Overall performance on state exams, as well as racial and ethnic disparities, are educational concerns in Arkansas, while high school graduation rates and adult education levels have been improving.

The foundation for a child's education is built early in life with nurturing and enriching interactions with parents and other caregivers. One measure of this is the availability of quality early child care and preschool. While Arkansas has the capacity to serve 61% of preschoolers in quality, public programs, there are only enough quality child care seats to serve 10% of infants and toddlers.  

Once children enter school, performance on exams is a measure of learning. Passing rates on key state exams are rising, with 38% of 3rd graders proficient in reading and 48% of 8th graders proficient in math. Still, this means less than half of students are meeting the state’s new expectations, set in 2018 with the adoption of the ACT Aspire exams.

Females outperformed males on both measures, besting boys by 5 points in reading and 4 points in math. Economically disadvantaged students and racial minorities had the lowest passing rates.

High school graduation rates have risen 11 percentage points since 2010, with 88% of the Class of 2019 graduating on time. Performance was also more even across groups, with all groups posting graduation rates of at least 80% and the most growth among economically disadvantaged (+15 points), Asian (+17), African American (+14 points) and Hispanic (+15 points) students.

However, entering college students show signs of not being fully prepared. In 2017, 31% of first-year students needed a remedial course, and a far larger share (61%), of black students were required to undergo remediation.

Adult education levels are rising, with 86% of Arkansans 25 and older holding at least a high school degree, up 11 percentage points from 2000, and 23% possessing a bachelor’s or higher degree, up 6 points. However, Arkansas lags the nation on these measures: 44th for high school diploma and 49th for bachelor’s. While the share of adults having a least a high school diploma were similar across racial and ethnic groups, there were disparities in those with at least a bachelor’s, 49% for Asian adults compared to 24% of white and Hispanic and 15% of African American adults.

For those adults without a post-secondary degree, some continue to work toward one. In 2018, 4.4% of Arkansas' working-age adults were enrolled in further education, down from 6.2% in 2011 (a decrease of roughly 27,700 adults in terms of enrollment). The decrease is likely due to improving conditions in the job market.

Access to Quality Seats for Infants and Toddlers Increasing
Access to Quality Childcare Seats for Preschoolers Maintaining
Grade 3 Reading Increasing
Grade 8 Math Increasing
Graduation Rate Increasing
Remediation Rate Decreasing
Adults with a High School Degree Increasing
Adults with a Bachelor's Degree or Higher Increasing
Adults Pursuing Further Education Decreasing
Infant Mortality Maintaining
Early Prenatal Care Increasing
Overweight or Obese Students Maintaining
Student Drug Usage Decreasing
Overweight or Obese Adults Increasing
Physically Inactive Adults Maintaining
Smoking Rate Decreasing
Flouridated Water Increasing
Insurance Coverage Rates Increasing
Oral Health Increasing
Life Expectancy Increasing
Routine Check-ups Increasing
Births to Teens Decreasing
Female-headed Households Increasing
Children Living in Poverty Increasing
People Living in Poverty Increasing
Elderly Living in Poverty Decreasing
Median Household Income Maintaining
Unemployment Rate Decreasing
Homeownership Rate Decreasing
Child Abuse and Neglect Decreasing
Access to Financial Services Decreasing
Food Insecurity Decreasing
Incarceration Rate Increasing
Homelessness Decreasing
Change in Total Jobs Increasing
Housing Affordability - Owning Maintaining
Housing Affordability - Renting Increasing
Voter Participation Rate Decreasing
Charitable Giving Increasing
Volunteering Increasing
Group Participation Increasing
Connection to Neighbors Decreasing
Local Voting Not Applicable
Change in Population Increasing
Change in Population by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Change in Population by Age Not Applicable