By Elijah Mercer, CEI Education Policy and Communications Intern
Arkansas’ particularly high need, rural education district is historically highlighted for its challenges. The state adopted the Common Core Standards in July 2010 with some minor modifications.
The main issues with Common Core in Arkansas are nothing new. A lack of computers for testing in high-need regions, the struggle between state versus government take over of education, and teacher instruction tied to test scores are common issues across America. Governor Beebe, however, argued that Common Core presents an opportunity for the state: the urgency to increase Internet bandwidth to make resources available to all school communities despite finances (Brawner 2013).
Teacher Speak. While Arkansas recently received a ‘B- ‘ grade overall based on the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NTCQ) latest report and a 2013 Education Week Quality Counts survey selected Arkansas as the fifth best state for education policies in the nation, other education pundits have challenged these ratings. The same 2011 Quality Counts survey marked Arkansas low in student achievement and the chances of a quality career post high school graduation. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) gave Arkansas a D+ for education policies. Another 2012 news report singles out Arkansas as 1 of 10 states to experience high school graduation rate declines (Women Action Group, 2012).
One of Arkansas more notable issues with education surfaced when Karen Lamoreaux, a mother and former National Honor Society member, challenged the Common Core’s standards at an Arkansas State Board of Education meeting in December 2013. Lamoreaux challenged the Common Core’s math teaching methodology by using a pre-Common Core strategy that simplified algebra. A video of Lamoreaux can be seen below.
‘This is not rigorous. This is not college-ready. This is not preparing our children to compete in a global economy,’ Lamoreaux argued.
877 schools in Arkansas are labeled in the Needs Improvement Category and did not meet their Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs). Yet, 67 schools improved across the state (Friedman 2014). With these minor improvements come new innovations that could help supplement Common Core education.
Technologically Ahead of the Game. Despite the lack of bandwidth, Arkansas technology teacher Danielle Wilson of Cross Country New Tech High School infused mobile application technology as part of her classroom. In 2011, after recognizing the decline of computer programming in Arkansas as well as the need for programming and engineering pathways in school, Superintendent Dr. Matt McClure worked with the Arkansas Department of Education to implement a program. The purpose of the program was to use mobile application technology that helps prepare students for entry-level jobs in the mobile application development industry.
Wilson capitalized on this opportunity by researching possible technology games. Wilson learned about ‘GameSalad’ from Apple sales representative and received hands-on training to use and implement the program in the classroom. GameSalad’s visual learning tools proved a successful way for Wilson to teach students the rudimentary skills of programming. GameSalad uses games to engage students. In fact, Wilson now has trouble keeping up with students who now use the technology to problem solve beyond her wildest imagination. At the end of the pilot, Wilson recommended all schools school in Arkansas use GameSalad as part of their curriculum.
While Cross Country is a high school focused on technology, the opportunity to expand the program beyond solely technology classrooms in alignment with Common Core is doable. Students still have to read, use problem solving skills as well as elements of science to figure out the program itself.
U.S. teachers can lobby to local or state education officials to provide money and support for instructional uses of technology in the classroom like Danielle Wilson. While Wilson’s school is notably a technology-based magnet school, teachers have the potential to raise funds for such projects through websites like DonorsChoose.org or AdoptAClassroom.org.
Friedman, K. (2014, Nov. 4). 67 schools improve, receive achieving status. ArkansasEd.org. Retrieved from http://www.arkansased.org/public/userfiles/news/2014/Press_Release_ESEA_Data.pdf
Taylor, C. (2014, Dec. 4) Arkansas still not ranked 5th in Education, Gov. Beebe! TheArkansasProject.com. Retrieved from http://www.thearkansasproject.com/arkansas-still-not-ranked-5th-in-education-gov-beebe/
Thurman, T. (2014, Jan. 17) Arkansas mom poses problem for Common Core. DailySignal.com. Retrieved from http://dailysignal.com/2014/01/17/arkansas-mom-poses-problem-common-core/
Wilding, A. (2014, Jan. 30). Arkansas earns B- for teacher effectiveness policies. NCTQ.org. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/2013_State_Teacher_Policy_Yearbook_Arkansas_Press_Release
Wilson, D. Debugging a program problem. GameSalad.com. Retrieved from http://gamesalad.com/education/stories-from-teachers/real-teacher-story-danielle-wilson