. With the deck stacked against them, not even J.O. Kelly, the highest growth middle level school in the state ( J.O. Kelly from Springdale) could crack the top 5% for growth.

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

Hey! If you want to see how your school ranks within schools serving similar grade levels , check our database. We ranked schools within their school levels, making it easy to identify the elementary schools with the highest achievement scores as well as the high schools with the highest growth scores.

NAEP Nuggets!

In The View from the OEP on April 10, 2018 at 3:31 pm

NAEP results were released today, and Arkansas’ results look about the same as they did in 2015. NAEP is administered nationally to a representative sample of students from all 50 states, so acts as a standard measure of student performance across states and time.

This trend of ‘meh’ was widespread across the country (although Florida had some strong gains!).  Here at OEP, we dug into the new results and are pleased to share six NAEP nuggets with you. You can learn more details in today’s policy brief!

 

NAEP Nugget #1:  Arkansas’ 2017 NAEP scores were essentially unchanged from the 2015 results BUT 2015 was a decline from 2013, so this is not great news because we were all hoping 2015 was a one-year-blip that we would bounce back from. In fact, as the figure below highlights, Arkansas scores were the highest in 2011 and 2013, and have trailed off since. Fingers crossed for 2019!!

NAEP 2017

Arkansas NAEP Scale Scores, 2003-2017

 

NAEP Nugget #2: 4th and 8th grade Math scores are lower than those of Arkansas’ border states (this group includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas).  This is particularly a bummer in 4th grade because we outperformed them from 2005 to 2013!

4thMath

4th Grade NAEP Math Scores, 2003-2017

 

NAEP Nugget #3: 4th and 8th grade Reading scores are also lower than those of Arkansas’ border states. Again, this is particularly a bummer in 4th grade because we outperformed them from 2003 to 2013.

g4 reading

4th Grade NAEP Reading Scores 2003-2017

 

NAEP Nugget #4: Math score gaps between student groups widened in 2017 due to decreased performance of at-risk groups and increased performance of other students.

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FRL NAEP Math Score Gap: 4th Grade 2003-2017

 

NAEP Nugget #5: 8th grade Reading score gaps between student groups decreased slightly in 2017, due to an increase in the scores for at-risk student groups.  Although the scores for black and FRL-Eligible students increased, they remain below 2013 levels.

bwg8reading

Black/White NAEP Reading Score Gap: 8th Grade 2003-2017

 

NAEP Nugget #6: ACT Aspire ELA performance is similar to NAEP Reading, but Math proficiency rates are higher for ACT Aspire than for NAEP. We need to pay careful attention to the difference between the NAEP and ACT Aspire math scores.  When we send and receive conflicting messages about how well our students are performing in math, it can make it difficult to determine how well our students are doing and which sorts of educational interventions are making a difference for our students.

ACTASpireNAEP

NAEP Proficiency and ACT Aspire Performance, 2017

We have our fingers crossed that the changes laid out in ESSA will make a big difference to student learning in Arkansas, and look forward to seeing NAEP results again in 2019.

Meanwhile- there is a lot more data coming out this week about Arkansas’ schools- follow OEP to get insight about what all the numbers really mean!

 

Growth Scores Matter

In The View from the OEP on April 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 11.28.10 AM

OEP wanted to share our OpEd that was published in today’s Democrat-Gazette.  We wrote it to highlight why we think a school’s growth score is critical to understanding how well a school is serving all students.  Although growth scores were supposed to be weighted more heavily in the ESSA index (on which the letter grades are calculated), in reality the schools with high growth received lower grades than schools with high achievement.

We created an interactive data visualization to help you see what we think is the most important measure of schools for parents, students, educators, and policymakers to understand.  You can also download the data behind the viz from our website. Check it out and let us know what you think!


 

School ratings miss opportunity

Posted: April 12, 2018 at 2:47 a.m.

Arkansas’ public schools are being assigned A-F letter grades, and we at the Office for Education Policy are always supportive of providing information on school improvement. But for a thorough understanding of how well our schools are doing, we must look beyond the school grades.

Letter grades are familiar to parents and students because teachers use them to communicate how well the student is performing in their class. Teachers can choose what counts most in their class; one teacher makes the final a huge part of the grade but doesn’t count homework for much, while another teacher counts every homework assignment and allows students who are doing well to skip the final altogether. Different approaches to grading send a signal about what is important.

Arkansas’ new school grading system was developed to send the signal that increasing students’ learning over time is more important than how many students at the school pass the annual test. We agree, but were disappointed to find that, in practice, schools with higher passing rates receive higher grades than those where students are growing more. Because the letter grade doesn’t reflect what we think is the real measure of school quality, we urge you to look beyond the grade.

The intention of the A-F school grades is to help parents and the public better understand how well a school is performing, but the current system still paints an incomplete picture and thus sends the wrong message about what matters. For years, since the No Child Left Behind legislation was signed in 2002, the measure of how well a school was performing was current achievement, measured by the percentage of the schools’ students who passed the state’s annual exams. Schools serving more advantaged students typically received “good” scores because a high percentage of their students passed, while schools serving a larger percentage of students who lived in poverty, participated in special education, or were learning English often were labeled “not good” because too few of their students were able to pass the test.

The clear connection between passage rates and student demographics suggests that point-in-time test scores were not a good measure of how well a school was educating students, but rather a reflection of the wealth of the community being served by the school. Critics (like us at OEP) suggested a better measure of school success would be based on student learning growth. Growth measures how much individual students at the school increased their scores from year to year. Using growth as a measure of school success levels the playing field because all students are evaluated by the extent to which they grow from their own starting point; thus, students facing socioeconomic barriers to achievement have the same opportunity for growth as their peers from advantaged backgrounds. All students can grow their understanding, and we should expect all schools to foster student growth, regardless of family income, first language, or learning needs.

It is true that Arkansas’ new grading system includes a category for student academic growth, alongside the category for current test passage rates. In fact, for elementary schools, growth counts as 50 percent of the grade, achievement counts for 35 percent, while “other” school quality indicators count 15 percent. Based on these numbers, it would seem that schools with high growth would get a better grade than schools with high passage rates, but it doesn’t work out that way.

In the current system, the overall school grades are influenced very little by student growth. For example, an elementary school with high growth and low current passage rates gets a “C,” while one with low growth but high passage rates gets a “B.” Even when a school is growing student learning better than 97 percent of the schools in the state (+2 standard deviations), if the school boasts only average passage rates, that school will earn a “B.” On the other hand, a school with average growth and very high passage rates will receive an “A.” Simply put, schools with high passage rates still earn better grades than schools with high growth.

The mismatch between what the letter grades were supposed to reward and what the grades actually reward is due to a mathematical problem of big differences in the variability of the measures for passage rate and for growth. Without wading too deep into the technical details, we can tell you that this issue won’t be difficult to fix, and we hope the Department of Education will adjust this for future school grades. In the meantime, however, we recommend you look past the overall grade and check your school’s growth score.

What is a really good growth score? It depends on the grade levels served by the school. Elementary schools with a growth score of 83 or higher (82 or higher for middle/ junior high, and high schools) are growing students’ understanding more than 75 percent of schools in the state.

If your school has a really good growth score, you should celebrate in a big way! Even though the overall letter grade may not reflect it, your school is doing what’s really important: helping all students learn.

Hey! What About Arkansas’ Teacher Pay?

In The View from the OEP on April 3, 2018 at 1:33 pm
tchrprotests

Source: masslive.com

In light of the recent events surrounding teacher pay in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona, we wanted to take a moment to review recent OEP research about teacher pay in these states and in Arkansas.  Also, be sure to register for the OEP conference on April 24th that will address teacher pipeline issues including teacher pay!

In our report, we used three methods to examine teacher pay across the nation.  First we examined average teacher salary for each state, then we adjusted the teacher salary for state cost of living in the state, and finally we indexed the average teacher salary to the median income in the state.  Table 1 provides these values and the national ranking for each, focusing on the states that are ‘in the news’ for teacher salary.

Table 1. Average Teacher Salary, Adjusted Teacher Salary, and Median Income IndexTCHRsalary

Are teachers salaries in these states exceptionally low? It depends on how you look at it.

Let’s take West Virginia as an example. As can be seen in Table 1, West Virginia’s average teacher salary was $45,977 in 2015-16, which ranked 46th out of the 50 states and DC.  So yes, West Virginia teachers have a low average salary compared to other states. The cost of living in West Virginia is slightly below the national average (95), so when we adjust the average teacher salary by the cost of living it increases slightly to $48,397.  The state’s national ranking is essentially unchanged at 47th.  So yes, even after adjusting for the cost of living, West Virginia teachers have a low average salary compared to other states. West Virginia has one of the lowest median household incomes in the nation at just over $41,000. The average teacher in West Virginia earns 110% of the median income value for the state, which ranks 12th highest in the nation. This means that West Virginia teachers earn more compared to the typical household in West Virginia than their peers in most other states.

In Oklahoma, the average teacher salary is near the bottom, increasing slightly when adjusted for cost of living, declining a few spots when compared to median household income for the state. Kentucky stands out among the included states, because the average teacher salary is near the national average, and ranks 15th when adjusted for cost of living, and 4th when compared to median household income for the state. Arizona teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, no matter which metric you consider.

Arkansas’ average teacher salaries rank 40th nationally, but increase to 22nd after adjusting for our state’s low cost of living.  The average Arkansas teacher salary is 117% of the median income for the state, ranking 7th highest in the country.

Teacher salaries are generally determined by local districts, as they are in Arkansas, or negotiated through contracts with teacher unions. We suggest that teacher salaries should reflect strategic goals of the local education agency and/or the state.  Want to attract more quality applicants into teaching?  Raise starting teacher salaries!  Want to increase applicants to high poverty districts?  Provide bonuses, loan forgiveness, or other incentives for those teachers.  There are many ideas about how adjusting teacher salaries can positively influence student learning, unfortunately, across-the-board-raises for current teachers isn’t one of them.

A couple of things to note:

  1. The average teacher salary is just that, an average for the state.  Teacher salaries often vary based on education and experience, which is not captured in this information.  It is possible that teachers in some states are more educated and experienced than teachers in other states, which could account for some of the difference in average salary.  Also, this does not capture the minimum starting teacher salary, or the ‘top of the scale’ salary. In the report we completed for Arkansas, we control for teacher experience and education in district-by-district salary comparisons.
  2. Cost of living can vary significantly within states, so a more detailed analysis can  identify the relative ‘purchasing power’ of teacher salaries by district.  We present this information for each Arkansas district in the teacher salary report.
  3. We acknowledge that teachers are required to complete additional education to obtain their license, and the typical household is not.  We are not suggesting that teachers salaries should be tied to the median income for their state, but rather view the median income as an indicator of state resources, and the relationship between teacher salaries and household income as a reflection of the value being placed on teachers in the state. Information about the relationship between Arkansas districts and the median household income in their communities is included in our teacher salary report.