Independence County

ForwARd’s Work In Independence County

Overview

Independence County is located in North Central Arkansas, at the foothills of the Ozark mountains. Approximately 37,500 residents call Independence County home, 6,700 of those being students enrolled in one of four public school districts that serve the county.

  1. Batesville School District, located in Batesville, AR, the county seat,  it is the largest district and educational employer in the county
  2. Cedar Ridge School District, located in Newark, just 16 miles east of Batesville
  3. Midland School District, serves  high school families from a Pleasant Plains campus, located 16 miles south of Batesville and elementary school families from Floral, which is about eight miles west of the Pleasant Plains
  4. Southside School District, located in Southside, just across the river, five miles south of Batesville

Independence County schools have become known throughout the state to be among districts leading the way in forging strong partnerships with business and community agencies in a collaborative effort to meet an ultimate goal of graduating students who are future-ready. They have also faced significant challenges in meeting the needs of a growing immigrant population, high poverty rates among the families that they serve, a digital divide created by a lack of broadband internet access for a significant number of rural homes, and attracting and retaining instructional talent to their districts.

Community metrics

Batesville School District

  • 45%

    Third Grade Literacy

    Based on the ACT Aspire Achievement Score (2016-2017)

  • 50%

    Eighth Grade Math

    Based on the ACT Aspire Achievement Score (2016-2017)

  • 87%

    High School Graduation

    Based on the School Report Card

  • 58%

    College Enrollment

    Based on LEA Information

Cedar Ridge School District

  • 26%

    Third Grade Literacy

    Based on the ACT Aspire Achievement Score (2016-2017)

  • 22%

    Eighth Grade Math

    Based on the ACT Aspire Achievement Score (2016-2017)

  • 87%

    High School Graduation

    Based on the School Report Card

  • 89%

    College Enrollment

    Based on LEA Information

Midland School District

  • 25%

    Third Grade Literacy

    Based on the ACT Aspire Achievement Score (2016-2017)

  • 23%

    Eighth Grade Math

    Based on the ACT Aspire Achievement Score (2016-2017)

  • 87%

    High School Graduation

    Based on the School Report Card

  • 58%

    College Enrollment

    Based on LEA Information

Southside School District

  • 40%

    Third Grade Literacy

    Based on the ACT Aspire Achievement Score (2016-2017)

  • 42%

    Eighth Grade Math

    Based on the ACT Aspire Achievement Score (2016-2017)

  • 97%

    High School Graduation

    Based on the School Report Card

  • 61%

    College Enrollment

    Based on LEA Information

Our Work

In August 2017, with guidance from ForwARd Arkansas, educational leaders in Independence County convened an IMPACT Education Summit—the first time in history all districts would gather to review data, listen to stakeholders and plan together for the future of education in the region. Through this process, all four districts finalized community action plans aligned with the countywide IMPACT strategic plan and the ForwARd vision by the end of 2017.

Batesville School District

After 36 hours of listening tours with faculty and staff, a number of open panel discussions with families of the district, and full support from their school board, Batesville School District restructured operations with to increase efficiency and save over $1 million to be  reallocated to attracting and retaining staff.

The District has also invested in a number of instructional changes and resources to assist in the development of Personalized Pioneer Pathways (P3), promising a personalized learning approach for each student Pre-K-12.

The District emphasizes the sharing of best practices by facilitating multiple opportunities for teacher collaboration and monthly “data and care consults,” providing school leaders and teachers the opportunity to analyze data, prescribe learning interventions or enhancements, and care for students in real-time.

Cedar Ridge School District

Cedar Ridge utilized the IMPACT Education Summit and their partnership with Arkansas Leadership Academy to identify three areas of needed improvement – curriculum, culture, and communication.

With the input of all stakeholders, the District chose to begin action plans in the curriculum area, determining that efforts in this area informed by input from teachers, students, and families could also result in improvements to school culture and communication. In January 2018, District administration began collaborating with curriculum administrators and professionals from  Springdale School District, a fellow ForwARd community, who they have partnered with on this effort.

Midland School District

Following the Summit in August, Midland School District and their stakeholders were provided with the clarity and confidence they needed to commit to a partnership they had been contemplating for a few years. In Fall 2017, the school board fully supported an allocation of $314,000 to support a District-wide Pre-K through 12 STEAM transformation designed to ignite student curiosity and inspire educators to reimagine learning with award-winning digital content and professional development.

Southside School District

Three full years prior to the Summit, Southside School District launched My Future Story, an exploratory pathway program. However, District leaders were still working to build momentum, develop new partnerships and identify funding to expand and sustain the program for all students.

With the help of many private funding partners, the local public education foundation launched a Promise program that will afford any student in Independence County the opportunity to start higher education or training prior to high school graduation.

This District is also implementing plans to elevate their Teacher Cadet program geared towards “growing your own” teachers from promising students.

Looking ForwARd

Independence County is striving to become a dynamic center of higher learning and training with unique educational partnerships beginning early in K-12 public schools and advancing with higher education and business partnerships.

Working together, we will create a culture of and support educational attainment and a welcoming business environment that provides quality jobs which pay family sustaining wages for all Independence County residents.

With abundant, affordable high-quality Pre-K, local K-12 public school leaders in education innovation, a state-of-the-art workforce training center, and affordable and reliable access to broadband internet, Independence County students will be college and/or workforce ready upon graduation without need for remediation. Lyon College and UACCB’s enrollment increases and workforce education pathways informed by business and industry will provide trained candidate pools for education, healthcare, manufacturing, industrial, technology, and food processing jobs.

To achieve these goals, Independence County schools will also seek to develop and expand business and industry partnerships, as well as strategic initiatives with Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Arkansas Grade Level Reading Campaign, R.I.S.E. Arkansas, Arkansas Career Education, Discovery Education STEAM Connect, Arkansas Leadership Academy, Ind. Co. Cares (Coordinated Care Network) and many future partners.