Arkansas teachers and schools have direct control over 40 percent of the difference in student achievement levels. That's a lot, outgoing Arkansas Teacher of the Year Kathy Powers told the Arkansas State Board of Education today, but it means that 60 percent is outside of their control.
Powers urged communities to take more responsibility for how their students and schools fare -- and to react more aggressively -- because community influences can make a big difference in how well students perform in school.
Powers and her husband performed original research using Arkansas Department of Education, US Census and Education Week data. Here are a few of her most interesting findings:
1. Students in Arkansas schools that are more segregated than the community they are in do not achieve at as high of levels.
2. Arkansas schools that have more master's-degree-holding teachers have students who perform better (especially interesting because this goes against the grain of some national research).
3. Lower socio-economic students in Arkansas lose ground in the summer because they are not exposed to the same enriched, learning opportunities that their wealthier counterparts are. This is a void communities can work to fill, Power said, and it's extremely important because of the state's high number of children living in poverty.
While Arkansas is moving in the right direction with many of its post-Lakeview-ruling policies, much, much more needs to be done. After all, as Powers reminded us, Arkansas still hovers near the bottom of too many educational rankings.