Report Card: Most NWA Schools Perform above State Level

An education report card published by the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, in partnership with the Northwest Arkansas Council, shows students in Northwest Arkansas outperform their peers elsewhere in Arkansas.

The 2012 Northwest Arkansas Report Card, which the Council helped sponsor for the second time, shows that public schools in Benton and Washington counties are outstanding in several areas when compared to other districts statewide. Among the report’s findings is that 13 of 17 school districts in the two counties had a higher National Percentile Ranking (NPR) on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, which helps to compare students and districts across state lines, than the state as a whole.

“We present data so parents, practitioners and business people can learn how schools are doing,” said Gary Ritter, director of the University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy. “We’re taking data and putting it in one location where people can find it.”

Kim Davis, the Council’s education and workforce director, said being able to tell the story of Northwest Arkansas schools is important. It’s among the reasons that the Council was interested in sponsoring the report card.

“We know strong schools make Northwest Arkansas better and can improve its economic success,” Davis said. “One of the key factors in whether people relocate to Northwest Arkansas to work for our region’s companies is the strength of our schools. Parents want assurance that they’ll have great jobs, but they want to be certain their children will attend outstanding schools.”

Ritter and Michael Crouch, school performance evaluator for the Office for Education Policy, said the data presented in the report card represents a snapshot of school performance; the school performance measures are just one factor parents should consider as they assess the state of schools in Northwest Arkansas. For those who want to dig deeper, there’s greater detail in reports compiled by the Office for Education Policy at the website.

The report card highlights individual school districts, but it also puts Northwest Arkansas schools into “Big 5” and “Rural 10” groupings to make it easy to compare schools of similar sizes. The “Big 5” includes the Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Siloam Springs and Springdale school districts. The “Rural 10” includes all other school districts in Benton and Washington counties with the exceptions of two charter schools: Haas Hall Academy and the Benton County School of the Arts.

Other data highlighted in the 2012 Northwest Arkansas Report Card include school district demographics, benchmark exam scores, teacher educational attainment, higher education cost effectiveness, Arkansas Lottery Scholarships and the relationship between college degrees obtained and the job market.

The 2012 Northwest Arkansas Report Card is one of several education-related initiatives from the Greater Northwest Arkansas Development Strategy being pursued by the Northwest Arkansas Council, its Educational Excellence Work Group and their partners.

Other education-related efforts related to the development strategy include Graduate NWA, a program to help nontraditional students complete college degrees and technical certifications; Reach Out NWA, a program to encourage high school dropouts to return to the classroom; and the Northwest Arkansas Higher Education Consortium, a mechanism to allow the region’s five colleges and universities to work together on programs of mutual interest.

The Northwest Arkansas Council is a private, nonprofit organization focused on improving the region’s education, infrastructure, community vitality and economic opportunity.

The report card is available at this link: Northwest Arkansas Report Card