The School of Education at the University of Arkansas at Monticello is working with 14 local school districts and the Southeast Arkansas Education Cooperative to implement an Education Renewal Zone (ERZ) for the region, a concept created during the most recent session of the Arkansas General Assembly.
Act 106 of the General Assembly established an office of Education Renewal Zones and authorized colleges and universities, education service cooperatives and school districts to form local partnerships to improve public school performance and academic achievement.
“The state legislature wanted to find a way to encourage a closer working relationship between institutions of higher education, local school districts and service cooperatives,” said Peggy Doss, dean of the
school of Education. “By creating Education Renewal Zones, we are able to combine resources, both financial and human, to find ways to improve public education in Arkansas. By combining our resources, we can go beyond what schools and school districts can reasonably be expected to have.”
According to Doss, Act 106 targets high-need schools and districts, providing funding and other support to help improve those schools.
“An ERZ is really a broad-based collaborative effort to bring to bear all available resources to improve at-risk schools and improve educational opportunities for young people who don’t have the option to move to another school district,” Doss said.
According to figures from the Arkansas Department of Education, 305 of the more than 1,000 public schools in Arkansas have been designated as needing improvement .
Mary Jo Barnett of the UAM education faculty has been named director of the ERZ in southeast Arkansas.
“I believe the ERZ partnership between UAM, the Southeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative and our 14 school districts can be very effective in improving educational opportunities and student achievement,” Barnett
said. “By combining our resources, we increase our capacity to implement long-term, systemic change on multiple levels simultaneously. This has to happen if we are going to make meaningful change in public education, and we must all share in this responsibility.”
The 14 southeast Arkansas school districts in the ERZ are Monticello, Drew Central, Dermott, McGehee, Warren, Dumas, Star City, Fordyce, Lake Village, Eudora, Hamburg, Crossett, Rison and Woodlawn.
Criteria for designation as an ERZ school includes being in improvement status or on alert from the Department of Education, being situated in an academically or financially distressed district, being unable to hire and retain highly qualified teachers (as defined by the Department of Education), unable to provide the required minimum number of course offerings, being part of a school district with less than 1,500 students, or exceeding the statewide average rate of reduced priced lunch program participation.
Part of the ERZ Initiative includes the creation of the Arkansas Early College High School (AECHS), which has allowed 200 area high school students to enroll in college courses. “This is an excellent example of the type of collaborative partnership than can be developed through the Education Renewal Zones Initiative,” said Bruce Terry, director of the SEARK Education Cooperative. “UAM, the Cooperative and the 14 school districts are working together to promote and provide postsecondary educational opportunities to high school students. This is a program that will continue to grow in the coming years.”
UAM Education faculty and administrators have been meeting with area educators at the Cooperative to begin laying the groundwork for an ERZ in southeast Arkansas.
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© The Voice 2005
Revised 09/17/2007 01:46:42 PM http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/3_1/renewal.html