Huckabee and the State of Education in Arkansas Can You Solve This Riddle/Huckabee & Education in Arkansas


Can You Solve This Riddle?


In light of the following facts, how do Arkansas's educational policies get rewarded with an eighth-place national ranking in 2008 that is being touted by Governor Huckabee in national debates, and by the media?    1


·         The Education Week’s Quality Counts 2008 report itself indicates that Arkansas earned a D in K-12 on student achievement (on their own report where they gave Arkansas an 8th from the top national ranking.)  2

·         Only nine states scored lower than Arkansas on the ACT test in 2007.  Arkansas dropped slightly in 2007, but the national average improved. (The ACT test is the culmination of K-12 instruction and is used by colleges all over the nation to award scholarships.)

·         The graduation rate dropped slightly more than 10% in one year according to the last educational report in Arkansas (2005-2006) the next report won't be available for a few more months. 4

·        College Remediation Rate is 51.6% (46.6% in 1995); National Average is 33% 5  

·         Only Nine States Scored Lower Than Arkansas in 8th Grade Math on NAEP Test; only sixteen states scored lower than Arkansas on the 4th Grade Reading NAEP Test, etc. in 2005.  In 2007 our scores were even lower.  Arkansas Department of Education Director said , "We have slipped a bit in terms of state rankings in all areas, save mathematics at the fourth grade." 6

·         Only 28% of AR students pass test on Advanced Placement (AP) courses, while 59.4% pass nationwide 7

·         Test Scores on nationally normed tests  are 11 Percentile Points lower in 2006 than in 1990 (a 22% decrease) (Later scores are not available yet)  8

·         In its latest State of State Standards in 2006, Fordham Foundation gave Arkansas an F on its Math Standards, F on U S. History Standards, an F on World History Standards, a D in Science and a C in English for an average of F.  9  

·         The National Report Card on Higher Ed. gave Arkansas a  D+ in High School Preparation for College in 06 in its latest report.  10

·         Educational Reforms Have Cost $1.4 BILLION since 2003, which equals about a 3% sales tax increase in Arkansas. 11


In addition, two of the three states given the lowest percentile ranking by Education Week’s Quality Counts 2008 (in which Arkansas ranked 8th from the top)  have ACT scores significantly  higher than Arkansas. 12  In fact, as pointed out above, only nine states had ACT scores lower than Arkansas.  I wonder how fair these states think these rankings are! 


To figure out the riddle as to how Arkansas ranks 8th from the top in quality of education, one will have to read volumes and figure out a complicated rubricmade up of  six categories with names that are meaningless like "Chance for Success Index" and "Transitions and alignment"  for example.   To define these categories, one has to familiarize himself with 128 indicators and definitions filled with educational jargon.  13


The report indicates that Arkansas earned a D in kindergarten through 12th grade on student achievement.  Instead of achievement, points are awarded on many controversial issues with subjective data that would take millions of dollars in bureaucracy to implement such as: (It takes 14 pages to give the report on Arkansas) 14 and 15

·        Most money spent per student

·        "Pay for Performance" (means merit  pay for teachers)

·        Several points are given on staff development (staff development is basically promoting a progressive liberal student centered education that has failed over and over, and most teachers will tell you staff development is basically worthless.

·        "Unique identification number assigned to each teacher by state"

·        "Link teacher and student records by course/subject and state assessment results,

·        "Incentives for teachers to earn national-board certification" (studies have shown this does not improve scores)

·        "K-12 has path for industry-recognized certificate or license (Oregon tried to pass a law that students could not get a job unless they had this certificate)  It did not pass but this is how far this government control aspect is promoted by this organization that rated the states and gave Arkansas an 8th ranking.


The answer to the riddle:


Those states with the most government control get the highest ranking - this organization's report is a propaganda tool to encourage more government control. Achievement is only about one-sixth of the final grade or ranking (and part of that one-sixth has nothing to do with actual scores but rather with narrowing the poverty gap, etc.)    The other aspects that make up the ranking are all things that are attained by government control and mandates by the state. 16


That Arkansas ranks 8th on this report justifies my assertion made in other articles  that Arkansas has grown more rapidly in government control than any state in the Union; therefore Arkansas has been rewarded with this high ranking in this report.   


In fact I find it incredible that this organization, Governor Huckabee or the media could tout this study as being credible or worthy of any degree of legitimacy or validity.  The study and rankings have nothing to do with achievement – the standard used by Americans and the world for hundreds of years.  Do we ever hear parents bragging about a child's letter grade of D. 


And when the state holds the schools accountable, it is on objective test scores (achievement) and not on all this subjective, bureaucratic process. As a journalist proclaimed  after the  Monica Lewinsky scandal,  "I no longer live in the world I have known in the past."


This article can be read online at this link: (If the link won't open by licking, copy and past in the address box of your browser.)



Debbie Pelley



1. "Arkansas gets No. 8 ranking for education"  by Tara M. Manthey, January 10, 08


2.  Same as #1


3. Table of ACT scores in 07 arranged alphabetically.


4Link to State Graduation Rates 06 - Shows 71% graduation rate for this year

Link to graduation rate 05 for comparison:  81.3% at this link:

Link to 04 graduation rate for comparison: 81.6%


5.  Remediation rate in Arkansas  (Note presently there is a mistake on the remediation rate number on this report, but if you look at 2004 and 2006 reports that you can access at the top of the same page,  you will see  there is a mistake.  The decimal point is in the wrong place.)

National college remediation rate 33%


6.  Arkansas NAEP Test Scores, Did we win the Olympic Gold Medal on the NAEP, or did we Bomb It? You Decide!


7 High-level classes rise; test scores still lagging, August 30, 06 by Heather Wecsler  "In 2006, the state Department of Education reported 15, 705 Arkansas students took Advanced Placement exams… Of those exams, about 28 percent — 7, 368 — had scores of 3 or better. …The College Board, the New York-based nonprofit that oversees the program, reports that 59. 4 percent of the nearly 2. 3 million tests administered nationwide had scores of 3 or above."

8.  Nationally Normed Test Scores 11 percentile points lower than in 1990

Yet ADE Commissioner Ken James is JUBILANT


9.  The State of State Standards 2006 by Fordham Foundation


10.  "High school students in Arkansas are poorly prepared for college when compared with students in other states. This year Arkansas receives a D+ in preparation."


11.  For $752 million of this amount, "Progress or retreat on education?" by Jim Argue Special to the Arkansas  Democrat Gazette, May 15, 2005;  Some figures in this article changed.

Ark. Legislature overrides Huckabee veto, by Andrew DeMillo, AP Writer, April 21, says During the five-day session that ended April 7, 06  lawmakers directed nearly $200 million to the state's 251 school districts, raised the state's minimum wage and banned smoking in most workplaces.

 $277 for school facilities -  "School building costs rise for state" by Cynthia Howell, August 31, 06,  Arkansas Democrat Gazette

 "Add $341 million for schools in ’08, consultants urge by Seth Blomeley, July 21, 06,  Arkansas Democrat Gazette


12.  Map of states and their scores

(Over to the right you can sort by score (rank)


13. and  Individual report on Arkansas.


14.  Individual report on Arkansas. Arkansas receives a D in Achievement


15.  Takes 14 pages to give report on Arkansas











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