ForwARd believes that access to quality, integrated longitudinal data to track outcomes between pre-K, K-12, postsecondary education/training and workforce participation is essential to inform future planning and resource allocation. To that end, ForwARd aspires to create a collaborative environment that fosters world-class academic research capabilities alongside capacity for data-sharing within state government across Arkansas for use as:

  1. A tool for continuous improvement in our classrooms and schools.
  2. A response to the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and its demands for evidence-based practice.
  3. A strategy to ensure equity and opportunity for all our children from birth to career.
  4. A resource to inform public policy and identify best practices.

Having the ability to rigorously evaluate state-funded pre-K programs is imperative to protecting the safety of individuals in these programs. However, much of the research is dated, cumbersome, disconnected from policymakers and stakeholders, and does not include longitudinal questions, such as the effect of pre-K on college enrollment and parental workforce engagement.

Through research on state-funded pre-K programs, ForwARd found that it is imperative that Arkansas creates systems to value the efficient collection, and utilization of data at both the state and local levels.

Data and Policy Symposium

In September 2018, ForwARd led a Data Symposium that brought together stakeholders in education and workforce development to lay the groundwork for expedited development of a longitudinal data system in Arkansas modeled after data systems in other states.

This included discussions around the creation of a comprehensive statewide Data Consortium that could power research, policy, practice and decision-making in educational, workforce and economic development. Such a system would provide the state with an unprecedented ability to evaluate current programs and identify potential impacts outside of the standard program constructs.

Our Approach

ForwARd has taken a two-pronged approach to data, specifically pre-K data.

Integral to the success of Arkansas is the establishment of a statewide longitudinal data system, which would allow school leaders, policymakers and academic researchers to evaluate past, current and future programs and policies and measure their impact on student outcomes spanning from pre-K to the workforce. We are a consistent presence in collaborative meetings between agencies and serve as partner, committing the necessary resources to initiate action, such as securing grant writers for grant applications.

ForwARd is currently involved in a “community-based data campaign” to bring high-quality pre-K inside our respective ForwARd Communities. The goal of the data campaign is tri-fold. First, we want to provide a platform for our ForwARd Communities to ask relevant questions about the effectiveness and efficiency of their pre-K programs using current data and rigorous research methods. Second, we want our communities to be aware of the current state of their pre-K program. Lastly, we want to promote effective data quality policies and procedures in each community.

Planning for the Future

ForwARd positions itself as a partner to various school districts, business communities and private educational programs in order to assess our current data capacities and rigorously research longitudinal questions around our three policy priorities — increasing access to high-quality pre-K, elevating employability skills as a learning outcome, and strengthening the educator pipeline. These partnerships are an initial step towards promoting quality data and rigorous research.

Ultimately, we hope to establish a statewide data and research consortium to power consistent and credible longitudinal studies that will form the basis of sound policy and allow us to assess progress towards desired goals. We want Arkansas to become a leading state in collaborative academic research across sectors while protecting privacy and securing our data.