ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas schools received letter grades for the first time in three years after the state put them on pause during the pandemic.

The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) released the letter grade report and ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ (ESSA) school index scores this week. According to the department, fewer schools in the state received ‘A’ and ‘B’ grades compared to 2019. However, the ADE stated about 60% of schools had higher ESSA scores compared to 2021.

Sarah McKenzie, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas. She said there are a lot of factors behind these grades.

“Letter grades are mostly an indicator of the population that the school is serving,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said the scores include weighted achievement, value-added growth, school quality and student success. It also includes graduation rates for high schools. McKenzie said one of the most important factors is student growth.

“Growth takes each kid from where they were the prior year and looks to see how much they grew over the course of the year, and whether that was more or less than other kids that had similar achievement to them before,” McKenzie said.

Trent Jones with Springdale Public Schools said student growth is something the district is focusing on now.

“Early out Wednesday, and that whole 80 minutes is purposeful, driven time for our teachers to consistently work on a system that moves the kids towards achievement,” Jones said.

McKenzie said schools in Northwest Arkansas tend to do well compared to the rest of the state.

“Our schools were three times as likely to get an ‘A’ as other schools elsewhere in the state and way less likely to get a ‘D’ or an ‘F’,” McKenzie said.

To view school report cards, click here.