Education

Ever since the Central High School integration crisis in 1957, the image of public education in Arkansas in the national consciousness has ... not been one associated with progressive best-practices, but Arkansas public schools did turn out a president and a number of world class artists and scientists. Today, though, the state ranks near the bottom of most indexes of student achievement. 

Kindergarteners
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

Marvell-Elaine schools bus driver Larry Greer’s route twists through the Arkansas Delta, between the White and Mississippi Rivers. “All together I go from Elaine to Snow Lake, 65 miles round trip,” he said, while elementary school kids filed onto his bus for the afternoon ride home.

These are country bus stops along country roads. The way is long. In the morning, Greer says, he will wait only so long at an empty stop before he snaps his levered doors closed again. “If they don’t come out, they’re not going that day.”

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public Media

University of Arkansas Medical Sciences sonography student Debra Howell is a nontraditional 35-year-old whose father came from Belize. She has one more year to finish her bachelor’s degree. In addition to a 40-hour a week residency, Howell must find time to study — and care for her kids. She works 12-hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays as an X-ray technician.

Bobby Ampezzan/ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

Last week students across Arkansas returned to the classroom, and the heavens approved. The clouds huddled close and offered the state a fill of rain. Cooler temperatures kept new school duds light and loose.

The man-made change of “season” — summer to school year — seemed to be accompanied by a very real one.

Not so for a select student demographic at places such as KIPP Delta Preparatory Academy in Helena-West Helena and eStem Public Charter School in downtown Little Rock. Oh, it rained there, too, but these schools opened days, even weeks ago.

The Department of Human Services director today announced the roll out of a new command structure, and with it, a number of raises for a handful of its directors.

At the 104th commencement for Central High School, more than 600 graduates formed two lines and marched through the bowels of Verizon Arena. The crowd inside the stadium filled all of the lower bowl and much of the upper.

On stage sat not a single elected representative of the local school district. For the second commencement in as many years, the city’s schools are being managed by the state and Education Commissioner Johnny Key.

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