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Education Notebook: Bessie B. Moore award winners | A perfect score on the ACT | Academic struggles of HS freshmen | Shade Trees on Playground program accepting applications

by Cynthia Howell | September 3, 2023 at 3:05 a.m.

7 teachers win economics awards

Seven Arkansas teachers have been named 2023 Bessie B. Moore award-winning educators by Economics Arkansas.

The Bessie B. Moore Awards Program recognizes Arkansas teachers for going "above and beyond" what is required by developing outstanding economic and personal finance projects they integrate into the classroom during the school year.

The winners, their projects and their schools are:

Wesley Ader, "When Going to the World Cup Hits Home," Bryant Junior High.

Rebekah Bilderback, "Economics is Life: Life Skills 101," Greenbrier Junior High.

Misty Burgess, "Scarcity in Our World," Greenbrier High.

Jamie Garmon, "What's Popping in Economics," Baker Elementary in the Pulaski County Special School District.

Amy Gordon, "The Lemonade War," Barling Elementary School in the Fort Smith School District.

Valarie Harp, "Beachonomics," Hackett Elementary in Hackett.

Ruthie Walls, "From Ninth Street to Now," Central High in the Little Rock School District.

The recipients are visited by the "Bessie Brigade" each fall, with a monetary award, a basket of goodies, and "The Bessie" statue.

4 at Central High earn top ACT score

Four current students at Central High hold the distinction of achieving a top score of 36 on the ACT college entrance exam, Little Rock School District leaders have reported.

The four are:

Muhammad Yayha Younus, an 11th grader.

Shruthi Hebbar, also an 11th grader.

Akul Shrivastava, a senior.

Kevin Durden, also a senior.

Fewer than half of 1% of students who take the ACT earn a top score.

The ACT exam is made up of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science. Each subject-area test is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. A student's composite score is the average of the four test scores.

UA office studies 9th grade struggles

The Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville has been studying the academic success and struggles of high school freshmen.

The office's early research has found that one in five members of the state's ninth grade class fail at least one course, and that economically disadvantaged freshmen students are twice as likely to fail a course as compared to more advantaged peers.

Additionally, researchers have concluded that grade point average of a ninth grader can be a better predictor of college enrollment than test scores.

Most recently, the office has identified the top 10 districts that "have closed the success gap for freshmen" in regard to economic advantage and disadvantage.

Those districts are: El Dorado, eStem Public Charter, Greene County Tech, Jonesboro, Magnolia, Marion, Rogers, Springdale, Van Buren and West Memphis.

More information is available at

Playground trees applications open

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture's Forestry Division is accepting applications for the 2023 Shade Trees on Playground program through September 15, 2023.

Arkansas schools needing additional shade on playgrounds can find the STOP program application and guidelines at

Five Arkansas native shade trees, mulch, watering supplies and planting guidelines will be provided to the selected schools and Forestry Division staff will help plant the trees during a ceremony with students this fall.

To date, approximately 165 Arkansas schools have received trees. The program also provides teachers with lessons bout the environmental benefits of trees, how shade reduces skin cancer risks and tips for keeping trees healthy.

Sycamores, oaks, tulip poplars and black gum trees are common species of trees used in the program.

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