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ForwARd Arkansas Report Sees Progress, Room for Improvement at State Schools

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ForwARd Arkansas, a partnership of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and Arkansas Board of Education, released a report it says confirms that while achievement gaps still exist in state education, Arkansas has been successful in improving access to education.

The group’s “State of Education in Arkansas” report is available here. The group said the report found that: 

  • Arkansas has been successful in improving access to education and increasing participation in higher-level educational activities.
  • Arkansas has established policies and standards that should support improved student outcomes.
  • Student outcomes are still far below aspirations across the state; opportunity exists to improve. 
  • Despite recent gains, the achievement gap is still significant, and this is reflected in economic, racial and regional disparities.

“Arkansas has made great strides when it comes to our education system, yet student outcomes are still below aspirations,” Sherece West-Scantlebury, president and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and ForwARd steering committee member, said in a news release. “‘The State of Education in Arkansas’ report is a call to action to improve education outcomes for all Arkansas students by providing the best education to serve them in the future.” 

ForwARd Arkansas said it researched school performance, student demographics, test scores, graduation rates and other education metrics to compile the report. The group said the data will “inform, guide and focus” its strategic plan for education in Arkansas. 

“This report is one of several data sources ForwARd will use to develop its comprehensive plan to improve education in our state,” West said. “Paired with the input from Arkansans through our online survey, meetings and advocacy group outreach, this report will give us a strong foundation to advance education in Arkansas.”

ForwARd Arkansas’ steering committee plans to complete and release a comprehensive strategic plan by late spring. Earlier this month, it began a survey of educators, parents, students and other stakeholders to determine how to prepare Arkansas students for success in college and the workplace.

ForwARd Arkansas’ goal is “to help enhance student outcomes and educational opportunities.” It aims to develop “a comprehensive plan to guide state policy for P-16 education, with a focus on schools in academic distress.”

Members of ForwARd’s steering committee include Shane Broadway, Toby Daughtery, Kim Davis, Bill Dillard III, Marcy Doderer, Matt Dozier, Bob East, Sen. Joyce Elliott, Melanie Fox, Lavina Grandon, Johnny Key, Tom Kimbrell, Ginny Kurrus, Michele Linch, Hugh McDonald, Justin Minkel, John Riggs, David Rainey, Scott Shirey, Ray Simon, Kathy Smith, Ladonna Spain, Bob Watson, Sherece West-Scantlebury, Darrin Williams, Kenya Williams and Diana Gonzales Worthen.

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