Moving ForwARd into 2019
Susan Harriman, Executive Director
When ForwARd Arkansas was founded in 2014, we knew that enhancing equity, opportunity and innovation would be the focus of our work to improve education – especially in a state like Arkansas where educational opportunities are distributed widely across a rural landscape and where a majority of jobs are low-skill and low-wage.
Our work since then has only strengthened our belief that education can no longer be slow to change, but must take the lead and drive changes that better prepare young people for their future, not our past. I’m proud to say that ForwARd Arkansas took great strides to lead this change in 2018.
This spring, we hosted a series of ForwARd Together Conversations that convened a wide range of stakeholders from across the state to identify policies and practices needed to increase equity and drive enhanced educational outcomes for all students. We then convened three interdisciplinary Policy Collaboratives to develop and advance common-sense policy recommendations around the key themes that emerged through these conversations.
We’re also proud of the strides that ForwARd in building urgency and focus around the need to connect data and research to education, workforce and economic development policy and practice. In partnership with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Institute for Chief Data Officers, in September, we convened an inaugural Data & Policy Symposium to discuss the importance of quality, integrated, longitudinal data in tracking local and statewide educational outcomes. A new statewide Data and Research Consortium will collaborate with stakeholders to conduct research and analyze data along the cradle-to-post-secondary-to-career continuum to help achieve improved outcomes for all students. We believe that this is increasingly critical to drive high performance and continuous improvement.
This is all in addition to the amazing work being done in our initial cohort of five diverse ForwARd Communities – Crossett, Independence County, Lee County, Pea Ridge and Springdale – who continue their work to develop, implement and replicate innovative programs, practices and partnerships that provide new opportunities to advance education for students and communities across the state.
Through these initiatives, our team has been listening, learning and laying the groundwork to create change in the areas that matter most to educators across the state. In 2019, we’ll continue to move this agenda forward to support legislation, policies, best practices and innovations that increase access to high-quality Pre-K programs, strength the educator pipeline and elevate student employability as a learning outcome.
As the ForwARd team reflects on the year, we couldn’t be more thankful for the partnerships and collaborations that have helped us create change for students across Arkansas.