A few more Arkansas school kids hit the state's proficiency level in standardized testing in the 2016-2017 school year compared to the previous year.
The number of students meeting state "readiness" benchmarks on the state's ACT Aspire exam rose by an average of 4.2 percent from last year across subject areas. That number hovers around the 50 percent mark
The data show that Arkansas students do best on the English portion of the exam. An average 69.9 percent of students met state benchmark “college and career readiness” standards in English.
Only 46.8 percent met the benchmark in math, 40.36 percent in science, and 40.6 percent in reading.
Writing scores saw the greatest increase from last year, with an 11.3 percent increase in grades 3 through 10, and a 21.72 percent increase in fifth grade writing.
In a press release, the department said the jump in scores could be attributed to the larger time allotment students were given to complete the writing assessment this year, as well as a greater familiarity overall with the online test.
State law requires the ACT Aspire exam be given to students between the 3rd and 10th grades as a statewide assessment. It is used as an oversight mechanism for schools, and to compare Arkansas's scores with other states. The company reported in 2016 that over 5 million students take the test nationwide.
This is the state’s second year proctoring the test after Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key decided to drop use of the Common Core-tied PARCC exam in 2015.
“These results are a positive reflection of the work of our dedicated educators,” Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key said in the release.
“While we are pleased with the improvement, we must expect more,” Key added.
Educators commonly correlate a change in testing method with lower scores for a few years after a new test is given.
According to the department, approximately 288,000 students took the test which lasted on average 4.5 hours.
This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media, a statewide journalism collaboration among public media organizations. Arkansas Public Media reporting is funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK and from members of the public. You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media’s reporting at arkansaspublicmedia.org. Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.