Skip Navigation
archived information
Stay Up-to-Date:
Skip Navigation

Southwest College and Career Readiness Research Partnership

Workshops and coaching icon

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.


photo of Michelle Boyd Candance Hester, Partnership Research Lead photo of Jim Lindsay
Partnership Facilitator Partnership Research Lead Partnership Senior Advisor
Michelle Boyd Candace Hester Jim Lindsay


  • 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.
  • Training on Data Visualization Best Practices to Facilitate Data Use
    REL Southwest provided training on data visualization strategies to support the engagement goals of three primary groups at the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE): staff who work maintain the My School Info website, staff who facilitate Equity Labs with local education agencies, and staff who lead the department’s Reading Initiative for Student Excellence (RISE). All three groups are interested in engaging a wider range of stakeholders in ADE data and in prompting stakeholder actions in support of student growth and college and career readiness and success. Over the course of three REL Southwest training sessions and consultation, ADE participants explored creative ways to think about and convey data effectively and learned how to build meaningful and thought-provoking data visualizations related to their specific ADE initiatives. The project’s goal was to enhance ADE staff capacity to develop data visualizations tailored to different audiences and purposes, with longer term goals of strengthening ADE’s ability to inform educators, parents, students, and the community about relevant ADE data and actions these stakeholder groups can take to help improve students’ college and career readiness and success. View archived resources.
  • Getting Students Back in the Classroom: Responding to Chronic Absenteeism and Exclusionary Disciplinary Actions
    This training project built on a study that REL Southwest and the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) undertook to examine indicators the state uses to determine students’ progress toward college and career readiness. The study sought to understand the predictive strength of indicators for three postsecondary outcomes of interest: readiness, enrollment, and persistence. When presented with an early draft of the findings, a small group of ADE leaders in the Southwest College and Career Readiness Research Partnership expressed interest in the study findings that the indicators good attendance, never being suspended, and never being expelled in the middle grades were strong predictors of postsecondary enrollment and persistence, but not of readiness. ADE staff were interested in sharing and supporting the use of these findings throughout the department. The short-term goal of this training project was to increase ADE’s understanding of the research on strategies for improving attendance and alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices, and the mid-term goal was for ADE to implement related supports for districts. View archived resources.

Applied Research Studies: Works in Progress

  • The Impact of Nudge Communication Mode, Presentation, and Sender on Parental Visits to a State Literacy Program Website in Arkansas
    Parent engagement in their child's education can be fundamental to a student's academic development. The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) seeks to understand best practices for parent outreach to encourage equitable engagement with parents and caregivers. To support this goal, REL Southwest is conducting a study to examine the feasibility and effectiveness of a low-cost "nudge" communications intervention to increase parent and caregiver visits to an ADE website designed for parents of elementary school students—the Arkansas Reading Initiative for Student Excellence (R.I.S.E.) Literacy website. R.I.S.E. aims to coordinate statewide efforts among stakeholders, including parents and caregivers, to improve child literacy. ADE is interested in understanding the impact of the communications on parent responses and in applying the study findings to improve communication with and engagement among parents and caregivers. The study is a randomized controlled trial and will use three treatment factors: communication mode (email or text), communication presentation (text or text plus images), and communication sender (ADE or school principal). REL Southwest will randomly assign schools to a treatment condition defined by combinations of the three factors. All families enrolled in Arkansas public elementary schools will be eligible to participate in the study.
  • Examining student group differences in Arkansas indicators of postsecondary readiness and success
    In 2021, the REL Southwest College and Career Readiness Research Partnership published a study on the attainment of postsecondary readiness and success outcomes among Arkansas students and the accuracy of college and career indicators during middle and high school in predicting those outcomes. The Arkansas Department of Education has requested an additional study focused on differences in college and career readiness indicators by student group. Specifically, the Department would like evidence on differences in the attainment of college and career readiness indicator threshholds and outcomes, as well as evidence on the accuracy and strength of college and career readiness indicators, for the following student groups: African American/Black students, Hispanic students, male students, students with a disability designation, students eligible for the national school lunch program, English learner students, and students across different regions of the state. These supplemental findings for specific student groups will help Arkansas education leaders focus on indicators that serve all students well and minimize generalizations in the use of indicators that could inequitably affect students.