Newcomers Will Find Solid NW Arkansas Schools

An annual report demonstrates people relocating to Northwest Arkansas from across the globe will be able to find excellent schools that fit their children’s educational needs, University of Arkansas researchers say.

Gary Ritter, an education and public policy professor and holder of the endowed chair in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and Sarah McKenzie, executive director of the university’s Office for Education Policy, said the latest version of the Northwest Arkansas Education Report Card includes many examples of academic excellence in the region’s public schools and public charter schools.

Teacher Darah Bennett talks with one of her students at Apple Glen Elementary School in Bentonville.

Teacher Darah Bennett talks with one of her students at Apple Glen Elementary School in Bentonville.

“Parents seek a school that is academically challenging and provides opportunities for their child to develop other skills like creativity, collaboration, and problem solving,” McKenzie said. “In Northwest Arkansas, there are a variety of great educational options, ranging from smaller schools that provide a learning experience rooted in the community to larger schools that offer wide ranging courses and extra-curricular activities. Whatever setting parents feel best meets the needs of their child, Northwest Arkansas schools offer plentiful opportunities for students to succeed."

The report card shows the 15 Northwest Arkansas school districts in Benton and Washington counties enroll nearly 85,000 students and employ 5,300 teachers in all. Most of the data in the report is based on the 2015-16 school year.

Among the statistics in the report:

  • Northwest Arkansas students continue to outperform their peers in other parts of the state, including in ACT exam scores (22.1 average vs. 20.6 average).
  • Northwest Arkansas students graduate from high school more often than students in other parts of Arkansas (89 percent vs. 87 percent).
  • Bentonville, Fayetteville and Gravette were among the highest performing traditional school districts in student achievement.
  • Arkansas Arts Academy, a charter school with nearly 600 students, had a 100 percent graduate rate. Students’ average ACT score was 23.1 at the school, which is located in Rogers.
  • The graduation rate at Farmington High School was 97 percent. It had the highest percentage among the traditional high schools.

For the first time, the report includes information on individual schools in the region’s largest school districts, allowing parents to see how one specific elementary or middle school stacks up against those in the same district and in other large school districts across Northwest Arkansas. Individual school data is provided for the Bentonville, Fayetteville, Rogers, Siloam Springs and Springdale school districts.

“We’ve created the report to be easily understood, because most people aren’t used to looking at school performance data,” Ritter said. “This should be useful to parents who want to know more about our schools.”

Ritter said many parents want to know if a high school will prepare their student for college. He said that Northwest Arkansas schools can provide excellent college preparatory experiences and all high schools offer Advanced Placement courses that give students an opportunity to complete college-level work.

The report does not include data from private schools, but some of the region’s private schools are widely recognized for their excellence.