Arkansas Education

Arkansas has until this fall to rewrite a wide-ranging education plan under the new federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act based on stakeholder feedback solicited on a draft this summer.

The Act replaces the Bush Administration era’s No Child Left Behind. In contrast to its predecessor, the new federal law moves away from ranking schools based on standardized tests and toward state control and a more diverse set of metrics.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Forums, concerts, exhibitions and other events will be held this fall to mark the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School.Reflections of Progress” is the slogan for commemorative activities. 

On September 25th, 1957, troops from the 101st Airborne Division escorted nine black students into the once all-white school. That followed after an angry white mob and Governor Orval Faubus’ National Guard preventing the students from attending class, nearly three years after Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision.

The impact of social media and the internet on political and cultural movements of all stripes - from peaceful political organizing to radicalization, is pretty widely recognized now-a-days. But methods for studying, categorizing, and tracking online groups still has a ways to go.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman sat down to talk about government research with Dr. Nitin Agarwal with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The conversation covers a range of national security issues from Saudi women's rights, to ISIS Twitter bots, to how Russians perceive NATO exercises.

Arkansas Department of Information Systems / Arkansas Department of Information Systems

Before the start of the next school year, Arkansas may be among the few states providing high-speed internet access to all of its public school districts.

In the 1990’s Arkansas developed a system for providing internet access to schools, but its capabilities were limited and it became outdated quickly. Now, fiber optic cables running throughout the state have replaced the old infrastructure and currently reach 233 of the state’s 238 school districts. The updated system, known as the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) will increase access speeds from 5 kilobits per student to 200 kilobits per student.

At a brainstorming session after school recently at district headquarters, a group of black school employees sit around a U-shaped table discussing how to become principals. Coach Shawn Burgess, head of human resources at the Pulaski County Special School District, speaks to two women in the room who recently interviewed for leadership positions and didn’t get the job.

“And it’s not what you did wrong, per se. It’s about, ‘When is it my time?’” she said.

“That’s right. Um-hmm. That’s it,” echo the staff.

Little Rock leaders recently approved a resolution asking the state to restore local control over the city's public schools, but the possibility of a school board election actually taking place and how much local control could be returned are up in the air.

City officials passed the resolution earlier this week, asking for an election to be held later this year after a new law regarding school districts that are under state authority takes effect. The state took over the Little Rock School District in 2015 after it was deemed to be in academic distress.

The theme for 2017's nationwide summer reading program is "Build a Better World."
Collaborative Summer Library Program / Collaborative Summer Library Program

Libraries across Arkansas will join libraries nationwide to encourage patrons to “Build a Better World” this summer.

The summer reading program is an event in which libraries across the country, united by a common theme, promote reading and educational activities during the months most schools are closed.

The 3rd Annual Tracking Report from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement finds that the state is having success with a new health care business model that puts the focus on improved outcomes and cost savings.  

Unlike fee-for-service, the model used by the vast majority of health care providers, the Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative offers no financial incentive for ordering unnecessary tests.  Providers instead earn bonuses for improved outcomes for patients and for reducing costs.

It’s already saved the state some $54 million in Medicaid costs, according to Mike Motley, assistant policy director at ACHI.  The tracking report found that total Medicaid costs predicted at $660.9 million came in at $606.5 million in 2015, due to cost avoidance.  The savings were then shared between the state and the providers who helped avoid unnecessary costs.

Motley said the value-based model benefits patients as well by emphasizing outcomes and putting them in closer contact with their caregivers.

Little Rock Nine 9
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, joined Tueday (May 23) with civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to introduce legislation expanding boundaries of the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

This expansion would mean seven homes located near Little Rock Central High School would be included in the school’s national historic site designation and preserved by the National Park Service. The legislation is being introduced ahead of the city’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine in September.

The trial of a former Arkansas state senator and two others on corruption charges is being delayed.

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that a federal judge in Fayetteville on Tuesday postponed the trial of Republican former Sen. Jon Woods, Ecclesia College President Oren Paris III and consultant Randell Shelton Jr. until Dec. 4. Prosecutors say the investigation continues and more indictments are expected.

The judge also rejected Paris' request that he be tried separately in the case.

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