Lincoln, Pryor, Berry, Snyder, Ross Announce $40M to Improve Arkansas’s Lowest-Achieving Schools

Washington – U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and U.S. Representatives Marion Berry (AR-01), Vic Snyder (AR-02) and Mike Ross (AR-04) today announced that Arkansas will receive $40,196,637 million in Recovery Act funds to make improvements to its persistently lowest-achieving schools. School districts that will be eligible to apply for the funding must be defined by the state as “persistently lowest-achieving.”

 To evaluate its schools, Arkansas examined the mandatory assessments in literacy and math given to students who completed a full academic year for 2007 through 2009. Students who took an alternate assessment were also included in the evaluation. The final ranking given to each school was determined by how many students were deemed “proficient” in literacy and math for 2007, 2008, and 2009, and also how the students at the schools progressed over the three year period. The schools identified as persistently lowest-achieving were the bottom 14 schools in this combined ranking.

 “As one of the few Senators with children in public schools and as a product of Arkansas’s public schools myself, I am committed to ensuring that Arkansas’s educational system has the capacity to provide a high-quality learning experience for our future generations,” Lincoln said. “There is no issue more intricately connected to the future prosperity of our nation than the quality of our public schools. We must be willing to take bold steps and try innovative approaches to make our students and our schools strive for excellence. I am proud to have helped deliver these funds to Arkansas to help improve education in our state and secure a better future for our children.”

 “This funding offers an attractive carrot to turn around low performing schools in Arkansas,” Pryor said. “We owe it to our children to provide strong opportunities to learn, graduate and eventually compete in a global marketplace.”

 “We should be looking at all of our options on the table for improving low-performing schools,” Berry said. “These funds will help revamp some of our schools, so we can ensure our children are receiving the education they deserve and so they can remain competitive with other students across the country. This issue demands bold action, and I believe these grants will go a long way in addressing this systemic problem.”

 “We must fill the gap in achievement among lower performing schools,” Snyder said.  “These Recovery Act funds can help carry out the high training standards our students deserve.”

 “I am committed to providing our educators with the tools and resources they need to ensure our children receive the best education possible,” Ross said. “I am proud to join with my colleagues to announce this important funding which will help ensure students and teachers have the best learning environment possible.”

 “We have no doubt that Arkansas schools receiving this money will put it to  good use as they implement those turn-around strategies most appropriate for their students,” said Tom W. Kimbrell, Arkansas’s Commissioner of Education. “At the state level, we will offer support and guidance every step of the way in this process, as it is our goal to ensure that all Arkansas students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and career.”

 When school districts apply for School Improvement Grants – which is expected to happen this spring – they are required to indicate that they will implement one of the following four models in their schools:

 Turnaround Model: The school will replace the principal, screen existing school staff and rehire no more than half of the teachers. The school will adopt a new governance structure and improve the school through certain curriculum reform, professional development, extended learning time, and other strategies.

 Restart Model: A school will be converted or closed and reopened as a charter school, or under an education management organization.

 School Closure: The school will be closed and students will be sent to higher-achieving schools in the district.

 Transformation Model: The school will replace the principal and improve the school through comprehensive curriculum reform, professional development, extended learning time, and other strategies.

 Educational institutions classified as Tier III will also be able to apply for funds once all of the persistently lowest-achieving schools have received their allocations. A Tier III school is one that has failed to meet adequate yearly progress for two years and is not identified as a persistently lowest-achieving school.