REL Southwest Cohosts Bridge Event on Unlocking Key Challenges Facing Arkansas' Schools

REL Southwest and the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas cohosted a bridge event titled "Unlocking Key Challenges Facing Arkansas’ Schools" on September 14, 2016. The event was held at the Heifer International Educational Facilities in Little Rock, Arkansas. Presenters focused on three topic strands: early childhood education, rural education, and diverse learners. The event drew 44 participants, including public school administrators, Arkansas policymakers and their representatives, and researchers interested in the topics.

quotation markIf you can have a high-quality preK program that lasts not just one but two years, you have the very real possibility of generating even more long lasting impacts on children’s cognitive development.
— Dr. William T. Gormley Jr.

Janice Keizer, liaison for REL Southwest's Arkansas Prekindergarten Research Alliance, opened the conference with an overview of REL Southwest and its eight research alliances. Cory Biggs, associate director of ForwARd Arkansas, led the opening plenary session, in which he discussed opportunities for systemic change in Arkansas education. Dr. William T. Gormley Jr., co-director of the Center for Research on Children in the United States, delivered the keynote address, titled “Early Childhood Education: Investing in the Future.”

During the afternoon, participants attended breakout sessions on varied topics, including rural teacher recruitment and retention, facilitating a professional learning community to support English learner students, and designing and sustaining accessible prekindergarten programming.

quotation markI can't express how thankful I am that we had sessions focused on rural issues.
— Bridge event participant

Those who attended shared that what they found most helpful were the “explanations of how research connects to current work” as well as the chance to engage with "diverse people to discuss education issues.” Participants also shared that they gained insights about current issues in early childhood education, in particular the rules and regulations that guide the implementation of high-quality preK in Arkansas.

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