Arkansas Best Practices Studies
The purpose of the Arkansas Best Practices Studies is to identify educational practices at high performing schools that are helping students achieve. Separate studies were conducted for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Each study is conducted by examining practices at three system levels: district, school, and classroom. By examining practices at all three levels, it is possible to determine how each level of the educational system contributes to student achievement.
Within each system level, five themes are examined. The first theme is “Curriculum and Academic Goals” which focuses on how curriculum is developed, implemented, and revised, as well as how schools and districts establish academic goals. The second theme, “Staff Selection, Leadership, and Capacity Building” focuses on the recruiting and hiring of administrators and teachers, the selection of professional development activities, and the providing of instructional support to teachers. The third theme, “Instructional Programs, Practices, and Arrangements” focuses on how instructional programs are selected and implemented throughout the school system, as well as the use of particular teaching methods, grouping arrangements, and the impact of the school schedule on student achievement. The fourth theme is “Monitoring: Compilation, Analysis, and Use of Data,” which focuses on how data are analyzed and distributed, including the development and use of student assessments and the use of evaluation systems to assess principals and teachers. The fifth theme, “Recognition, Intervention, and Adjustments,” focuses on the implementation of recognition programs, as well as the use of interventions for addressing identified needs in teacher or student performance. Additionally, a sixth area of analysis, Supporting Factors, was included to identify supports that are beneficial for schools.
Funding for the Arkansas Best Practices studies was provided by the Arkansas Department of Education (http://arkansased.org). The Arkansas Best Practices studies were conducted as part of a nationwide study with support from the National Center for Educational Accountability (NCEA) and Just for the Kids (JFTK). To learn more about NCEA or the nationwide study, visit www.just4kids.org.
The 2004 Arkansas Elementary School Best Practices study involved 17 elementary schools, geographically located across the state. In 2005, the Arkansas Middle School Best Practices study involved an additional 6 elementary schools and 15 middle schools. In 2007, the Arkansas High School Best Practices study involved an additional 6 middle schools and 10 high schools.
Each study involved both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Quantitative data were used by NCEA to determine the selection of schools. NCEA designated Arkansas schools as high- or average-performing based on ACTAAP scores, while considering a variety of factors, including ethnicity, free and reduced lunch participation, and percentage of English Language Learners. For more information on the NCEA school selection process, see http://www.nc4ea.org/files/NCEA%20HP%20Selection%20Criteria.pdf.
Schools for the Arkansas Best Practices studies were selected from the list of high- and average-performing schools generated by NCEA. Schools with varying demographics were chosen for the study. Site visits were conducted at each school. District personnel, school administrators, and classroom teachers were interviewed to identify best practices. Analyses of interview transcripts and documents provided by the schools allowed for identification of practices across the schools at the district, school, and classroom levels. To learn more about the methodology used in the Best Practices studies, click here.
For each of the studies, the three levels and five themes were summarized into a 3 x 5 grid. Analyses of the five themes, three system levels, and supporting factors, revealed specific practices that contribute to student achievement. Other schools may now consider implementing identified best practices that are appropriate for their situation.