The ultimate goal of the Institute’s Arkansas Education Policy Initiative is to create statewide education policy recommendations and actions that will improve the state’s national standing in K-12 educational outcomes. In addition to being an economic boost, we believe these recommendations could lead to more funding for education and an improved learning environment for students, families, and communities.
To date, more than 90 program partners (education leaders, K-12 and university administrators, educators, policymakers, advocates, and parents) have been involved in focus groups, working group meetings, and in-person summit meetings at the Institute. These participants have volunteered more than 1500 volunteer hours of their time to review data, examine policies, and engage in respectful dialogue to identify collaborative solutions.
The third in-person Arkansas Education Policy Initiative summit was held in November 2022. The fourth summit is scheduled for June 2023.
“Never once did I doubt that our top priority had to go to education. Our oldest problems are rooted there, and surely our brightest opportunities for the future are to be found there.” — Winthrop Rockefeller
This work provides an opportunity for the Institute to pursue its mission of continuing Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller’s collaborative approach to creating transformational change in the world of education policy in Arkansas — an area for which he demonstrated deep concern.
How the Arkansas Education Policy Initiative Works
Four working groups meet biweekly to monthly to continue the work of the Arkansas Education Policy Initiative. Each working group has identified at least one two-year goal.
- Teacher Recruitment, Retention, Training
- Community/Student Support and Infrastructure
- Customizable Delivery Models
- Policy in Practice
Identify and reduce barriers for educators, focus on educator retention strategies, examine pathways to education licensure, and focus on diversity and inclusion of educators.
Engage community involvement to broaden options for community improvement and education through a thorough examination of existing education resources in Arkansas specified by and curated for education professionals.
Demonstrate that a mastery-based education model can exist in Arkansas with the current policies in place.
The research, data, and public education arm of this program. Conduct meetings and trainings to educate policymakers and stakeholders so they can make informed and perform data-driven education advocacy.
Education in Arkansas: A Primer
This primer was created by the Initiative’s Policy in Practice working group and is intended to serve as a resource about the PK-12 education landscape in Arkansas. This primer includes general information about key education topics. The Policy in Practice working group is positioned to connect you with experts if you would like to know more.
Past Arkansas Education Policy Initiative Meetings
The Institute hosted a topic dinner with 13 education and state leaders. Nine virtual focus groups were held in the following months, culminating in our first in-person collaborative session in February 2022.
During our first collaborative session, 40 participants met with the goal of selecting top focus areas within Arkansas education policy for working groups to address, along with three to five specific issues for each working group. The session was unfortunately cut short due to a winter storm, but the participants agreed to meet virtually in April 2022 to finish their work.
Our 40 participants met again to go through our Tools for Respectful Dialogue workshop, review and evaluate the top issues per focus group, and work together to identify goals and immediate action steps. Each working group has been following these criteria to determine its goals and focus:
- The issue is not being actively addressed elsewhere (that we know of).
- There can be movement around the issue in the next 1-2 years. It doesn’t have to be solved, but there must be some progress made.
- The issue truly needs collaboration.
Creating the Arkansas Education Policy Initiative
In 2021, the Institute was approached by potential partners with a desire to collaborate with a diverse group of key participants:
- Education leaders
- K-12 and university administrators
- Policy makers
In November 2021, the Institute hosted a topic dinner with 13 education and state leaders. Nine virtual focus groups were held in the following months, culminating in our first in-person collaborative session held on Feb. 22-23, 2022.
We believe this group can effectively identify policies to improve Arkansas’s K-12 education system so that it effectively meets the needs of our children and families, most likely at the level of the state legislature or the Arkansas Department of Education.