University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

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Vouchers in Arkansas: Examining the Succeed Scholarship Program

In The View from the OEP on January 11, 2017 at 1:34 pm

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President-elect Donald Trump, an open supporter of school choice, has nominated Betsy Devos for Secretary of Education. Devos was most recently the Chairwoman of the board of directors for the American Federation for Children, a lobbying, political action committee (PAC), and non-profit organization that promotes school choice across the country.  This political atmosphere requires that we think critically about how school choice policies apply to the state of Arkansas.

School Choice in Arkansas

Arkansas already provides for several types of school choice. The most well-known is charter schools, which are public schools that are independently operated but receive federal and state funding and held to all accountability requirements. Currently, Arkansas has 24 open-enrollment charter schools operating 43 campuses.  Another type of school choice that may be less familiar is vouchers. Arkansas has a new program allowing such vouchers for students with disabilities, and today’s policy brief examines the program and what it might mean for Arkansas.

The Succeed Scholarship

The 2016-17 school year is the first year that Arkansas’ students with disabilities could use state education dollars as tuition at authorized private schools. The Succeed Scholarship Program, passed by House Bill 1552, permits public school students with disabilities to transfer to an approved private school of their parent’s choosing with the support of the student’s full foundation funding to cover school tuition and fees. Students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) can apply to participating private schools, and, if accepted, receive a voucher worth the state’s foundation funding amount (currently $6,646) or school tuition, whichever is less. Approved private schools are held to academic, fiscal, non-discrimination, and safety standards.

The underlying belief behind private school choice is that parents have their own goals for the education of their students and also have a better understanding of what their student needs than do school officials. In the case of special education students, this is critical because traditional public schools offer similar special education services, and parents may not feel that these services will meet the needs of their student.  Moreover, students who are geographically tied to attend a poor performing traditional school should be provided the means to obtain a high quality education regardless of their family wealth.  These types of choices have always been afforded to wealthy Americans, and private school choice programs afford all parents the same options.

Private school choice programs (i.e. vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, education savings accounts, etc.) for students with disabilities are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the southern United States. While most other private school choice programs target students from low-income households, programs like the Succeed Scholarship offer a private school voucher to students based on enrollment in special education.  Special education has had a long history of utilizing private schools to provide appropriate services for students with disabilities.  Through the IEP process, districts can place students in private schools if they are unable to properly support their academic progress.  A voucher, however, takes the district decision-making out of the equation, and it allows parents to place their students in private schools on their own.

Impacts for Arkansas

There are potential cost savings from the Succeed Scholarship Program for the state and district. Students with disabilities receive funding from state, local and federal sources, but the program  only allots state foundation funding for the voucher, leaving more federal and local funding available to all other students who remain in the public school system. Additionally, the current bill funds the Succeed Scholarship outside of the Public School Fund, leaving all state funding that would have gone to these students available.

To some extent, we may see all of these areas as clear reasons why a program like the Succeed Scholarship should exist. An important concern, however, is that families must relinquish their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) while enrolled in the Succeed Scholarship program. While parents can return at any time to the public schools or even transfer to another private school participating in the program, potential negative effects exist from a school that neglecting the special needs of a student with a disability. Another concern is that the voucher amount may not cover the entire cost of tuition at a school that will meet the student’s needs, and poor families would not be able to supplement (“top up”) the voucher. This is particularly true for students with the most severe disabilities, who cost substantially more to educate. Private schools that participate cannot discriminate in their admissions process, but they can use their normal entrance requirements, including testing, interviews, and review of records. Students with academic, social/emotional, and behavioral disabilities, may be at a real disadvantage and be de facto discriminated against, limiting their true school choices.

Special education private school choice programs are often seen as a “foot in the door” for school choice laws. Once some success has been shown to the public, more laws can be passed to expand these programs. The political climate is ripe for such potential expansion, whether these programs are targeted to students from low-income households or available to all students. Eyes are on the current legislative session to see if the issue of private school choice arises once again in Arkansas. It is essential that citizens and legislators alike consider the potential costs and benefits, not just for students today but for generations to come.

Stop Scapegoating: Educating kids should be the focus

In The View from the OEP on January 4, 2017 at 12:35 pm

In case you missed it- we wanted to share our Op-Ed from the paper this weekend about charter school enrollment in Little Rock.


 

img_3836The approved expansion of two Little Rock-area charter schools led many to express fears that charter schools skim off the easiest-to-educate students and leave “those other kids” for traditional schools. Specifically, concerns were raised that charters would decrease the white population of Little Rock School District and increase the district’s percentage of poor students.

We at the Office for Education Policy also care about the interactions between public charter schools and traditional public schools and decided to investigate what the data had to say about these questions. We examined student-level enrollment and academic data from the 2008-09 to 2014-15 school years. We tracked annual student moves to understand who leaves the Little Rock district for charters and how those moves impact racial and socioeconomic integration.

We found that students who left the district for charters were typical, both demographically and academically, and their exits increased racial and socioeconomic integration in the district.

As a reminder, charter schools are public schools. Like traditional public schools, there is no cost for students to attend. Unlike traditional public schools, to which students are assigned based on their address, open-enrollment charters are open to any student. Charters are authorized to serve a specific number of students, so students must apply for a seat. If more students want to attend than there are seats, students are selected through a random lottery. Students who are not selected can remain on a wait list. Charter schools cannot select or reject student applications based on demographic or academic characteristics. Charters must administer all state exams and abide by identical accountability requirements.

About 15 percent of students (excluding graduates) leave the Little Rock School District each year for some other schooling option. We were surprised to find that nearly half of these students (7 percent) leave the Arkansas public school system entirely–they move out of state, drop out, or select private or home school settings. Some (6 percent) move to other public school districts; half move nearby to the North Little Rock or Pulaski County districts, and half move to other public schools in the state. Perhaps surprisingly, given all of the attention given to charter transfers, only 2 percent (fewer than one of every seven who leave) of students transfer from the Little Rock district to charter schools each year!

What do we know about these students?

First, the 2 percent of students who transferred into area charters were representative of the district student population as a whole. Students who moved to charters were 64 percent black and 19 percent white, compared to the district population of 67 percent black and 20 percent white. Socioeconomically, 61 percent of students who moved to charters were eligible for free/reduced lunch, while 69 percent of district students participated. Students who left for area charters were not more likely to be white or economically advantaged than the overall district population.

Students who left for area charters performed similarly on state assessments as students who remained. In four of the six years examined, there were no statistically significant differences in scores between students who left for charters and those who remained in the district. However, students who left for charters were average performers in their school in all years examined. This finding refutes the argument that charters poach the best students.

Further, we found that when students exited the district for charters, the schools they left behind became less racially and/or socioeconomically segregated.

Our findings contradict critics’ concern that charters increase racial and socioeconomic segregation. One fact we must acknowledge is that Little Rock district schools are already racially and socioeconomically segregated. Thus, when students exit, they are most often leaving segregated settings. We found that black students who leave tend to exit schools with an above-average percentage of black students, and white students leave schools with an above-average percentage of white students.

Residential segregation in Little Rock, as in many other cities throughout the U.S., results in racial and socioeconomic segregation of residentially assigned public schools. Charter schools allow for students to enroll regardless of ZIP code. Little Rock families who choose to sever the link between where they live and the school that their children attend are countering the racial and socioeconomic segregation of traditional public schools.

Those who are passionate about equity should stop demonizing charters and chasing the false argument that charters cause segregation; instead, we should focus our collective energy on providing an affirming and effective learning environments for all Little Rock public school students–regardless of sector.

A wise school leader once said that “the students don’t care whether the sign outside the school says ‘Charter’ or not.” They simply need effective teachers who care about them and prepare them for the future.

Sarah C. McKenzie is the executive director of the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. Elise Swanson is a research assistant at the Office for Education Policy and a distinguished doctoral fellow in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

Editorial on 12/31/2016

http://www.nwaonline.com/news/2016/dec/31/stop-scapegoating-20161231/

 

Quality Counts 2017

In The View from the OEP on January 4, 2017 at 12:34 pm

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Today Education Week released their annual Quality Counts report, which grades each state on their education performance.  This year Arkansas received an overall grade of C- and is ranked 43rd overall.  While receiving a C- is not new (Arkansas has received a C- for the last two years) our national ranking has slipped from 36th in 2015, to 41st in 2016, to the current 43rd.  As we have discussed in previous blog posts there are several issues with the grading system, and Arkansas’ scores have remained essentially stagnant.  We will dig into the report, but want to emphasize that we should not let this grade distract us from the work going on in the state.

This year’s report includes summative grades and rankings for states on education indicators as well as a special focus on transition to ESSA.

What is Being Graded?

A state’s overall grade is the average of its scores on three separate indicators: Chance-for-Success, K-12 Achievement and School Finance.  The format was updated in 2015 in an attempt to focus on “outcomes rather than on policy and processes.” Although the report can be useful there are several issues with the grading system; previous blog posts have discussed the flawed nature of the grading system.

Below are the most recent three years of  Arkansas grades in each of the categories considered for 2017.  The full report highlighting Arkansas student achievement can be accessed here.

Quality Counts Categories AR Grade 2015 AR Grade 2016 AR Grade 2017
Chance for Success C- C-  C-
School Finance C C-  C-
K-12 Achievement D+ D  D*

* Note: K-12 Achievement values are unchanged from the 2016 Quality Counts report

We will dig into the report, but want to emphasize that we should not be too distracted by this grade, which reflects


The High and the Low:

Each of the three areas are an average of many other scores, so here at OEP we wanted to bring out the high (ranked in top 15 states) and low (ranked in bottom 15 states) areas for each category.

Chance for Success: According to EdWeek, “The Chance-for-Success framework allows states to identify strong and weak links in their residents’ educational life course―their typical trajectory from childhood through adulthood.”

  • High scores:  Arkansas ranks 9th nationally in steady adult employment- the percent of adults in labor force working full-time and year round. We rank 15th in the percentage of students attending preschool!
  • Low scores: Arkansas ranked 49th in annual income and in percent of adults with a two- or four-year degree- only 30.3% of Arkansas adults have a postsecondary degree. We also ranked low in other indicators: family income, parental education, parental employment, elementary reading, middle school math, and postsecondary enrollment.

School Finance: Examining school finance can provide insight into how well a state is supporting public education. This measure is one of the most problematic in our opinion, as Arkansas supports education well in our view.

  • High scores: Spending on education Arkansas ranked 11th nationally in the percent of taxable resources spent on education even higher than Massachusetts!
  • Low scores: Arkansas provides near the national average in per pupil spending when adjusted for variations in regional costs.  Because Arkansas’ funding is so equitable across the state, only 14.7% of students are in districts where the expenditures are above the national average.  Although we received low scores for this measure, here at the OEP we think the equity is a good thing!

K-12 Achievement:  The K-12 Achievement Index is unchanged from the 2016 report because it uses data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which is only administered every other year.  The Index examines 18 distinct state achievement measures related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates, and the results of Advanced Placement exams.

  • High scores:  Arkansas ranked high in both 8th grade math gains and closing of the 4th grade reading achievement gap
  • Low scores: Arkansas ranked low compared to other states in math and reading achievement (2015 NAEP: 4th and 8th grade)

The strong scores summarized above reflect Arkansas’s commitment to education and that students are making gains.  The low scores reflect the many challenges that Arkansas students face: poverty, low parental and adult educational attainment, and, unfortunately, low achievement (especially in math). Although a D in student achievement is not what we would like to see, it is important to remember that these scores are old- from the 2015 NAEP administration and Arkansas’ students are making gains.


So what can we do?

This is EdWeek’s measure of educational quality, but here at OEP we don’t think it accurately captures all the strengths and areas for improvement.  ESSA is allowing states to develop measures of student achievement that are MEANINGFUL TO THEM.  Arkansas continues to gather input from stakeholders about what student success looks like for our state.  We recommend that you make your voice heard!

We believe that if policymakers and education leaders can focus on meaningful data, like student achievement AND growth, equity and efficiency in the face of disadvantage, and post-secondary transitions, students in Arkansas can continue to improve and reach greater levels of educational and lifelong success.

Rewards and Recognition

In The View from the OEP on December 21, 2016 at 1:33 pm

Here at the OEP, we love to see schools get recognized for excellence.  Last Friday, the Arkansas Department of Education announced the Arkansas School Recognition and Reward Program (read the commissioners memo about the program here).

The ADE rankings of schools are posted on the OEP website here and you can look to see how your school fared in the performance and growth/graduation rankings.

Show me the Money!

The program is offering almost $7 million in reward funds to 158 schools (out of 1,037 schools in the state). Education funding is not often allocated at the school-level by the state, and so this program is unique in distributing funding directly to schools, as opposed to the district-level.

Schools receive $100 per student for being in the top 5% of schools in the state and $50 per student for being in the top 6-10% of schools in the state.

Schools can spend the money on:

  • Non-recurring bonuses to faculty and staff,
  • temporary personnel to assist, maintain and improve student performance, or
  • educational equipment or materials.

A school committee including the principal, a teacher elected by the faculty, and a parent representative (as selected by the PTA or another parental involvement group) determine how the school would like to spend the funds, and the proposal must then be approved by the ADE.

There are two categories of rewards: Performance and Growth/ Graduation.

 Performance Rewards:

  • Performance awards are based on student performance on the 2015-16 state assessments in ELA and Math.

There are 51 schools in the top 5% and 52 schools between 6% and 10%:

  • 76 are elementary schools (14% of the state’s elementary schools),
  • 25 are middle and junior high schools (12%of the state’s middle and junior high schools)
  • 2 are high schools (less than 1% of the state’s high schools – only Haas Hall Fayetteville and Bentonville)

Not surprisingly, the schools rewarded for performance are less poor than the state: only 33% of students in the top 5% performance schools and 45% of students in the top 6-10% receive free-and-reduced lunch, while schools that did not receive a performance reward serve 64% FRL population.

Although there is a relationship between student performance and poverty, there isn’t a strong correlation between performance rank and student poverty.  The figure below shows the relationship between each school’s Performance Rank and % FRL.  The schools in the green box are schools identified for performance rewards as they were ranked above the 90th percentile.  On the far left side of the figure, you can see a school with a performance rank of 99 and 0% FRL.  If you look to the right side of the figure, however, you can see that a school with 80% of students eligible for FRL received a performance rank of 95. This school, College Station Elementary from PCSSD, is an example of a school where students are high performing despite academic risk factors.

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As can be seen in the figure below, the Northwest and Mentral regions have the highest percentages of performance reward schools (48% and 32% respectively).

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performance-state

 

 

Growth/ Graduation Rewards:

  • Growth awards are based on school-level growth in student performance from the 2014-15 to the 2015-16 state assessments in ELA and Math.
  • For high schools, this award is based on the ranking on their 2015 graduation rate.

Growth: There are 35 schools in the top 5% and 40 schools between 6% and 10%:

  • 50 are elementary schools (9% of the state’s elementary schools),
  • 25 are middle or junior high school, in addition to a few small high schools (12% of the state’s middle and junior high schools.

Graduation: There are 15 high schools in the top 5% and 15 schools between 6% and 10% (11% of the state’s high schools).  More than half of these schools are 7-12 schools, and the average enrollment is less than 300 students.

We would expect student growth and graduation to be less correlated to student participation in FRL, and it is a little more diverse, but the schools rewarded for growth and graduation  are still less poor than the state: only 36% of students in the top 5% growth/grad schools and 49% of students in the top 6-10% receive free-and-reduced lunch, while schools that did not receive a growth/grad reward serve 63% FRL population.

The figure below shows the relationship between each school’s Growth Rank and % FRL. High schools with graduation rankings are not included in the figure, to allow better examination of the relationship between poverty and growth. The schools in the green box are schools identified for growth rewards as they were ranked above the 90th percentile.  On the far left side of the figure, you can see a school with a performance rank of 98 and 7% FRL.  If you look to the right side of the figure, however, you can see that a school with 92% of students eligible for FRL received a performance rank of 92. This school, Pine Bluff Lighthouse College Prep, is an example of a school where students are demonstrating high academic growth despite academic risk factors.

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As can be seen in the figure below, the Northwest and Central regions have the highest percentages of growth/graduation reward schools (43% and 33% respectively).

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growth-state

Closing Thoughts:

Hooray!   Congratulations to all the schools who received awards!   We love the use of a student-level growth model to reward schools who are making strong gains with their students but may not yet be achieving the highest levels of performance.  We did find it interesting, however, that there was such overlap between the awards: only 1/4 of the schools who received an award for growth did not also receive an award for performance.

Hmmm…We are concerned that the reward money is flowing only to certain areas of the state as almost no schools in the Southwest or Southeast regions of the state received reward money for performance or growth/ graduation.

We hope that schools who didn’t receive a reward this year examine the data to see which schools that are similar to them DID.  In both the performance and growth graphic, we can see that there are schools with similar FRL % ages performing at very different levels.

We would also be interested in seeing how schools are spending the money and what impact that is having on teachers and students.

We hope you and yours enjoy the holiday and stay tuned for more analysis about student performance and growth!


 

Is Little Rock Getting More Segregated?

In The View from the OEP on December 5, 2016 at 11:27 am

Group of Friends Smiling

Today we are excited to release the fifth policy brief regarding student integration in Little Rock public schools, where we answer the question about the racially and economically segregative impact of student moves from traditional public schools to charters.

Actually, because only 2% of students from the area TPSs switch to charters each year, we are not just interested in the students that switch from traditional public schools to charters.  We are also wondering about the impact of ALL students that choose to leave the Little Rock metro area traditional public school system (Little Rock School District, North Little Rock School District and Pulaski County Special School District). This includes students who leave for other traditional public schools (about 6% of students annually), or for other non-public educational options such as homeschooling or private school (about 7% of students annually).

Our question was what is the segregative impact of the 15% of students leaving the Little Rock metro area traditional public schools each year?  Are the traditional public schools becoming more racially or economically  segregated as a result of students leaving?

So what did we find?

Overall, when students exit traditional public schools in the Little Rock metro area, their exit makes the school more integrated.

  • 84% of moves made by black or white students resulted in a racially integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.
  • 79% of student moves resulted in an economically integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.

Wow. But what about just those kids leaving TPSs for charters?   Are those resulting in more segregated traditional schools?

No. When students exit traditional public schools in the Little Rock metro area to attend charters in the area, their exit still makes the school more integrated.

  • 83% of black or white student moves from traditional schools to charters resulted in a racially integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.
  • 78% of economically disadvantaged student moves from traditional schools to charters resulted in an economically integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.

Wow. But what about just those kids leaving Little Rock School District for charters?   Are those resulting in more segregated traditional schools?

Nope. When students exit traditional public schools in the Little Rock School District to attend charters in the area, their exit makes the school more integrated.

  • 89% of black or white student moves from traditional schools to charters resulted in a racially integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.
  • 78% of economically disadvantaged student moves from traditional schools to charters resulted in an economically integrative or neutral effect on the traditional public school that they exited.

Wow! So what does that mean?

This analysis shows that, currently, student transfers out of traditional schools are  improving the level of racial and economic integration in the Little Rock metro area public school system. How can this be?

When we think about increasing integration, we picture students entering a school with students who are racially or demographically different from themselves.  What we found in this analysis, however, is that integration is occurring because students are leaving traditional public schools where the majority of students are ‘like them’; white students are leaving schools with above average percentages of white students, and black students are leaving schools with above average percentages of black students. The same pattern is present for economic differences in enrollment; students eligible for FRL are leaving schools with higher concentrations of poverty, while Non-FRL students are leaving schools with lower concentrations of poverty.  When the students leave, therefore, their schools look less ‘like them’ and become more racially and economically integrated.

Why are students going to traditional public schools with so many students that are demographically similar to themselves? Geographic segregation can result in attendance zones being racially and economically segregated.  We see that the majority of schools in LRSD have over 80% of students eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, but that there are three schools with fewer than 30% of students on FRL.  The racial breakdowns are similar, with the majority of schools enrolling over 80% minority students, but the three schools with the low FRL enrollment also have the lowest minority enrollment.

While we are glad to see that student transfers out of traditional public schools in the Little Rock metro area are not leading to increased segregation in the schools they exit, we are concerned about the disparities present in traditional public schools. The integrative effects of students leaving traditional public schools result from the wide racial and even wider economic disparities between traditional public schools.

We feel the results of these analyses should be a catalyst to focus not on perceived (but factually incorrect) segregative impacts of LR area charter schools.  Many students and their parents (15% annually) are making different education choices than LR Metro TPSs.  Some are leaving the public school system altogether, others are choosing to attend other traditional public schools, and some are enrolling in charters. We need to respect parents’ choices for their students and focus on quality educational experiences for students in our classrooms.

Integration isn’t just about numbers, but about students building authentic relationships with peers from different backgrounds, and experiencing meaningful educational experiences together. We need to continue to track enrollment trends in the Little Rock area, but we need to ensure we are working together to support high quality education for all students.


How did you figure this out?

Here we are going to give some context to our analysis, but if you are really interested please read the policy brief or the (even more detailed) Arkansas Education Report.

First, we defined what we meant by segregated. What ‘should’ the racial demographics of schools be?  Is the standard an equally balanced 50% black students and 50% white students? Nationally, 73% of the population is white and 13% is black, but in Arkansas 80% are white and 16% are black.  When we just examine students enrolled in Arkansas’ public schools, however, there is a marked difference in racial representation: in 2015-16,  62% of students are white and 21% are black. But we aren’t interested in all of Arkansas, because we are only talking about school in Pulaski County.  Here the difference is more significant: 59% of the population in Pulaski County is white and 36% is black, but in the public school population, only 29% of the population is white while 56% is black. We decided to use a 10 percentage point window around the annual black, white and economically disadvantaged percentages for all students enrolled in the public school system in the Little Rock metro area as our definition of integrated. Schools with greater or lesser representation were identified as segregated.

Second, we considered the demographics of each student that exits a traditional public school to determine the impact of the move on the school.  The combination of the student demographics and the racial or economic percentages of students enrolled at the school can result in the move being integrative, segregative or neutral.

  • If a black student exits a school with above average black enrollment, then the black enrollment of the school decreases and the student’s move makes the school slightly more like the average.  In this case we label the move racially integrative.
  • If, however, a white student exited a school with above average black enrollment, then the black enrollment of the school increases and the move makes the school slightly less like the average. In this case we label the move racially segregative.
  • If either a black or a white student exited a school with enrollment within ten percentage points of the average black enrollment in the Little Rock Metro Area, then the move is considered racially neutral.

We repeated this procedure for students relative to their Free/ Reduced Lunch status (a proxy for poverty) and the percentage of students at the school who were eligible for FRL.

Third, we had to identify the samples. We examined all moves out of Little Rock metro Area  TPSs (Little Rock School District, North Little Rock School District and Pulaski County Special School District) by race (black/white) and Free/Reduced Lunch status as a proxy measure of low socio-economic status.  We repeated the analysis for only those students from Little Rock School District. We used student-level data to examine annual moves from 2008-09 to 2014-15.

For more information about our data, our methodology and our results please read the full Arkansas Education Report.

Just the Facts: Integration in the Little Rock Area Part 4 Current Integration in LR

In The View from the OEP on November 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

As part of our ongoing examination of integration in the Little Rock Area public school system, we are pleased to announce the fourth brief in our series which examines the current state of integration. In this brief, we again explore questions of race and poverty and compare across traditional public school (TPS) and public charter school sectors.

We wondered:

  • What percentage of students go to racially hyper-segregated schools where 90% or more of the students are the same race?
  • What percentage of students go to socioeconomically hyper-segregated schools where 90% or more of the students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch?
  • What percentage of students attend racially integrated schools?
  • What percentage of students attend socioeconomically integrated schools?

To answer these questions, we used school demographic data from 2008-09 to 2014-15.

As shown in the table below, in 2014-15, only 4 TPSs and 1 charter school in the Little Rock Metro Area (LRMA) were identified as racially hyper-segregated. Little Rock Metro Area includes traditional public schools in LRSD, NLRSD and PCSSD as well as all public charter schools in the area.

 Number of Schools in the Little Rock Metro Area by Percent Black Enrollment, 2014-15 by Sector.pb_1415

What percentage of students go to racially hyper-segregated schools where 90% or more of the students are the same race? Less than 7%, but varies slightly by sector.

Over the seven years examined,  6% of charter students, 5% of LRMA TPS students, and 7% of LRSD students attended schools where 90% or more of students are of the same race.

 

 

What percentage of students go to socioeconomically hyper-segregated schools where 90% or more of the students are the eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch? About 20% overall, but varies significantly by sector.

Over the seven years examined, 3% of charter students, 18% of LRMA TPS students, and 22% of LRSD students attended schools where 90% or more of students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch.

 

 

What percentage of students go to racially integrated schools where the student racial demographics are similar to the Little Rock Metro Area public school population as a whole?  About 40% overall, and varies slightly by sector and black or white enrollment.

Over the seven years examined, 50% of charter students, 47% of LRMA TPS students, and 42% of LRSD students attended schools where the percentage of black students enrolled was similar to the LRMA average overall (+/- 15 percentage points).  When white integration is examined, however, there are differences by sector:  60% of charter students, 37% of LRMA TPS students, and 27% of LRSD students attended schools where the percentage of white students enrolled was similar to the LRMA average overall (+/- 15 percentage points).

 

 

What percentage of students go to socioeconomically integrated schools where the student FRL percentage is similar to the Little Rock Metro Area public school population as a whole?  Fewer than 37% overall, and varies significantly by sector.

Over the seven years examined, 14% of charter students, 37% of LRMA TPS students, and 25% of LRSD students attended schools where the percentage of FRL students enrolled was similar to the LRMA average overall (+/- 15 percentage points).

Perhaps in part due to the smaller number of schools in the charter group, charters evidenced greater differences from the area average in the percent black students. Charters also evidenced greater differences from the area average in the percent FRL students. The area average is largely driven by the traditional public schools and we have seen in previous briefs how charters enroll a more economically advantaged population.  It is important to remember that like traditional public schools, charter schools cannot select students based on demographic characteristices.  Unlike traditional schools, charter students do not have to live within certain geographic boundaries.

 

Now that we have an understanding of the current state of racial and socioeconomic integration in Little Rock Area Public Schools, we can answer the question of whether student moves are helping to integrate or segregate the Little Rock Metro Area school system. Stay tuned to find out the results of  whether the student moves between traditional and charter schools helped the public schools look more or less like the overall demographics of the Little Rock Metro Area.

Just The Facts: Integration in the Little Rock Area Part 3 Where do students move?

In The View from the OEP on November 10, 2016 at 9:57 am

As part of our ongoing examination of student enrollment patterns in the Little Rock Area, we are pleased to announce the third brief in our series which examines characteristics of schools that students are switching to.  In this brief, we again explore questions of race, poverty, and achievement, but from the school level.  We wondered:

  • Are students more likely to transfer to schools with higher concentrations of same-race students?
  • Do students switch to schools with higher overall academic performance?
  • Are students eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL) more likely to transfer to schools with higher concentrations of FRL eligible students?

To answer these questions, we used student-level data from 2008-09 to 2014-15 to examine differences in the schools that students were exiting and entering.  As in other analyses, we examine students switching between traditional public schools in Little Rock Schools District (LRSD) and public charter schools in the Little Rock area and vice versa.

Are students moving into schools with more students of their race? Not consistently

We found no consistent pattern of differences in the racial composition between the LRSD traditional schools and the charters students moved into.  In some years, students transferred into schools that had a higher percentage of students who were the same race as the student, but in other years that wasn’t the case.  Even in years where differences were present, they were relatively small.  For example, in 2015, black students leaving LRSD for charters entered schools with 9% fewer black students, and black students leaving charters for LRSD entered schools with 1% more black students. White students leaving LRSD for charters entered schools with 8% more white students, and white students leaving charters for LRSD entered schools with 4% fewer white students.

Are students moving into higher performing schools?  No, the schools are about the same.

There is also no pattern of differences in the academic performance of the LRSD schools and the charters that students transferred between during this time.  Students who left charters for LRSD also moved to schools with similar academic performance.

Are students moving into schools with fewer FRL students?  Students moving from LRSD to charters move to schools with fewer FRL students, while students moving from charters to LRSD move to schools with more.

Students from LRSD entering charters consistently moved into schools serving a substantially more economically advantaged population than the schools that they exited. Conversely, students exiting area charters and entering LRSD moved into schools serving a substantially less economically advantaged student body. We also saw this in our first brief, examining enrollment patterns between charters and traditional public schools. In the 2014-15 school year, for example, 47% of charter students received free or reduced price lunch, while 75% of LRSD students received free or reduced price lunch.

We also completed this analysis for the Little Rock Metro Area as a whole (LRSD, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School District), and you can find those results in the full brief.  While our policy briefs in this series have identified enrollment trends in Little Rock Area schools, disproportionalities in students who switch between sectors, and where switchers go when they transfer schools, we have not yet addressed the question of whether student moves are helping to integrate or segregate the Little Rock Metro Area school system. Stay tuned to find out the results of  whether these student moves helped the schools look more or less like the overall demographics of the Little Rock Metro Area.

Just the Facts: Integration in the Little Rock Area Part 2 Student Movers

In The View from the OEP on November 2, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Do you ever wonder how many students and which students move from traditional public schools to public charter schools?  A lot of the controversy surrounding the expansion of public charter schools in the Little Rock area stems from the belief that charters are enrolling higher performing students and leaving a greater density of struggling students to be served in the traditional public schools.

Here at OEP, we like to put these questions to the data to get the facts. We are pleased to announce the second brief in our series about integration in the Little Rock area which examines the demographics of students who choose to switch between traditional public schools and charters.

How many students leave LRSD for other schools?

We examined student-level data to identify students who were enrolled in LRSD, and then examined where they enrolled the following year (excluding students who had graduated or were entering kindergarten in the second year). Between the 2013-14 school year and the 2014-15 school year, 85% of the students who had been enrolled in LRSD continued to enroll in LRSD.  Of the 15% that left LRSD, the smallest percentage (2%) switched to area charters. Over three times as many (6%) went to other traditional public schools outside of Pulaski county, with 3% moving to NLRSD or PCSSD and 3% moving to other public schools throughout Arkansas. The largest share of movers, 7%, left the public school system entirely.

The most surprising fact to us was the finding that, of those students leaving LRSD each year, a small fraction of those are leaving for charter schools. While much of the debate surrounds students exiting for charters, the fact is that far more students leave LRSD for other traditional public schools. We were also surprised that such a large percentage of LRSD students were leaving Arkansas’ public school system entirely.  These students are most likely either moving out-of-state, attending private school, or homeschooling. We examined student moves for each pair of years from 2008-09 to 2014-15, and the pattern is very consistent.

Little Rock School District Student Enrollment Decisions, 2013-14 to 2014-15

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What are the characteristics of students who leave LRSD?

We compared the demographics of the ‘movers’ to the demographics of LRSD as a whole to determine if certain types of students were more likely to make different enrollment decisions. We also examined the academic performance of students and compared it to the average performance of the school that they exited to get a better sense of if they were high performing compared to their peers (if you are a nerd like us, you can get more information about our methodology in the policy brief and the associated Arkansas Education Report).

To Charters?  (~2% annually)

Representative percentages of Black and white students, somewhat fewer FRL. Students were average academic performers at their LRSD school.

Over the six years examined, an average of 67% of LRSD students were black and 64% of the students who transferred to area charters were black.  Although there was some variation throughout the years, black students were nearly equally represented in the students transferring to charters as they were in the LRSD population. White students were also equally represented, as 20% of LRSD students overall and 19% of the transfers to charters.  Students who qualify for Free/ Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure for student poverty) were slightly underrepresented in students who transferred from LRSD to area charters; 69% of students in LRSD were FRL eligible between 2009 and 2014, and only 61% of the students who transferred to area charters were eligible for the FRL program.  Overall, the students who left LRSD for charters were performing just slightly above the students at the school that they exited (+0.03 standard deviations).

To NLRSD and PCCSD?  (~3% annually)

Greater percentages of Black and FRL students, and a smaller percentage of white students. Students were below average academic performers at their LRSD school.

Over the six years examined, an average of 67% of LRSD students were black and 80% of the students who transferred to North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School districts were black.  Black students were consistently overrepresented in the students transferring to these nearby districts as they were in the LRSD population. White students were somewhat underrepresented, as 20% of LRSD students overall and only 15% of the transfers to NLRSD and PCSSD.  Students who qualify for Free/ Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure for student poverty) were somewhat overrepresented in students who transferred from LRSD to NLRSD and PCSSD; 69% of students in LRSD were FRL eligible between 2009 and 2014, and 75% of the students who transferred to NLRSD and PCSSD were eligible for the FRL program.  Overall, the students who left LRSD for these nearby districts were performing below the students at the school that they exited (-0.20 standard deviations).

To other Arkansas public?  (~3% annually)

Smaller percentage of Black students, and a similar percentage of white students. Greater percentage of FRL students. Students were average academic performers at their LRSD school.

Over the six years examined, an average of 67% of LRSD students were black and 62% of the students who transferred to other public schools in Arkansas (excluding NLRSD and PCSSD) districts were black.  White students were equally represented, as 20% of LRSD students overall and 21% of the transfers to other public schools in Arkansas.  Students who qualify for Free/ Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure for student poverty) were  overrepresented in students who transferred from LRSD to other public schools in Arkansas; 69% of students in LRSD were FRL eligible between 2009 and 2014, and 77% of the students who transferred to other public schools in Arkansas were eligible for the FRL program.  Overall, the students who left LRSD for other public schools in Arkansas were performing at the same level as the students at the school that they exited (+0.01 standard deviations).

To out of the public system?  (~6% annually) 

Smaller percentage of Black students, and a larger percentage of white students. Slightly smaller percentage of FRL students. Students were average academic performers at their LRSD school.

Over the six years examined, an average of 67% of LRSD students were black and 59% of the students who left the Arkansas public school system were black.  White students were somewhat overrepresented, as 20% of LRSD students overall and 27% of the transfers who left the Arkansas public school system.  Students who qualify for Free/ Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure for student poverty) were  also somewhat underrepresented in students who transferred from LRSD and left the Arkansas public school system; 69% of students in LRSD were FRL eligible between 2009 and 2014, and 64% of the students who left the Arkansas public school system were eligible for the FRL program.  Overall, the students who left LRSD and then left the Arkansas public school system Arkansas were performing at the same level as the students at the school that they exited (+0.03 standard deviations).

Wait- WHAT?

We know, right?  There is no pattern of demographic or academic disparities in the students leaving LRSD for area charters.  In fact, the students transferring to charters are more ‘like’ LRSD than those leaving for other public districts or leaving the system entirely.

If you want to find out about patterns of students exiting the Little Rock Metro area schools districts (LRSD, NLRSD and PCSSD) or students leaving area charters, please read the policy brief or full report.

Stay tuned!

We now know about students enrolled in Little Rock and the surrounding metro area, and how many students are moving between the traditional public and the public charters and what do they ‘look like’?

But what we don’t yet know is about the schools that students move INTO.  Stay tuned for the next brief in the series to learn if students moving between the traditional public and public charter schools in the Little Rock area move to schools with students who are more ‘like them’ demographically and academically?

Just the Facts: Integration in the Little Rock Area

In The View from the OEP on October 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm

A lot of people have a lot to say about the impact of public charter school expansion on the traditional public schools in the Little Rock area.  Here at OEP, we have been working to identify the concerns, gather the data, and determine the facts surrounding this issue.  Even if you don’t live in Little Rock, the changing context of public education is important for all of us to consider.

We identified four key questions that we felt we could answer:

  1. How many students are enrolled in schools in Little Rock and the surrounding metro area and what do they ‘look like’? Is it changing over time? 
  2. How many students are moving between the traditional public and the public charters and what do they ‘look like’? Are certain groups more likely to move?
  3. When students move between the traditional public and public charter school in the Little Rock area- do they move to schools with students who are more ‘like them’ demographically and academically?
  4. What impact does student movement have on the school left behind and the system as a whole?  Are student moves leading to increased racial or socio-economic segregation within the public school system?

Today, we are pleased to release our first policy brief in the series: Demographic Trends in Enrollment. This brief addresses the first, and foundational, question,”How many students are enrolled in schools in Little Rock and the surrounding metro area and what do they ‘look like’?  Is it changing over time?”

A Little History…

Today’s brief begins by presenting overall enrollment trends since 1987 for traditional public, public charter and private schools in the Little Rock area, to provide a long-term perspective on K-12 education sectors in the area. Remember that charter schools are public schools that are free for students to attend, just like traditional schools, but that students do not have to live within any certain geographic area to attend.  Since students enrolled in charters can come from anywhere in the Little Rock area, we examine enrollment and demographics of the entire Little Rock Metro Area as well as the Little Rock School District itself.

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Key findings from the trends shown in Figure 1:

  • Enrollment in traditional public schools in the Little Rock Metro Area (LRSD, NLRSD, PCCSD) has declined steadily over time, resulting in an overall decrease of 18% since 1987.
  • Little Rock School District itself has also seen a smaller decline in enrollment, and has declined only 4% since the first charter school opened in the area in 2001.
  • Enrollment in private schools has remained fairly constant since 1987.
  • Enrollment in public charter schools has increased continuously since the first school opened in 2001, and charters currently enroll about 10% of public school students in the LR Metro Area.

More Recent History

We next focus on demographic changes in enrollment since 2008-09 for Little Rock School District as well as for the traditional public and public charter schools in the Little Rock Metro Area, which includes LRSD, North Little Rock School District and Pulaski County Special School District.

Some key findings are:

  • Traditional Public schools in the LR Metro Area enroll a higher percentage of black students than charters (57% to 46% in 2014-15), but black enrollment in traditional schools has declined, while black enrollment at charters has increased.
  • The percentage of white students has declined across both traditional public and public charter school sectors since 2008-09.
  • An increasing percentage of public school students in the Little Rock are Hispanic, reaching 10% in both LR Metro traditional public schools and public charters.
  • Traditional Public schools in the LR Metro Area enroll a higher percentage of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch (a proxy measure of student poverty) than public charters (69% to 46% in 2014-15), and FRL enrollment is increasing in both traditional and charter schools.
  • A small but increasing percentage (11% in LRSD and 3% in area charters in 2014-15, ) of public school students in the Little Rock area are identified as English Language Learners.
  • About 11 % of the students in Little Rock’s traditional public schools and 7% of students in the area’s public charter schools were identified as special education students in 2014-15.

 

We hope you will read the brief and we look forward to releasing the next one that asks

How many students are moving between the traditional public and the public charters and what do they ‘look like’? Are certain groups more likely to move?

We were very surprised at the findings from this one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treadmills, Assessments and Teacher Preparation.

In The View from the OEP on October 12, 2016 at 12:24 pm

When working with students, parents, teachers, and policy makers, we find that assessments and treadmills have a lot in common.

Folks have a tendency to lose sight of the appropriate use of assessments, and use them in ways that don’t fit.  This can lead to unintended consequences like focusing too much on proficiency or imagining that one test score is all we need to understand a successful school. Taylor Swift portrays this perfectly here when she loses focus on the treadmill and face plants!
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Some people forget to use assessments at all.  Like the expensive treadmill sitting in the corner of the room with clothes hanging on it, educators invest valuable time in assessing students, but then may neglect to use the information collected to inform their teaching and support student learning.

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Assessments are also like treadmills in that if you use them appropriately, they can have a big impact. A balanced assessment system can be like a whole home gym for a district, where frequent formative assessments, interim benchmark assessments, and summative assessments all focus on and strengthen different areas. In order for schools to ensure the success of all students, every school needs teachers who can interpret assessment results and take action based on accurate data.

man_on_treadmill-253x300.jpgYou can think of these teachers like ‘personal trainers’ who know how to use the assessments effectively and appropriately, and can help students, teachers and school leaders set goals and meet them.  Unfortunately, few colleges of education or K-12 school districts provide adequate hands-on training on the use of assessments in teaching.  We simply aren’t preparing teachers to use assessments effectively for student learning.

As states and districts begin to construct new, coherent assessment systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) incorporating multiple measures of student learning, it is crucial that educators at all levels understand how to appropriately select, use, analyze, and communicate about the results of those assessments. In the teacher preparation regulations released today the US Department of Education, assessment of student learning is included as a required part of rigorous teacher candidate exit qualifications. In short, educators will need to be assessment literate.

What is Assessment Literacy?

The National Task Force on Assessment Education today released a foundational definition of Assessment Literacy. It can be used to guide development of systems that use assessments appropriately and equitably to support teaching and learning.

The definition states:

“Assessment is the process of gathering information about student learning to inform education- related decisions. One becomes Assessment Literate by mastering basic principles of sound assessment practice, coming to believe strongly in their consistent, high-quality application in order to meet the diverse needs of all students, and acting assertively based on those values.”

Further, the definition identifies traits of an assessment literate person. He or she:

  • Understands the purpose of the assessment and how the results will be used
  • Uses the learning targets to dictate the appropriate assessments
  • Recognizes that valid results only come from quality assessments
  • Communicates clearly about assessment results to parents, students, and others
  • Creates an assessment process that motivates students and supports learning

“Those who face the challenges of developing and implementing state, local or classroom assessment systems are far better prepared to succeed if they bring to the task a foundation of understanding of the basic principles of sound assessment practice; that is, if they are assessment literate,” said Rick Stiggins, advisor to the Task Force and retired founder and CEO of the Assessment Training Institute. “Our Task Force has defined this to mean that they always are clear about why and what they will assess, how to assess it well, how to share results effectively, and how to use assessment to support and promote student learning success.”

Is it Truthful?  Is it Useful?

Assessments of student learning are important for tracking success and ensuring equity among student groups.  Students, parents, teachers, and policy makers need to be assessment literate so they can advocate for  valid and reliable assessments that provide truthful and useful information.  Teachers need to be assessment literate so they can model quality assessment practices in their own classrooms, and modify their instruction based on student needs.  Parents and policymakers are open to new and innovative ways to measure and report educational success, and assessment literate educators can advocating for quality assessments and demonstrate that using assessments appropriately makes a difference for students. Students, parents , educators and policy makers need to learn more about quality assessment and assessment literacy development so we don’t find ourselves with just a more advanced version of the treadmill sitting in the corner covered in laundry.

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