Arkansas 2007-2008 School District Rankings

(August 2009) Seventeen K-12 public school districts in Arkansas earned the top grade (A or A-minus) in the Policy Foundation's fourth annual School District Rankings study. Fourteen districts received a D-minus grade and nine districts received a failing F grade in the report, which relies on the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT-10) to issue a letter grade to every Arkansas district.

Grades of B-plus, B or B-minus were given to 72 districts, and 117 districts earned grades of C-plus, C or C-minus. D-plus grades were assigned to 7 districts, and 8 districts received D grades in the study.

The report identifies best practices to assist students, parents, teachers, and administrators in Arkansas. The Foundation maintains that students in failing districts should be able to benefit from education reforms including administrative restructuring, charter schools and school choice.


Dr. Michael Scoles, a 1982 graduate of Northern Illinois University used SAT-10 scores administered in 2008 to rank 244 districts. The SAT-10 tests math and reading skills. The method used to assign letter grades to districts in the report is as follows:

  • First and ninth-grade national percentile ranks on SAT-10 math and reading were converted to state-normed T-scores.
  • Math and reading letter grades were assigned based on state T-scores at the ninth-grade level.
  • "Adjustment" letter grades were assigned based on the discrepancy between actual ninth-grade scores and what would be predicted given external characteristics measured by first-grade scores.
  • Overall district letter grades were based on the average of ninth-grade math, ninth-grade reading, and adjustment letter grades.

Arkansas districts earning A and A-minus grades are performing at a level significantly higher than average. Districts receiving B-plus, B or B-minus grades are performing somewhat above average. Districts assigned C-plus, C or C-minus grades are performing at an average level. Districts with grades of D-plus, D or D-minus have significant room for improvement and are not adequately preparing their students. Districts receiving F grades are considered failing.

The methods and factors used for determining the break scores separating A, B, C, D and F grades for each district are explained in detail in appendices to the report.

Top Districts (A Grade)

Districts receiving top grades (A or A-minus) in the study are Lake Hamilton, Bentonville, Pottsville, Fayetteville, Conway, Lakeside (Garland County), Mena, Bryant, Searcy, Scranton, Valley View, Salem, Greenwood, Mountainburg, Dardanelle, Bismarck, and Parkers Chapel.

Some of these districts including Valley View, Bentonville, Lakeside (Garland County), Fayetteville and Greenwood also earned top grades in the 2004-2005, 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 Policy Foundation studies.

Failing Districts (F Grade)

Districts receiving failing (F) grades are Forrest City, Dermott, Augusta, Helena-West Helena, Turrell, Earle, Hughes, Dollarway, and Hermitage.

Forrest City, Earle and Dermott received similar grades in the 2004-2005, 2005-2006, and 2006-2007 Foundation studies.

Education Reform Proposals

The Policy Foundation recommended letter grades for K-12 districts in 1998, and is issuing another annual report because Arkansas officials have failed to act on the recommendation. PA 35 of 2003 (Second Extraordinary Session) did create numerical rankings, but not letter grades for districts. The Act's accountability provisions will not become fully operational until the 2009-2010 school year "unless an annual performance category level is requested by the school."

The Policy Foundation is recommending administrative restructuring and expanded charter school and choice options in districts that received D or F grades. Choice options should include tax credits for students in failing districts. Students and parents in failing districts deserve additional options including charters, choice and tax credits. One way to address this need is to encourage institutions of higher learning (college and universities) to operate charter and receive per-pupil funding currently distributed to failing districts. Another solution is to give tax credits to individuals, corporations or other voluntary enterprises sponsoring students in failing districts.

Arkansas Policy Blog

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Peer-Reviewed Research

The Arkansas Policy Foundation is an educational organization that regularly submits its research to scholarly journals that use a peer review process.

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