ForwARd Celebrates Back-to-School

A little less than a month into the school year, students, parents and teachers across the state are getting back into the swing of things. The same is true here at ForwARd Arkansas.

Last spring, we gathered a wide range of community stakeholders across the state in a series of ForwARd Together Conversations to inform the development of statewide policies to improve education outcomes for all students. After identifying three key themes from the conversations, the ForwARd Arkansas team has spent the summer building three Policy Collaboratives that have already begun to meet and formulate policy recommendations to share with policymakers later this year.

So much for a lazy summer vacation!

The stakes around these issues are high – and progress on these initiatives will make all the difference for students across the state in years to come. This work matters – especially around these three key themes – because we know that:

  1. Students with a strong start in school become educated, productive members of our workforce. An abundance of research shows that the academic achievement gap begins as a school readiness gap. Increased access to high-quality Pre-K programs should be a top priority, especially in high-need areas, so our students arrive at kindergarten ready to learn now and throughout their education.
  2. Only 30 percent of jobs in Arkansas require postsecondary credentials from an institution of higher learning. We need to elevate employability skills as a learning outcome in all schools across the state – a true focus on making all students, including those who plan on pursuing a college degree, “employable” or career-ready for both the middle- and highly-skilled workforce that companies of all sizes need to start and grow their businesses in Arkansas.
  3. With more Arkansas educators reaching retirement age, it is imperative to cultivate a strong pipeline of teachers and administrators with the skills and commitment to lead our schools and drive a culture of innovation and academic excellence. We must tackle this with a recognition of the realities facing many of our communities, where investment in educators has been a financial challenge.

You can learn more about our policy work here.  We’ll be sharing updates from our Policy Collaboratives and ways you can let your local policymakers know what must be changed to make an Arkansas education work for everyone.