by Max Brantley
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and others today released a report on the state's efforts to improve education since the 2002 Lake View ruling. They report progress. They also report continuing racial and socioeconomic gaps in achievement.
Recommendations? Plenty. Better teachers. More early childhood education. School clinics. Extended day programs. Charter schools that focus on racial and economic disparities (in other words, not just provide safe havens from public schools for demographic groups not in need of extra help.)
You can go here to read the full report. Some excerpts on the jump.
*Arkansas needs a major public communications effort to promote participation in early childhood education. If all the families of three- and four-year-olds who are eligible for free preschool put them in quality pre-K programs, it would dramatically reduce the achievement gap.
*The state should launch an aggressive effort to continue improvement in teacher quality through implementing the longitudinal tracking system, and using the data to improve the way Arkansas teachers are educated, distributed and developed in service.
*Any newly approved charter schools in Arkansas should be focused on reducing the racial and socioeconomic achievement gap. Current successful charter schools have distinctive traits: extended learning time, rigorous professional development and strong school leadership.
Most importantly, the study recommends four promising new interventions:
*Arkansas should re-introduce state funding to support school-based health clinics for under-served students or promote their development through the Coordinated School Health Initiative.
*The state should aggressively implement any forthcoming recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on After-School and Summer Programs. Research shows that summer learning loss and unproductive time between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. are key causes of the achievement gap.
*State funding should be directed to reduce class sizes targeted to schools with high proportions of students from low-income, African American or Latino families. Research shows that class size reduction in the early grades can significantly improve test scores and graduation rates, especially among African American students.
*Arkansas can build on successes to encourage broader community-based organization to build social capital among parents. The state should sustain the successes achieved by Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation’s 21st Century Programs.