Education

Ever since the Central High School integration crisis in 1957, the image of public education in Arkansas in the national consciousness has ... not been one associated with progressive best-practices, but Arkansas public schools did turn out a president and a number of world class artists and scientists. Today, though, the state ranks near the bottom of most indexes of student achievement. 

Daniel Breen / Arkansas Public Media

University of Arkansas at Little Rock administrators are warning of cuts to make up for a roughly $9 million budget shortfall for the current school year.

At a campus meeting at the school's Donaghey Student Center Friday, UA Little Rock Chancellor Andrew Rogerson addressed faculty and staff on preparations for the budget deficit stemming from a drop in enrollment.

The school has seen a drop in enrollment from about 11,000 students in fall 2016 to roughly 9,000 students today. Rogerson said the university has been particularly hard-hit this year.

The real "I-40 showdown" between the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and the University of Central Arkansas is for students not student-athletes or fanbases.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's press conference last month featured representatives of both universities (separated by about 30 miles along Interstate 40) announcing the scheduling of a battery of athletic contests between the small NCAA Division I athletic programs.

npr.org

Rebecca Simpson has taught social studies at Little Rock's Dunbar Magnet Middle School for the past 25 years. And through all that time, she hasn't joined the union; not for any ideological reasons, she just doesn't see the benefit.

"Arkansas being a right-to-work state, it's very difficult for a union to be strong, period, here. Because they're hamstrung by that fact that there can be no compulsory union membership," Simpson said. "You can't force anyone to join, you can't force anyone to support a union."

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Holly Parker, 38, does not cover up when she breastfeeds her son Atlas, 1. In fact, he comes and goes as one does a drinking fountain, not a dinner table.

It's convenient for Parker to pull down one side of her loose-collared shirt. As for the exposure, "it helps that I don't have large breasts."

The North Little Rock high-risk obstetrics nurse and lactation counselor is evangelistic about breastfeeding. She fed her oldest, Story, from the breast until she was nearly 4.

Pixabay

The annual Kids Count report released Wednesday offers mixed news about life for Arkansas’s very youngest residents. 

The state’s overall child well-being index, which is based on a number of education, health and economic factors, improved from 43rd among the 50 states in 2016 to 41st last year.

The number of Arkansas kids living in poverty has declined by 28,000 since 2010, according to the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Today, 24 percent of Arkansas kids live in poverty; in the nation it's 19 percent.

LA Johnson / NPR

Shennel Douglas is a nursing student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. She says she hesitated when deciding to study in the U.S. after watching U.S. police shootings of unarmed civilians on television at home in the Caribbean.
 
“Coming to UCA, my main concern was being, what should I say, marginalized? Because not only am I an international student, but also I’m a black international student.”
 
There are now less international students on American college campuses than any time in the last decade.

Black, White Opinion Converges Around Belief Inequality Exists

Apr 25, 2018
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Over the last 15 years, residents of Little Rock have lost some hope that educational opportunity for kids of color is the same or equal to that of white kids. That’s according to an annual study on racial attitudes put out by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

The survey is focused on education this year, and it found that while 60 percent of whites think integration benefits everyone, only 42 percent of blacks in Little Rock agree. But all city residents increasingly agree that  school education isn’t equal. University historian John Kirk led the survey.

He says one reason whites and blacks see more inequality in Little Rock than they did in his first survey 15 years ago is that demographics of the city have changed.

Jacqueline Froelich / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

In the olden days, misbehaving school children were forced to stay after school and write repetitive chastisements on dusty chalk boards. Today, many public schools offer alternative learning environments for students with behavioral and emotional problems. Bentonville Public School District in Northwest Arkansas, however, has installed two intervention-rich elementary “behavior classrooms” to help children learn how to overcome chronic disruptive behavior.

Johnathan Reaves / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Jonesboro is marking a grim anniversary March 24 — 20 years ago two children shot and killed five people outside Westside Middle School. 

The shootings occurred 13 months before the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado  that is often called the seminal tragedy in a subcategory of mass shootings that take place at America's schools. 

Most recently, 17 students and teachers died at the hands of a gunman inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.

Creative Commons

Arkansas school students are expected to join thousands around the country March 14 in a national school walkout at 10 a.m. (local time). Billed as “Enough,” the demonstration is a coordinated public response to the shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It’s expected to last 17 minutes — one for each victim.

In Fayetteville, school officials are helping students coordinate a walkout at 10 a.m., though a district document also recognizes that some students have obtained a permit from the city to march on the Washington Count Courthouse — a demonstration the district has gently warned against.

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

There was a time when Anthony Freeman wanted to be a Razorback. Arkansas’s original land-grant university was the very picture of "college" he held in his mind. He visited and applied and, he says, got in.

That's as far as it got.

A North Pulaski High running back and a Christian youth minister, Freeman had worked to become an Academic Allstar, a best-of-the-best, at the state’s second-biggest community college, Pulaski Technical College (now UA-Pulaski Tech), and he was preparing himself to be an architecture major, a degree field with comparatively few African Americans.

"My mind was set on UA. My heart was set on UA. I'm going to get to UA."

Public Education funds in Arkansas are meeting bare minimums set under law and not getting any extra money in the governor’s proposed budget for next year.

Education Commissioner Johnny Key fielded lawmakers’ questions and concerns about the proposed budget at a Joint Budget Committee hearing on education funding Wednesday in advance of February’s fiscal session.

Jacqueline Froelich / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Sending children to the principal's office has long been a traditional punishment for unruly students. But Principal Michelle Hutton at Elmdale Elementary in Springdale offers safe haven where children can talk about what's troubling them, including traumatic events.

Elmdale faculty and staff have partnered with Ozark Guidance, a regional community mental health center, to learn how to assess students struggling with trauma to provide them proper help.

Jacqueline Froelich / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

When a school bus crashes, upset parents may ask, “Why aren’t my children wearing seat belts on the bus?”

Some state lawmakers are listening. California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York and Texas have passed mandatory school bus safety restraint statutes. Earlier this year, the Arkansas General Assembly did, too. But Arkansas's new school bus seat belt law is no cinch. 

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Victims of Hurricane Maria are weighing the possibility of a fresh start in Arkansas this winter.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is among a handful of schools on the United States’ mainland offering tuition help to Puerto Rican students whose universities were damaged and closed after the storm.

Southern Schools Once The Most Integrated In U.S. Says Researcher

Oct 2, 2017
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

On their 60th anniversary return to Central High School last week, the  Little Rock Nine — the nine students who desegregated Central in 1957 — called for continued efforts toward integration in education.

Arkansas Public Media spoke with professor Erica Frankenberg of Penn State University about her study on the re-segregation of the South.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

The anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock has brought national attention to Little Rock and renewed interest in the nine students who made history this month 60 years ago, even as a number of Little Rock residents talk of re-segregation of the school district and the ongoing state control of the city's public schools.

New Doors Open In Home Lending For College Grads With Debt

Sep 14, 2017
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Mortgage backers Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have recently changed lending rules to give more leeway to borrowers like Kristen Griffin with high student loans.

Griffin is a librarian at Nemo Vista High School in Center Ridge. She and her husband Mark are window-shopping on Zillow while their 2-year-old son Fletcher sleeps nearby.

National Park Service / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

It’s been 60 years since Central High School was forced to desegregate, but a federal lawsuit now claims the Little Rock School District is racially biased when it comes to investing in facilities and programs.

Proving that’s true in fact won’t be enough to win the case, though. The suit's authors will have to prove district officials set out to discriminate.

Bobby Ampezzan / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

On a blistering Monday afternoon in July, retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. George Hollingsworth sat down with Hot Springs Village Voice managing editor Jeff Meek to talk about the Vietnam War.

"I hope this," Hollingsworth said, meaning Ken Burns' The Vietnam War, and perhaps his own small part here on this set, "could start a national dialogue again about America, not only its tendency to war, but its tendency to govern in a dishonest fashion."

LA Johnson / NPR

Student loan borrowers are carrying debts later into life and are finding it harder to make big purchases, like a first home. In fact, a 2016 survey by the National Association of Realtors, and American Student Assistance, a non-profit, found almost three-quarters of all borrowers say their student loans are the reason they aren't purchasing a house.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas has until this fall to rewrite a wide-ranging education plan under the new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act based on stakeholder feedback solicited on a draft this summer.

The Act replaces the Bush Administration era’s No Child Left Behind. In contrast to its predecessor, the new federal law moves away from ranking schools based on standardized tests and toward state control and a more diverse set of metrics.

Educators Say They Generally Like State's Draft Plan

Jul 10, 2017
Lorenzo Gritti / National Public Radio

The Arkansas Department of Education has received largely favorable feedback on a draft plan for its implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a nationwide replacement for No Child Left Behind.

 

Last month, 114 respondents, mostly K-12 educators, gave input on the department’s second draft of the state’s accountability plan. More than three in four respondents said that overall, the plan lays out a clear vision for the state.

Jacqueline Froelich / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas university and college administrators and faculty have been busy this summer drafting new policies to accommodate a new state law allowing concealed weapons on campuses this coming school year. Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, with an enrollment of 12,000 last semester, formed a special task force in April to consider the change. 

Teresa Taylor is the interim executive director of Institutional Policy, Risk Management and Compliance for the college.

“We held very open public town hall meeting forums to explain the laws that exist already, and what that means for our campus,” she says.

LA Johnson / National Public Radio

Arkansas has until this fall to rewrite a wide-ranging education plan under the new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act, and the department is taking public comment on the plan on its website through the end of the month.

 

It replaces the Bush Administration era’s No Child Left Behind. In contrast to its predecessor, the law shifts away from ranking schools based on standardized tests and toward state control and a more diverse set of metrics. Test scores, once 70-80 percent of a school rank, will be counted closer to 50 percent. The state proposes to weigh students’ growth as heavily as their one-time test scores in order to rank school performance.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

At a brainstorming session after school recently at district headquarters, a group of black school employees sit around a U-shaped table discussing how to become principals. Coach Shawn Burgess, head of human resources at the Pulaski County Special School District, speaks to two women in the room who recently interviewed for leadership positions and didn’t get the job.

“And it’s not what you did wrong, per se. It’s about, ‘When is it my time?’” she said.

“That’s right. Um-hmm. That’s it,” echo the staff.

Pages