More public school students in Arkansas score proficient on standardized tests, but fewer students are college ready than the national average, according to a report released Thursday (April 7) by the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas.
The “2010 Report Card on Arkansas Public Schools” measures overall student performance on the 2009 Arkansas Comprehensive Testing Assessment and Accountability Program (ACTAAP) and the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP).
College readiness is measured by results of the ACT, a commonly used college entrance exam.
The ACTAAP measures student knowledge in grades 3 through 8 each year. The NAEP, known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” test students in grades 4, 8 and 12.
Key points in the report include:
• More Arkansas students are scoring proficient and advanced on the state assessments— both the Benchmark and End-of-Course exams — each year. A general upward trend over the last several years continued into 2010.
• Arkansas students continue to achieve at lower levels than their national peers on the NAEP, the “Nation’s Report Card.” This gap exists in all subjects across grades 4, 8, and 12.
• The achievement gap between black students and non-blacks (including whites and Hispanics) grows greatly between 4th and 8th grades, and is considerably larger than the overall U.S. achievement gap as measured by the NAEP.
• A low percentage of Arkansas students are academically ready for college as measured by the ACT. Students’ college readiness is lower than in nearby states and in the nation.
• Arkansas students have higher rates of poverty and more students are Hispanic today compared to 15 years ago.
• Fewer Arkansas 4th graders are proficient in reading and science than are their peers across the nation. The gap in both subjects has grown slightly over the last decade.
• Arkansas’ 8th grade reading proficiency in 2009 was unchanged from 2003 , while the nation’s rate grew 2 points to 32%. In science, the state lagged the U.S. by 5 points in 2009.
• In 2010, proficiency rates increased in all grades for literacy and in five of six grades for math. Only 6th grade math proficiency declined from 2009 to 2010.
• State proficiency rates have increased since 2006. These gains are larger in math than in literacy, and larger in 4th grade than in 8th grade.
Gary Ritter, director of the UA Office for Education Policy, said there are areas of improvement, but racial and poverty gaps continue to grow.
“We are glad to report a few positives: more students are scoring proficient and advanced on the Arkansas assessments; the state’s low-income students are outperforming their peers nationally on the NAEP reading exam; and more Arkansans hold high school and college diplomas than ever before,” Ritter noted in the report.
“On the other hand, the state still faces many challenges. On the NAEP, Arkansas’ reading scores still lag the nation at all grade levels, and by a large amount in the 12th grade. Fewer Arkansas students are college ready than the national average. Perhaps most importantly, the racial and poverty achievement gaps are large and generally growing,” he added.
In 1999, 45% of Arkansas public school students were classified as being in poverty status. The number in poverty status increased to 57% by 2009.
COLLEGE DEGREES, READINESS
With respect to college performance, the report praised the increase in Arkansas educational attainment between 1990 and 2008. In 1990, 13% of Arkansans had a college degree and 5% had an advanced degree. By 2008, that increased to 19% and 6%, respectively.
However, college readiness based on ACT scores continues to lag behind national averages.
ACT scores 2010
National: 21 .3
TEACHER PAY, STUDENT SPENDING
The report also finds that the average salary for Arkansas teachers — adjusted for cost of living — during 2009 was $52,747. The adjusted average salary was higher than comparable averages for all surrounding states and topped the U.S. average of $51,359.
The average salary for Arkansas teachers during 2009 was also 50% higher than the 2009 Arkansas median personal income of $35,257.
“Taking cost of living into account, Arkansas teachers are paid well compared to teachers in nearby states, and compared to the nation as a whole,” the report noted.
Per pupil spending has increased in Arkansas from $8,217 in 2000 to $11,059 in 2008 — with the 2008 figure roughly equivalent with adjacent states. The U.S. per pupil spending average in 2008 was $12,104.
Also, the number of Arkansas school districts has declined from 312 in 2001 to 247 in 2008. Consequently, the average population of a school district has increased from 1,442 in 2001 to 1,922 in 2008.
Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, is the author of this report. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.