State board looks
Arkansas education leaders are taking advantage of changes in education standards and the state testing program to explore modifications in the way schools are held accountable for student achievement, including the A to F school grades.
Education Secretary Jacob Oliva told the state Board of Education at a work session last week that he is frequently asked about continuing the A to F letter grades that are applied to schools and whether the current system is reflective of the learning that occurs in the schools.
His response, Oliva said, is that the public understands the A to F systems. But he also said that this could be the time to improve on current accountability systems in light of new math and English/language arts standards and the switch from ACT Aspire to a new state-required test.
The current accountability system for the state and for federal funding takes into account student achievement and improvement on the Aspire exams, as well as high school graduation rates, reading at grade level, student engagement or attendance, science achievement gains, grade-point averages, performance on the ACT college entrance exam, Advanced Placement course credit, computer science credits and community service learning credits.
The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has formed a work group to delve into the matter.
The 15 accountability work group members are listed under the "teaching and learning" and "accountability" links at the bottom of this Arkansas LEARNS Act webpage: learns.ade.arkansas.gov/WorkGroups.
Any changes in the accountability system would be subject to state Board of Education approval and/or legislative action.
Math school opens
The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, a public residential high school located in Hot Springs, has opened its search for members of the classes of 2026 and 2027.
The school serves academically and artistically motivated students of all backgrounds from throughout the state of Arkansas. More than 250 students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades attend classes and live on the Hot Springs campus in a community of learning unique in the state.
All classes are taught on a college level, and the school offers 70 courses for college credit. Most students earn an average of 50 hours of college credit by the time they graduate, with all students earning at least 30 hours -- or a full year of credit, according to school leaders.
The school's Global Learning Program has resulted in some 500 students studying abroad.
Students apply to the school through a competitive admissions process that evaluates high school coursework, ACT/SAT scores, responses to essay questions, recommendation forms and other accomplishments. Finalist candidates are invited to attend interview weekends in April. The process is similar to applying to selective colleges and universities.
Students must submit their completed application packet no later than March 1.
More information about the application process and the requirements for admission is available at: asmsa.org/admissions, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling or texting (501) 622-5235.