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Southwest College and Career Readiness Research Partnership

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Arkansas has as a priority in its state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that all public high school students graduate well prepared for college, competitive employment, military service, or another career path. REL Southwest is working with the Arkansas Department of Education and other partners to support these efforts by building the state’s data literacy and deepening its understanding of college and career readiness.


  • Support the Arkansas Department of Education in developing and refining indicators of college and career readiness for Arkansas students.
  • Build state and district capacity to use data systems and data visualization techniques to understand Arkansas students' progress as they prepare for college and careers.


duffy helen photo Candance Hester, Partnership Research Lead Steve Plank, Partnership Senior Advisor
Partnership Facilitator Partnership Research Lead Partnership Senior Advisor
Helen Duffy Candance Hester Steve Plank


  • Deborah Coffman, Assistant Commissioner for Public School Accountability, Arkansas Department of Education
  • Eric Flowers, Assistant to Director, Arkansas Department of Education
  • Johnny Key, Commissioner, Arkansas Department of Education
  • Ivy Pfeffer, Deputy Commissioner, Arkansas Department of Education Department
  • Gina Windle, Chief of Staff, Arkansas Department of Education

Training, Coaching, and Technical Support

  • Understanding the Alignment of Arkansas College and Career Readiness Indicators with the Employability Skills Framework
    The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) is committed to ensuring that every student graduates ready for college, career, and community engagement. To enhance ADE’s understanding of the skills a student must master to demonstrate readiness and use this information to help ADE consider which of their indicators to prioritize as they support districts, REL Southwest led three training sessions to guide ADE staff in assessing the alignment of their college and career readiness indicators to the research-based Employability Skills Framework (ESF). In the first session, REL Southwest staff introduced participants to the ESF and a matrix for documenting evidence to determine whether students are mastering specific skills outlined in the ESF. In the second session, REL Southwest staff aided participants in completing the matrix and facilitated a group discussion of alignment and gaps between state indicators and skills from the ESF. During the final session, ADE participants reviewed the results of the alignment activities, reflected on what they had learned from those activities, and identified implications for their college and career readiness work internally and with external partners. View archived resources.

Applied Research Studies

  • Identifying Indicators of Postsecondary Readiness and Success in Arkansas
    The Arkansas Department of Education has as a goal that all students will attain postsecondary success after high school, defined as enrollment in postsecondary education or training or at least part-time employment with a living wage. To support this vision, the Department’s plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) specifies a set of college and career readiness indicators to measure and track. These indicators include measures of student success and school quality, such as achievement and growth, graduation rates, attendance, grade point average, and credits in college preparatory and advanced courses. This study will examine the extent to which these indicators accurately predict college and career readiness and postsecondary success outcomes among Arkansas students and subgroups. The findings will identify the relative strengths of the indicators, facilitate an improved understanding of optimal indicators, and help partners determine what to target during secondary education to support future student success.