Koret Task Force Points Arkansas toward Deeper School Reforms; Education Experts Answer Call from State Leaders

Monday, December 12, 2005

After a yearlong assessment of Arkansas' education policies, the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force on K–12 Education presented its recommendations for reforming the state's education practices to Governor Mike Huckabee on Monday, December 12.

Five task force members joined the Governor in a press conference highlighting the group's plan: Reforming Education in Arkansas: Recommendations from the Koret Task Force, 2005 (Hoover Press, 2005). Huckabee had invited the group to examine the state's K–12 education system and offer suggestions for strengthening it.

Working together with state policymakers and education leaders, the task force authored a plan to transform Arkansas schooling into a more rigorous, equitable, and diverse system that will equip the state's children with the skills and knowledge to succeed in higher education and the twenty-first century workplace.

"Our goal is to help Arkansas create a world-class K–12 education system that meets the economic and social demands of the modern era," said Koret Task Force chairman Chester E. Finn Jr. "Built upon the principles of accountability, choice, and transparency, our recommendations will assist state leaders to advance the reform efforts they've already undertaken and serve as a model for other states to emulate."

The task force targeted four vital areas for reform: statewide standards and curriculum, assessment and accountability, organization and options, and teacher quality.

"We have experienced real changes and many improvements in Arkansas education over the past few years," said University of Arkansas' Gary W. Ritter, a professor of education policy and a contributor to the volume. "The state has worked to ensure that proper resources are in place for the educators to do their important work, but we must continue to think carefully about the important issues considered in this volume. The recommendations in this report are extremely timely and will help infuse the current education debate with new ideas and perspectives. They deserve careful attention as we work to sustain our positive momentum in educational improvement and reform."

The Koret Task Force members are among America's foremost education scholars, brought together by the Hoover Institution with the support of the Koret Foundation. All eleven Task Force members participated in the Arkansas review: John E. Chubb, Williamson M. Evers, Chester E. Finn Jr., Eric A. Hanushek, Paul T. Hill, E. D. Hirsch, Caroline M. Hoxby, Terry M. Moe, Paul E. Peterson, Diane Ravitch, and Herbert J. Walberg. Additional contributors to Reforming Education in Arkansas include John Brown, Paul Clopton, and Gary W. Ritter.

More information about the Koret Task Force is available online at www.korettaskforce.org.

The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic public policy and international affairs, with an internationally renowned archive. For more information on the Hoover Institution, visit www.hoover.org

Reforming Education in Arkansas: Recommendations from the Koret Task Force

-- Highlights--

The task force's complete recommendations can be found online at http://www.hoover.org/publications/books/3020591.html.

Standards and Curriculum

English Language Arts

-- Make the language-arts curriculum specific and integrate it with other subjects.

-- Align the state's language-arts assessments with the content framework.


-- Reduce the number of standards to allow a more in-depth focus and rework vaguely defined standards to be more concrete and applicable.

-- Place greater focus on measurable student achievement rather than on pedagogy and process.

Social Studies

-- Develop a new, grade-specific framework for history/social studies that is coherent and rich in content.

-- Develop and deploy end-of-course assessments in history/social studies.

Assessment and Accountability

Statewide Testing

-- Continue reporting the percentages of students that attain "Below Basic," "Basic," "Proficient," and "Advanced" levels so that educators are encouraged to help students at all levels.

-- Launch and evaluate a pilot computer-adaptive examination system and commission an analysis of the possibility of cost-effectively substituting computer-adaptive tests for the state's norm-referenced tests and substantial parts of its criterion-referenced tests.


-- Revamp testing programs to ensure that definitive information about every school's AYP during the previous year is made public not later than July.

-- Ensure that districts implement the interventions mandated by NCLB for schools "in need of improvement" in timely and thorough fashion; where districts are unable to do this, the state should do so directly.

Measuring Growth

-- Track the performance of individual students and calculate the value-added by teachers and schools in each tested subject to support better accountability and reward systems.

Organization and Options

Consolidation and Effectiveness

-- Monitor district consolidation so as not to sacrifice high-performing small schools that are successfully delivering the necessary coursework.

-- Deploy multiple strategies for addressing the challenges of high-quality rural education, including the delivery of instruction via technology.

Charter Schools

-- Lift the current cap on the number of charter schools and offer equitable support for their capital needs.

-- Give authorizing authority to universities, municipalities, and not-for-profit organizations.


-- Undertake a resource-transparency project starting at the state level, with a merged accounting system for all state education-funding streams.

-- Mandate universally available report cards at district and school levels.


Preparation and Certification

-- Certify all who possess a bachelor's degree, can pass a rigorous test of subject knowledge, and pass a background check.

-- Deploy rigorous tests of subject-matter knowledge for both new and veteran teachers and eliminate work rules that impede the flexible selection, deployment, and retention of teachers.

Rewarding Teacher Effectiveness

-- Incorporate data about student performance over several years and base the majority of a teacher's reward on his/ her individual value-added.

-- Make rewards for good teachers sufficient to attract and retain outstanding teachers.