Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about Forward Arkansas? Check out some of the most frequently asked questions below:

What is Forward Arkansas?

Forward Arkansas is a partnership of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and Arkansas State Board of Education that is committed to helping every Arkansas student graduate prepared for success in college and the workplace. To realize this vision, the Forward Arkansas Steering Committee has developed recommendations aimed at dramatically improving student achievement, closing the achievement gap, and making Arkansas a leading state in education.

Who was involved in crafting the recommendations?

Armed with extensive research and input from thousands of Arkansans and experts in the field, the Forward Arkansas Steering Committee crafted A New Vision for Arkansas Education.

Who supports these recommendations?

The Forward Arkansas Steering Committee members voted and approved the recommendations. The Arkansas State Board of Education unanimously approved A New Vision for Arkansas Education in September 2015. Now, the Forward Arkansas Implementation Working Group along with committed Arkansans are working to implement Forward Arkansas’s recommendations. Click here to learn more from Arkansans who are committed to moving our state forward.

What kind of input did Forward Arkansas receive?

Since November 2014, the Forward Arkansas team has been gathering information about the state of education in Arkansas. Their first set of findings, The State of Education in Arkansas Report, was published in January 2015. The steering committee then engaged a broad set of Arkansans through nearly 8,500 online surveys, form submissions, focus groups, community events, and interviews with experts in the field.

Does A New Vision for Arkansas Education have a specific focus?

A New Vision for Arkansas Education focuses on seven key areas:

  • Pre-K
  • Teaching and learning
  • Teacher pipeline
  • Effective leadership
  • Support beyond the classroom
  • Leadership
  • Academic distress
  • Systems and policies

Click here to learn more about Forward Arkansas’s recommendations.

What do the recommendations say about charter schools and privatization?

Forward Arkansas is committed to strengthening our state’s public education system. There are no specific recommendations related to public charter schools or school privatization within A New Vision for Arkansas Education.

Does Forward Arkansas address individual school districts?

Our recommendations do not address individual school districts. Instead, we are committed to meeting education-related needs throughout the state, and we crafted the recommendations to benefit all schools.

What does Forward Arkansas say about pre-K?

Our recommendations aspire that all students, starting with those in high need, have access to high-quality early childhood learning opportunities so they arrive at kindergarten ready to learn. For example, setting clear standards for what high quality means in Arkansas, improving all pre-K seats to meet these new standards, and increasing the number of seats available.

What does Forward Arkansas say about testing and Common Core?

We recommend education leaders study testing requirements and identify how streamline student assessment and eliminate redundancies. Additionally, testing should focus on maintaining academic rigor, using classroom time thoughtfully, informing teaching and continuous learning, and measuring student progress holistically. We also recommend that our schools implement rigorous state standards.

How does Forward Arkansas propose to attract and retain high-quality teachers?

Our recommendations focus on ensuring that all schools, especially those in high-need areas, have access to talented educators who have been rigorously prepared. For example, it recommends supporting the introduction and expansion of programs to encourage “home-grown” talent, like local high school students, pursue a teaching credential and enter the profession.

What does Forward Arkansas recommend to support students beyond the classroom?

We aim to provide all students and families, starting with those in highest need, with access to and support in accessing the nutritional and health resources needed to come to school ready to learn—whether that’s offering breakfast at school, distributing nutritious snacks or dinner after school, providing summer programs in high-need schools, or encouraging parental and caregiver communication during and out of the school year.

What does Forward Arkansas say about developing education leaders?

We recommend education leaders put students at the center of their decisions, work tirelessly to build a support team, deploy resources effectively, and hold themselves and their team accountable for empowering all children to be successful. A few examples include supporting existing highly rigorous principal preparation programs and empowering principals to partner with school staff to develop a shared vision for instruction.

What does Forward Arkansas recommend for schools and districts in academic distress?

Our recommendations can be applied to schools in academic distress. Specifically, we aim to ensure that all schools in academic distress and pre-academic distress receive support and intervention that enable them to transform their school cultures, dramatically improve student achievement, and sustain improvement over time. We also recommend that the Arkansas Department of Education establish an entity that builds a clear, transparent academic distress entry and exit process.

What does Forward Arkansas mean by systems and policies?

We aspire for all school districts to have sufficient funding and use resources in a way that most effectively supports student success. This includes streamlining the regulatory burden, improving district capabilities to make decisions based on evidence of educational impact, and increasing funding to support educational excellence, tying incremental increases to evidence of effective resource use.

Who will be leading the charge on implementation?

The Implementation Working Group, which includes several Steering Committee members, will help put the recommendations into action and monitor progress towards milestones and strategic targets.

How much will Forward Arkansas’s recommendations cost?

Today, Arkansas spends a little over $9,000 per student per year on public education, ranking 33rd nationally in per-pupil spending. In order to realize our ambitious goal, the state will need to invest more in education over time. While some recommendations will require resources, we also recommend multiple ways to improve the effectiveness of what Arkansas spends today, and the additional public investment needed in coming years will depend on how resourceful Arkansas is in identifying inefficiencies and finding alternative funding sources.

Will this investment in Arkansas’s education be worth it?

Yes. We are well positioned to help Arkansas leverage educational investments and improve public education. By improving educational outcomes for students across Arkansas, this investment will generate social (i.e., better health and lower unemployment) and economic returns (i.e., higher earnings and higher GDP) that will far exceed the initial investment.

How do we get started?

We will continue to share Forward Arkansas’s recommendations with the community and support interested communities to implement “quick-win” recommendations, which should have an immediate impact on our state. For instance, communities will provide more summer programming for kids to reduce learning loss or provide more high-quality collaboration time for teachers.

We need your help! Arkansans’ input was critical in creating these recommendations, and their participation will be critical for implementing it. Commit to moving Arkansas Forward now!

How do you know if you’re making progress?

In order to reach our goal, Arkansas will have to make substantial gains over the next 25 years. To ensure that we are making progress, A New Vision for Arkansas Education has set targets for metrics for both raising overall achievement and eliminating the achievement gap.