by Max Brantley
Bound by one of those stupid embargoes some national groups still persist in using that favor dead-tree publications, I couldn't release until this morning Education Week's annual ranking that again puts Arkansas No. 5 among the stats on a group of education measures.
Achievement? We still score a D. (The state avoided repeating that letter grade in its characterization of the report, choosing instead to say we scored "just below the national average" in its news release distributed late last night.)
It is not excuse, but fact, that achievement here, there and everywhere invariably tracks family income and prior education. (Arkansas is a poor state, in case you didn't know.) What we want to know is where schools have defied that pattern. To my knowledge — though individual teachers and schools and even some small school districts have been outliers — nobody has yet developed a replicable solution on a broad scale. Certainly not charter schools or private schools, in case you wondered.
But we try. And we should try. And where the state can exert some positive influence on elements that guide the effort and do it as well as, or better than, others, good.
EDUCATION DEPARTMENT NEWS RELEASE
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas’s public education system ranks fifth in the nation according to the latest edition of Education Week’s Quality Counts. The report gives the state high marks in the transitions and alignment category; the standards, assessments and accountability category; and the teaching profession category.
“Quality Counts validates what we already know: Arkansas’s public school system has effective policies and reforms,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell. “But this report also confirms we must expect continued improvement in student achievement and seek innovations to expand learning opportunities.”
This year’s Quality Counts grades were based on the performance of states in six broad areas: the role of education in promoting success at various stages of life; K-12 student achievement; rigor and quality of academic standards, assessments and accountability systems; teacher preparation, licensure and evaluation; school finance; and alignment of state policies related to school, college and workforce readiness. Though all six of these categories are used to determine the overall score for each state, the scores in only three categories have been updated for 2013—chance for success; transitions and alignment; and school finance.
Arkansas earned an A in two categories—standards, assessments and accountability; and transitions and alignment. The state also received a B+ in the teaching profession category. Areas for improvement include K-12 achievement and chance for success categories where the state fell just below the national average. The state met the national average in school finance.
“Governor Mike Beebe, the State Board of Education and the General Assembly have worked to increase the rigor of the standards of learning and promote college-and-career readiness,” Kimbrell said. “The results of their efforts are reflected in the findings of Quality Counts. I have no doubt as our schools implement these new standards and policies, Arkansas will improve its rankings by closing the gap with the nation in student achievement.”
State-level data gathered by Education Week comes from a policy survey of the states conducted in the summer and fall of 2012. In addition, the publication draws on data from the U.S. Department of Education.