The Department of Education Reform will conduct research and demonstration projects focused on five primary areas of reform. These areas include:
Teacher Quality – Teacher Quality is at the forefront of efforts to improve public schools. The importance of a highly qualified teacher in every classroom has been underscored in every reform effort, including the federal “No Child Left Behind” legislation as well as recommended by leading reform advocates. Some of the issues of teacher quality include preparation, recruitment, compensation and retention. There must be a continuing supply of students enrolling in high quality teacher preparation programs that require strong subject matter content and teaching methods in conjunction with clinical practice. Recruitment is critical to attracting the most able teachers into the schools where the need is greatest. Finally, Arkansas and the nation have to develop better methods for compensating and retaining good teachers and continuously disseminating current information about teaching.
Leadership – New leaders and leaders with new skills are essential to the reform of public education. The development of high quality leaders for the public school system is as important as the preparation of leaders for business, industry, and government. Superintendents, principals and other leaders in the public education system are responsible for implementing the policies created by state and local governing systems to move school districts and schools forward on new paths. The current emphasis on high quality instruction, coupled with rich curricula, should be driven by the leadership in every possible way.
Policy – At the heart of policy studies is the connection between legislation and implementation. The discussion of policy has blossomed into a broad interdisciplinary field. It involves a number of academic fields such as economics, sociology, and public policy studies as well as education. This focus on holistic policy-driven perspectives creates a comprehensive frame of reference within which all members of the community – scholars, teachers, administrators, parents, business leaders and elected officials – can find a common language and common perspectives with which to engage questions of education reform.
Accountability and Transparency – In recent years, leaders from all walks of life have been asking about the mechanisms to measure performance by both students and teachers, enabling policymakers to have access to evidence of outcomes in ways that were not possible in the past. Today there are many mechanisms in place to measure performance by both students and teachers. The use of broad testing programs, combined with other measures of effectiveness, has enabled policymakers to have access to evidence of outcomes in ways that were not possible in the past.
School Choice – Although a controversial issue in many quarters, the availability of options for education is another issue that is beginning to receive considerable attention by education reformers. While the public schools have served many students well, it is widely known that a number of schools across the nation, and especially in Arkansas, fail to meet standards of quality and produce graduates who have not mastered essential knowledge and skills. Opportunities for choice other than the traditional public school are advocated by reformers as a way to offer students a quality education experience and concurrently create a need in the traditional public schools to compete successfully for students.