Arkansas Department of  Education Executives Control Education in Arkansas

Not the Legislators nor State Board


    Look closely at the following transcript of  a State Board Meeting on June 14, 04 and you will see who controls education in Arkansas.  Background Information:    Many legislators and businessmen, as well as educators,  became concerned that the state benchmark tests (also called criterion referenced tests or performance tests) were not reliable tests and wanted students in Arkansas to be compared to the rest of  the nation using nationally norm-referenced test.  They   had become alarmed when they realized the ADE was phasing out  norm-referenced tests altogether.   Thousands of hours were spent in the debate and in drafting and compromising a law, Act 235,  to put some emphasis back on the norm-referenced tests.  Then the ADE basically sabotages their efforts as evidenced in the following transcript.  For the reasons for concern about the criterion referenced tests - score infliation,  see second part of  article at  To see table of  nationally normed socres in Arkansas from 1984 to 2003 see



Transcript of Excerpts

 State Board  Meeting  on Act 35 Rules and Regs. June 14, 04. 



State Board Member Randy Lawson:  I want to focus on 4.04.[Rules and Regs. for Act 35] It seems to me we should include norm referenced testing in here too. It seems that would be more  appropriate and comply with the law.  With that objection I move that we include that in there. That we say norm referenced and criterion reference.


Then on  5.02.2  a similar comment just after the middle of  that paragraph where it says criterion referenced to add norm referenced also.  To me that would be adding to the sprit of  the law.


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  Was there a reason we left out normed referenced testing in the first section that Randy [Lawson] addressed.[Former Board Member Luke Gordy nearly always carried the ball at these meetings and was usually as informed as anyone on the board.  He had served several years.]


Janine Janine Riggs, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development:  I believe it goes back to the fact that the accountability system is based on the criterion referenced exam and that is where the focus of  the attention is based -- at the school level and the CRT [criterion referenced testing] is the assessment aligned to our frameworks and the norm references is not aligned to the frameworks.


State Bd. of Ed.  Member Luke Gordy:  With the new legislation that requires value added value  and longitudinal tracking, doesn't that change that?


Janine Riggs, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development: Not in our viewpoint.  That is all still based on our criterion referenced exam. I am not the expert on value added and longitudinal tracking. Gayle [Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment] do you want to help me?


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  So you are telling me that we are not going to use normed reference test at all in regard to value added and longitudinal tracking? [Who is telling who here?  The law -Act 35 -says the State Board of  Education will make these decision, not the ADE.]


Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment:  My understanding of Act 35 is that the accountability system is still based on the CRT but we are going to do a linking study that will link the criterion referenced test to the normed referenced test. You will have both assessments, but the accountability will ride with the criterion referenced test. [Again ADE is making the decions not the Board]


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  I was under the understanding with the emphasis on the importance of  the longitudinal tracking, and not the linkage standpoint but year over  year over  year standpoint, I don't see how you can have effective longitudinal analysis  and improvement measurement if you don't take the test  every year; and you are saying you are still going to discount the normed referenced  side of equation for the criterion referenced side of the  equation, and I think that is a mistake - if I am understanding you right.


Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment:  We will be giving both of them every year.  We will be giving both assessments every year.


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  Where will the value added come in.


Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment:  It will be calculated.


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  So you will have to us normed reference test (NRT)?


Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment.  We will be giving both assessments every year.


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  You didn't answer my question.  I understand that.  You will have to use norm referenced test if you have value added in the non criterion years, is that not right -- unless I am just not getting it.


Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment:  There are no non criterion referenced test years.


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  Okay, someone explain that to me.  I am sorry. [Again, who is making the decisions?]


Director of  Arkansas Dept. of  Ed.  Ken James:  With NCLB, as you probably are aware, now the state is going to have to develop new criteria to fill in the gaps in terms of assessments. 


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  So all of them are going to be criterion referenced. [Who is making the decisions here again, Board or ADE]


Director of  Arkansas Dept. of  Ed.  Ken James No, no, we have to fill in the gaps in terms of the criterion referenced test because some grades didn't have that. We had it at 4, 6, 8 and end of level.  NCLB requires criterion referenced tests  grades 3-8.  That is what I was trying to clarify for you.   Go ahead Gayle [Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment]


Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment: This coming year 3-8 in we have got  reading , writing and math criterion referenced tests.  Henceforth, we will have that.  We will have all the end of level  course assessments, and then of course, we have science coming on 3-8 and in high school and then anything else you  all want to add. LAUGHTER AMONG THE BOARD MEMBERS..


State Bd. of Ed.  Member Luke Gordy: Is this all still hypothetical.  Now in regard to who is going to do the value added,  how we are going to do that, who is going to be responsible for paying for it, who is going to account for it,  I guess I slept through the last couple of  months.  [Who is making the decisions the Board or ADE]


Gayle Teale Potter, Assistant Director Academic Standards and Assessment:  We re in this discussion almost daily.  I think I am realizing;  it has dawned on me that we're [Dept. staff] in this discussion almost daily.  We only see you once a month  to have these conversations with you.  I think we talked about this but not recently. [So as to tell you what you will be rubber stamping]  After we give the assessments next year we will be resetting standards.  Remember we have talked about this because we will have all the grades 3-8 in alignment. Once we reset the standards then we will be able to do value added calculations with the CRT's. WE can't do them now because we don't have those standards set in such a way that permits  us to do that.  We will be able to do that after we reset the standards 3-8


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  The state is going to do that for every school, for every child in every school.


Janine Riggs, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development: You said who will be doing it. The assessment company will be doing all of  that.


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  The reason I am so flabbergasted about all of that is based on my real shallow knowledge with the TAP school is based on my real shallow knowledge of what some of  the TAP schools are doing.   It's just almost impossible to get the right information from that small number of  schools to get the value added computation.  And we are talking about 250 schools in the state..


Janine Riggs, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development: It is hard


State Bd. of Ed. Member Luke Gordy:  I don't think hard gets anywhere near it.


Dr. Charity Smith, Director of  Accountability  &  Sch.  Improvement -  If you remember, Act 35 we are supposed to have a very transparent value added system and longitudinal  calculation. We are to present that system to the board. for your review and approval prior to doing that.  I think we are going to be close to doing that in September or October,  and you will be able to see how both s assessments will come to bear in this system.  .....Our team will be here in September or October  so you can clearly see.   We have spent 8 hours a day for  3 days last week going through the system.  I think it is going to be very transparent at that point and very, very clear at that point how it is that we will be able to make the assessments to which we have committed. [Note: How can it be transparent and very, very clear when even the members of the state education board can't grasp it.  All the state board will be able to do is rubber stamp what the experts say.]


Janine Riggs, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development:  I think that is one reason we are moving very cautiously. That is why this assessment  and accountability TACT.  Those two groups are critical  they have the experience.  They have been there and done that.  We need their expertise to help guide us through this voyage we are taking so we can meet not only the intent but the letter of  the law. [So the experts in the DOE have to rely on experts from outside the state.  [Very transparent and very clear indeed]


Janine Riggs, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development:  Another thing we will be working with our accountability TACT


Janine Riggs, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development: We have to educate our school people and the public on Level 1 what does that mean Level 2 and AYP. With the experience from these other states that will help   One of  the things NCLB has brought forward. We have a state rating system and then you have NCLB.   You could have a school on the state system ranking very high but b Year 2 or Year 3 on AYP r maybe vice verse.  I don't think it's going to be vice verse. ...that has been the experience with all these other states with the AYP and NCLB and a state rating system making sure that people understand the differences in those various systems.  That is something we need to be giving serious thought to now.  That will be another group of stakeholders we will be bringing in to work with. [So it is going to be very transparent and very clear when even the experts in the state department have to rely on other experts and now they are going to explain all that to the legislators and the public.  For a table with scores from 1984 to 2003  that shows real transparency see]


Dr. Charity Smith, Director of  Accountability  &  Sch.  Improvement -  The accountability system will be based on the national standards of accountability and evaluation.  That is why we are moving very cautiously and carefully .  The advisory committees base all this  information on what is nationally recognized so that we can be legally defensible.  [ ADE has said over and over  that the teachers in Arkansas developed these standards.  How so, when it is national standards] 


Walter Hussman, producer and owner of  Arkansas Democrat Gazette,

June 14, 04  2:49:17  at State School Board Meeting..


            Thank you Chairman and Board. I will keep my comments brief and focus here on the forest instead of the trees.


            Act 35 embodies accountability, transparency and choice.  Many of the leading educational researchers in the US have convinced many of the Arkansas leading business people that accountability, transparency, and choice is the single most effective thing we can do to improve our schools .   Consolidation, I know, a lot of good things about it, I know you have really been bogged down about it.  The main thing is  that what is in Act 35 is far more important than consolidation.


I want you to talk about a specific example and that is the KIPP school over in Helena.  I know you are all familiar with it.  Thy do annual testing; they use a nationally normed test; and the first year the KIPP school was in operation, the  5th graders scores  there went from 22nd  percentile to the 38th percentile-- in one year.  That one fact alone tells the Arkansas public  everything they really need to know -- that those kids are doing well; they are learning; and that that school is excelling.  People in Arkansas don't need to know anything about our unique standards, how our standards are different from Mississippi, better or worse than Louisiana's, if our Smart Start test is a good test or bad test.  All they need to know is that these kids went from 22nd percentile to 38 percentile and that is proof enough that we are making the progress we need to make.  We think that Act 35 can do for Arkansas schools what the KIPP school is doing in Helena, Arkansas.


I was very supportive of  Act 35 and so were a lot of other businesses  in the state, including the Chamber of Commerce. But to be very honest with you, I was very disappointed when I read these rules and regulations.


Why was I disappointed? There was very little emphasis on the nationally normed test, very little on value added,  little emphasis on longitudinal tracking of students, and there was little emphasis on vertical scaling of the criterion referenced test.


These are all key components of  Act 35.  Act 35 was a political compromise.  Many of the best provisions of  Act 35 were put off into the future.  For example,  improvement scores to reward schools were pushed off four years; performance scores for rewarding schools were pushed off for eight to nine years into the future, giving student choice to leave a failing school to go to a better school was pushed off 8 years into the future.


We didn't like that, but we understood it had to be done to get the bill passed.  You, the Board members could implement many of these reforms earlier.  Your rules and regulations could require that, but they don't.  You may feel like Act 3 is just another piece of legislation -- something you have to implement and regulate, and you shouldn't move any faster than the law requires. 


I would submit that you are responsible and accountable not just to the legislature but to the higher authority than the legislature and that is the State Supreme Court.  If  we think that wasting 4 to 8 years to implement key provisions of Act 35 is gong to satisfy Arkansas Supreme Court I think we re wrong.


I certainly think it is wrong to delay these reforms because they are not in the best interest  of the students in Arkansas.


Kathy Smith, who is here today, submitted a number of comments on Act 35.  She came to the public hearing you held.  Many of her comments were not incorporated.  I reviewed these and I thought they were good suggestions.  That is all I have to say.


For an explanation of  Hussman's concerns that the criterion referenced test is not valid because they keep increasing by leaps and bounds, but the nationally normed tests stay flat, see last section of this link:





This part came before the above transcript:

"State Board Meeting Comment  6-14-04"




            Janine Riggs, Director of School Improvement & Professional Development:   What we are envisioning with the click of a button a school can download their CRT information and their NRT information because you are going to need  a combination of those exams to help determine appropriate intervention.  The law also, as does the Omnibus, talks about those ongoing assessments.  Those of us in education use the term "formative assessments."  So you will also see a column labeled formative assessments -- the idea being that s the student is in that remediation program, the school is constantly monitoring that student's progress.  That monitoring will take on teacher made tests.  It might be commercially produced test and correlated back to those interventions that are correlated back to our frameworks. 


            1:45  This summer -- I hope you jot these dates down. The Smart Conference -- In July we are hosting Smart Start/Smart Step which name we just call Smart Conference on July 2, 20 and on 21st and 22nd at State House Convention.


            As of Friday we have approximately 3500 teachers giving up summer vacation to come work with us.  The topic of the convention is assessment.


            We have Dr. Rick Stiggins [Richard J. Stiggins] coming.  He is a well known assessment individual.  He works in many states across the country.  He is not only going to be looking at the summative evaluations but also helping our teachers and administrators understand the importance of the use of  those assessments.  He will also be with us throughout next year for our teleconferences that are held throughout the year at various locations in the state, helping us through this whole  idea of using assessments for the appropriate intent of that assessment.  So we think coupled with this Helping Guide to the use of  NRT and CRT with professional development we can help schools make good decisions for those students. 


1:54:5  This year  04, 05 the Dept. will establish a task force that will help the Dept. think through the weighting system specifics.  There are 2 levels on which schools will be judged – through performance and growth.  Keep in mind that schools will have 3 designations. They will have growth, performance & ___________________


            Other amendments that I passed out hand labeled 114l needs to be included at this point in the rules so that we will have a pilot of that system and so that we can select districts throughout the state, a number of districts representing all parts of  our state to large, small, etc. to make sure the system will do what the law wants it to do but also what will be most beneficial at the school level.


            I might add that this last week Dr. Smith, Dr. Potter, and I did meet with our technical advisory committee and our accountability advisory committee. We thoroughly went through Act 35 to make sure that with their experience they feel like that we had included components in the law and had written a rule that addressed that component.

It is important also to note that we have this very illustrious assessment committee working with us and we also have an equally illustrious accountability committee working with us. 


            Three of the members on the assessment committee also move over to the accountabilities committee so we  have a nice alignment so assessment is not going one way and accountability another.  That way it kind of keeps us in check.  I think you would like to know that on our accountability committee we have Dr.  Trent, who was instrumental in developing Ohio’s accountability system which includes school __________


            Dr. Brown from North Carolina, who helped develop their accountability system.


            We have Dr. Wynne from S. Carolina who also sits on NAEP Board so he is very well versed not only from state level but also from national perspective.


            We have Dr. Fischer from Florida. He helped develop their accountability system which includes his _____


            Dr. Kennedy from Louisiana who did same type of work in that state. [I called Dr. Charity Smith office and obtained a copy of  both these committees with their addresses, phone number and e-mails if  anyone wants a copy of  them.  -- My Word file for them is "State Department -- Testing Advisory Committee".  I also  have the fax copy in State Department file folder]


            We feel very good about the type of expertise that is helping us move forward in what we know to be a very good system but at the same time one in which we must move cautiously so that we don't make needless mistakes.


            Assessment TACT committee is also helping us on value added system and longitudinal  tracking so that we make sure that all of that data is valid and reliable.


            I believe with those comments, Madam Chair, I have finished the key points that were pertinent as a result of  public comment.  Time now 1:59:20 sec.


            TACT is Technical Assessment Committee

            I called and obtained a copy of  both Assessment Committees