“Issue school-by-school performance report cards to parents and the public. Use the results of this report card to hold schools accountable–rewards for those performing on an exceptional basis and sanctions for low performing schools.”  Murphy Commission (Policy Foundation project), 1998


(October 3, 2011) Five Arkansas school districts that earned the top ‘A’ grade in four annual Policy Foundation studies also receive the highest mark in the first state report required under a 2003 accountability law.  But three districts that received ‘F’ grades from the Foundation earned marks from the state high enough to preclude students and parents from using the public school choice option included in the 2003 measure.


Ninety-seven percent (97%) of Arkansas schools meet or exceed standards in the report required by PA 35 (2nd extraordinary session).  The report was compiled for the state Department of Education by the National Office for Research, Measurement and Evaluation Systems at the Univ. of Arkansas-Fayetteville.


Thirteen Years Later, Parents & Students Finally Receive Report


An entire generation of students has advanced through the Arkansas K-12 public school system since the Foundation’s 1998 recommendation to issue letter grades to schools.  PA 35 of 2003 created a number, not letter-based system that established the following category levels:


“Level 5”, schools of excellence;

“Level 4”, schools exceeding standards;

“Level 3”, schools meeting standards;

“Level 2”, schools on alert; or

“Level 1”, schools in need of immediate improvement.1


Schools were not assigned annual performance category levels for years 2004-2005 through 2008-2009 unless they requested a rating.  PA 35 creates a public school choice option for students in schools that receive a level ‘1’ rating for two consecutive years.  A private school choice option is not part of the law.


Top Districts


Five districts (Bentonville, Fayetteville, Greenwood, Lakeside (Garland County) and Valley View) earned ‘A’ grades from the Foundation and “schools of excellence” or “schools exceeding standards” designations from the state.2


Failing Districts Score Higher in State Report


Three districts (Dermott, Earle and Forrest City) received ‘F’ grades from the Foundation.  But schools in these districts met or exceeded standards in the state report.  The lone exception was Earle High School, graded at ‘level 2.’  The higher designations in the state report mean parents and students in the three districts would be precluded from the school choice option until at least the 2013-2014 school year.


–Greg Kaza

1   Policy Foundation research memo (February 2011), 2009-2010 School District Rankings Status: Pending

2   Foundation studies examined student performance on standardized national tests (Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Stanford Achievement Test) in school years 2004-05 thru 2007-08.  The state report assigned numerical grades (2009-10) as follows:


Bentonville School District (level 5): Apple Glen Elementary, Centerton Gamble Elementary, Central Park at Morning Star, Cooper Elementary, Elm Tree Elementary, Mary Mae Jones Elementary, R.E. Baker Elementary, Sugar Creek Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Lincoln Junior High, Old High Middle School, Ruth Barker Middle School, Spring Hill Middle School, Washington Junior High ; Fayetteville School District (level 5): Butterfield Elementary, Holcomb Elementary, Leverett Elementary, Root Elementary, Vandergriff Elementary, Holt Middle School, McNair Middle School, Ramay Junior High, Woodland Junior High; (level 4) Asbell Elementary, Happy Hollow Elementary, Owl Creek School, Washington Elementary; Greenwood School District (level 5): East Hills Middle, North Main Intermediate, Raymond E. Wells Junior High; (level 4) Greenwood High School; Lakeside School District (Garland County) (level 5) Lakeside Junior High, Intermediate School; (level 4) Lakeside High School; Valley View School District (level 5): Valley View Elementary, Valley View High School.


Dermott School District (level 3) Dermott Elementary, Dermott High School; Earle School District (level 4) Earle Elementary; (level 2) Earle High School; Forrest City School District (level 3) Central Elementary, Forrest City Junior High, Forrest City High School, Lincoln Middle School