Finding #3

Since 2015, promising initiatives have been launched to address critical and foundational issues that the state can build on to accelerate progress moving forward.

Report Contents

Foundational progress has been made in many key areas identified in the 2015 State of Education report, both statewide and in specific districts and communities. One example is in 2019, the state enacted the Transformation and Efficiencies Act, a significant initial step to consolidate and create efficiencies among agencies that support public education. As well, key initiatives have been launched to accelerate progress in high need, foundational areas for students.

Below, we have highlighted three of the most promising areas of progress that were identified consistently by stakeholders at all levels and that are showing promising early evidence of improvement.

Areas of Progress

  • The Science of Reading and Reading Initiative for Student Excellence (R.I.S.E.)

    In 2017, the Right to Read Act (Act 1063) was introduced by the Arkansas Department of Education and key legislators based on acknowledgment of poor reading proficiency and a desire to inspire stronger readers across the state, utilizing the research-backed approach - the science of reading.

    R.I.S.E. Arkansas was launched soon after. R.I.S.E. is an initiative anchored in instruction using the science of reading, and it began with a commitment to raise the share of students in grades 3-8 who are deemed “ready” on the ACT Aspire benchmark in literacy by 10% within three years.

    Stakeholders across Arkansas shared positive feedback related to R.I.S.E. and its role in creating shared urgency around the need to improve literacy in the state.

  • Career and Technical Education

    Arkansas has made significant efforts to expand the perception of and access to high-quality, industry-aligned CTE programs across the state. The state is actively engaging in work to make CTE, early college, work-based learning, and other programs that prepare students for their next step outside of high school more “the norm” rather than an alternative in the student learning experience.

    For the class of 2021, on average, 95% or more of CTE concentrator students graduated from high school, ~7 percentage points higher than state averages for non-CTE concentrators.

  • Teacher Workforce

    Arkansas faces tremendous educator workforce challenges. We continue to have acute teacher shortages in specific parts of the state marked by the high number of unlicensed teachers and continued use of teaching waivers, especially in Southern and Eastern Arkansas. Also, roughly 25% of Arkansas teachers leave the profession within five years.

    Developing an effective and diverse teacher workforce requires a robust, integrated system, from identifying and recruiting new candidates, to high-quality preparation, to professional growth opportunities and retention. Since 2015, Arkansas has made foundational progress in many of the following key areas:

    • Identifying and recruiting more high-quality, diverse teachers
      • The state accelerated efforts around “grow your own” strategies to create more accessible, affordable, and high-quality pathways, as well as financial incentives for individuals across the state, especially in high-need regions, to enter the teaching profession.

    • Professional growth opportunities and retention
      • In 2017, Arkansas began implementing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), a research-backed approach to provide teachers and school leaders opportunities to collaborate and leverage student data to continuously improve instruction.