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Legislative Update

Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2012, at 11:01 AM

Earlier this year we told you about new way of learning in Arkansas classrooms. Common Core has now been implemented in grades K-8 in all Arkansas schools. The Common Core standards are designed to have all of our students college and career ready upon graduation.

With a new way of learning, comes a new way of tracking our students progress. This week, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) released its reports under the state's new accountability system.

The No Child Left Behind Act left states to develop their own curriculum standards and implement annual tests. But all 50 states had different standards and different tests to measure performance. Arkansas was granted a waiver for No Child Left Behind before the beginning of the school year.

The new system measures student performance in three categories-student achievement, student growth and graduation rate at high schools.

Now schools no longer compete with other schools or chase a state level target. Instead of a one-size fits all approach, targets are now individualized.

The new system uses the classifications of Exemplary, Achieving, Needs Improvement, Needs Improvement Focus, or Needs Improvement Priority. These replace the labels formerly used under No Child Left Behind.

Right now a large number of our schools across the state are listed as "needs improvement". But Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell says that does not mean those schools are failing.

"It means those school leaders and teachers look at the data to find out which students are not making their gains," said Dr. Kimbrell. "It means they develop teaching and learning strategies to help each student achieve."

If a school receives the lowest ranking of "needs improvement focus", it will need to develop a plan for improvement. If there is no improvement in two years, then the district could be classified as academically distressed.

If you would like to see how your school is performing, visit the Department of Education website www.arkansased.org.



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By Rep. Homer Lenderman and Rep. Wes Wagner
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