One more voice in education is advocating for Pre-K funds, afterschool programs, and stronger recruitment and training for Arkansas’s teachers.
ForwARd Arkansas gave a report to the State Board of Education Friday after months of hosting focus groups and conducting surveys around the state. The group has been tasked with developing a long term vision for closing achievement gaps and increasing graduation rates in Arkansas.
ForwARd's report identifies seven priority areas, including a focus on the nutritional, summer school, Pre-K, and afterschool needs of students. The plan also emphasizes building STEM, or Science Technology, Engineering and Math skills.
“We need kids that have breakfast in the morning, we need kids that have strong summer programs, we need kids that have after school support,” said Cory Anderson of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Anderson told board members investing in professional development for teachers is also central to helping Arkansas become a national leader in education.
“We know we needed to focus on support outside of the classroom. Meaning that everything that impacts a kid’s education doesn’t happen within the school day, doesn’t happen within the walls the classroom,” he said.
State Board of Education chair Toyce Newton said she was pleased with ForwARd’s work.
“We’re excited that you will keep us on task in terms of individually and certainly there’s commitment from the board to participate in this initiative, and hopefully some others will grow up out of this also,” she said.
State Board member Jay Barth responded that he hoped an effort to foster civic involvement would be a part of ForwARd's vision for education in the state. He said educators should do more than prepare students for college and careers.
“We really have to add the third “C,” which is civic life. And it struck me that we talk a lot about, ‘oh we want the community involved,’ but our educational system often doesn’t prepare folks to be good citizens.”
ForwARd Arkansas includes the Walton Family Foundation, The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the State Board of Education.
The team will prepare a public plan to release in the fall.