Public Education in Arkansas • Leadership Greater Little Rock • January 26, 2006
When it comes to education, we in Arkansas are often the last to recognize our own good news. That shouldn’t be the case.
In recent years, Arkansas has gained national recognition in education for… • Rising test scores • Rigorous course requirements • Education policies • Nearly ¾ of $1 billion infused into K-12 education
The National Assessment of Educational Progress is a criterion-referenced test administered to a sample of students in all 50 states every two years.
* * * NAEP – Grade 4 Mathematics Grade 4 Mathematics * Statistically significant improvement
* NAEP – Grade 4 Reading * Statistically significant improvment
* NAEP – Grade 8 Mathematics * Statistically significant improvement
Arkansas benchmark exams are now administered to all 3rd through 8th grade students in the state each spring. They also are criterion-referenced exams.
The Arkansas Benchmark Exams test students against the state’s curriculum requirements, assuring that students across the state are being taught and are expected to know the same content in all major subject areas. Achieve, Inc., recently held Arkansas standards as a model for standard alignment from grade to grade.
Arkansas Recognized for Required Courses: • Accreditation standards require that Arkansas high schools teach – not just offer, but teach – a minimum of 38 specific units. • Arkansas is one of only 3 states that have made or soon will make a college-preparatory curriculum the norm.
SMART CORE • A college prep curriculum that began with last year’s 7th graders. • Requires formal opt out by students and parents
Course Requirements Set Arkansas Apart • Currently, 42 states require students to take certain courses to graduate from high school • 28 states require Algebra I • 13 state require Geometry • 3 states require Algebra II (Arkansas, Indiana and Texas)
Course Requirements (cont’d) • 5 states require that ALL students complete 4 math courses (Arkansas is one of them) • Only 3 states – Arkansas, Indiana and Texas now or will soon require Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II • In English, 36 states require that all students take at least 4 English courses; 6 states require 3 courses. • Arkansas is one of only 6 states to require grade-level English courses for graduation
Advanced Placement Courses • Act 102 mandated that AP courses in 4 basic subject areas be offered in all high schools by 2009 • In 2004-05 school year, Arkansas experienced a 108 percent increase in students participating in AP exams – the largest single-year increase in the 50 year history of AP • Professional development in AP carries over to other courses
Education Week Grades Education Policy Arkansas just received a grade of A- from Education Week’s Quality Counts for policies regarding teacher quality. That was the 4th highest grade in the nation. Overall, education policy in Arkansas received a C+ -- our highest grade ever in the 10 year history of the nationally respected ratings.
Accountability in education now a mainstay in Arkansas. This is a good thing. • Fiscal Distress • Academic Distress • Standards of Accreditation • No Child Left Behind – School Improvement
Increased Funding for Education • Nearly ¾ of $1 billion infused into the state’s education system, including 2005 appropriations for: • Early childhood education • Teacher insurance program • Public school academic facilities
2003 Second Special Session Funding • Poverty Targeted Aid (based on NSLA enrollment) $148,000,000 • State Foundation Aid - $281,408,000 • Alternative Learning – 16,100,000 • Professional Development – 22,417,371 • Arkansas Better Chance – 38,800,000
Because of these efforts and achievements, Arkansas no longer sits at the bottom of education-related rankings. Still we face challenges…
How do we change the culture of the state so that it places a high value on education for all its citizens? • How do we close the achievement gap? • How do we best prepare students for college and for today’s work place? • These are questions being asked by educators, business leaders and policymakers alike.
Making Education Relevant Employers and colleges say they are looking for the same basic skills: Graduates should be able to read, write and speak clearly, analyze information, conduct research, and solve difficult math problems.
Approximately 42% of Arkansas’ high school graduates pursue further study in higher education. Source: National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education, Policy Alert, April 2004.
But very few high school graduates are “college ready”. Source: Manhattan Institute, Public High School Graduation and College-Readiness Rates: 1991–2002, February 2005, http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/ewp_08.htm.
Further Findings • 52% of high school graduates who enter a state-supported college or university must take at least one remedial course in math, and 46% must take at least one remedial course in reading/writing. • Approximately 25% of high school students who took the ACT demonstrated readiness for college biology. Within that group less than 5% of African American students reached college ready standards.
Rigorous Courses a Must • All subgroups show increased success when they have participated in rigorous courses • Research shows that only about 1/3 of students say they are adequately prepared for college after high school • Research shows that only about 1/3 of students say they are adequately prepared for the work place after high school
Impact of a strong high school curriculum* *Completing at least Algebra II plus other courses. Source: Adapted from Adelman, Clifford, U.S. Department of Education, Answers in the Toolbox, 1999
The reality ? The high school diploma has lost its currency.
How do we meet those challenges? Efforts underway include: • NGA Grant for High School Reform • Technology Grant for Longitudinal Tracking • Early childhood education • Professional development efforts
Arkansas was one of 10 states to originally be named an Honor State Grant recipient by the National Governors Association. The purpose of the grant is to redesign America’s high schools.
Five Interconnected Steps • Restoring value to the high school diploma • Redesigning high schools • Giving students the excellent teachers and principals they need • Setting goals, measuring progress and holding high schools and colleges accountable • Streamlining and improving governance
Successful Implementation • Increase student readiness for college work • Decrease college remediation rate • Increase college retention and timely degree completion rate • Decrease the number of high school students receiving intervention services due to poor performance
$3.3 Million Longitudinal Tracking Grant • Arkansas was one of 14 states to receive this USDOE grant • This will enable educators to track the performance of each and every child as he or she moves from grade to grade.
Growth Model • With the technology grant and because of the data system already established, Arkansas will be one of the states applying to use a growth model under NCLB. • This type tracking will encourage focus on each child, not just those hovering at the “proficient” level as the current AYP model does. • This should impact the achievement gap as well as overall achievement levels.
“We are moving in the right direction with education in Arkansas. We are not yet where we want to be, but we have the resources and the momentum to get us there.” Dr. Ken James Commissioner of Education