Data use key for Arkansas school group

Education practitioners at the newly formed Arkansas Consortium on School Research (ACSR) embraced the opportunity to be part of a groundbreaking “community of practice,” convened on March 3rd in Monticello, Arkansas. The Consortium, initiated by REL Southwest at Edvance Research, was developed with the goal of improving student outcomes through the use of data. State education leaders and practitioners from Arkansas united with education researchers to collaborate on strategies to build their local research capacity and facilitate the use of data in real world scenarios. The Consortium will focus on the issue of college and career readiness, a topic of state and national interest.

District leaders view the Consortium as a venue where participants can improve outcomes by using their own student data to assess, intervene and monitor progress in a timely manner. The Consortium will nurture peer connections and provide a support network, especially for a majority of participants located in rural and high poverty areas. These members will be able to attend future on-line meetings and communicate in a dynamic environment with other ACSR colleagues to examine similar challenges and share successes.

The meeting focused on the use of On-Track Indicators to improve high school graduation rates. A “How-To Guide” from the REL Southwest study, Applying an On-Track Indicator for High School Graduation,was reviewed.An overview of the study and the development of the “How-To Guide,” specifically the importance of practitioner input, illustrated the benefits of research in practice. An interactive session, using Arkansas data, allowed participants the opportunity to delve into the data and examine how the On-Track Indicator can be adapted in Arkansas.

Andrew Tolbert, Superintendent of Warren ISD, reflected, “The hands-on activity of having us do a step by step process using Arkansas data and the On-Track How-To Guide supplement were really good ways to show us how to identify the criteria that may be relevant to using the On-Track Indicator. I can see the value of working with REL not only on the issue of early predictors for on-time high school graduation, but also on the issues in our district that more directly address our gaps in student achievement.”

Participants at the recent Arkansas Consortium meeting included Superintendents, Principals and Literacy and Math Coaches from 9 participating school districts, as well as leaders from the Arkansas Department of Education, the Regional Cooperative Service Centers and the Arkansas Public School Resource Center.