What is Aspire Arkansas?
Aspire Arkansas grew from a need that Arkansas Community Foundation identified for more accessible, localized data that can drive community improvement. Back in 2011, the first Aspire Arkansas report was published with county-by-county data on issues important to Arkansans. The data was updated in 2013 and an Aspire Actions report was added to help Arkansans bridge the gap between data and actions that could accomplish specific community goals.
This expanded online version of Aspire Arkansas debuted in May of 2018 with downloadable data on education, healthcare, families and communities to help individuals, organizations and communities make better decisions through better data access.
On the website are 43 community indicators that help us determine strengths and weaknesses and focus our efforts to improve Arkansas. Aspire Arkansas also provides commentary that interprets the indicator information through maps, graphs, summaries and charts. Each indicator has a state-wide map showing how outcomes vary geographically, a statewide trend illustrating changes over time and, where available, how they compare to national trends, how Arkansas ranks on outcomes compared to other states, and how different groups of people within the state are doing compared to one another.
Data tells stories that help us understand what is and form visions for what can be. Arkansas Community Foundation’s goal is that the Aspire Arkansas site will help Arkansans discover these data stories and use the power of knowledge to create positive change.
Where does the Community Foundation get Aspire Arkansas data?
All of the Aspire Arkansas data comes from existing sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, state and federal government agencies and universities. The data sources are provided onsite for each indicator.
The Foundation consulted various stakeholders and data experts throughout the region for their guidance during its development. CGR (Center for Governmental Research) coordinated creation of the website and provided much of the data and analysis
In gathering data for Aspire Arkansas, the Foundation and its data partner balanced desires for accuracy, completeness, and timeliness. Some data are available every year and regularly and quickly updated. Other datasets take longer to update, so the data on the website contains the most recent data, but it may be several years old.
What is an indicator?
Indicators are measures that help to describe an economic, environmental, social or cultural condition over time. They are often expressed as a rate or percent, such as the number of children who are reading at grade level, the obesity rate or the unemployment rate.
How did you select the indicators?
When Aspire Arkansas began back in 2011, the Community Foundation determined the issues that are important to community growth. Together with our data partner, we studied a list of available indicators and chose the data most likely to help make decisions on charitable giving for improving communities around education, healthcare families and communities.
Our current data partner, the Center for Governmental Research, suggests that the criteria for selecting indicators should include:
The number next to the 1%= shows how many people would need to improve to increase the indicator rate by one percentage point. So for example, if the indicator is 3rd grade reading and box reads 1%=378, it would take an additional 378 3rd grade students testing proficient on the state reading exam to increase the state proficiency level by one percentage point.
When nationally comparable state data was available, Arkansas’ rank compared to other states is reported. The ranking is set so the states with the strongest performance are first. The ranking is done out of the number of states available in the data (Washington DC is included in the ranking when available). Often, the nationally comparable data available is from an earlier year than the most recent Arkansas data. Look for the year in the box to see when the ranking data is from. If the rank is missing on an indicator, it is because nationally comparable data was not available for enough states to do a ranking.
The state trend helps show which direction the indicator is moving at the state level. It is determined by the change from the earliest year of data available to the latest year of data available. If the indicator has been going up the state trend will list “increasing”, if it has stayed relatively flat, the state trend will list “maintaining”, if it is going down the state trend will list “decreasing”.
The color of the arrow helps the reader know which direction of trend is positive progress. If the arrow is red that indicates that the trend is moving in a way that is bad for the community, if it is green that indicates that things are moving in the right direction. If there hasn’t been much change the arrow will be flat and gray.
Has Aspire Arkansas data been used in the past? How?
Community Foundation affiliates throughout our state have been able to make grants and build partnerships to address the areas identified through this data analysis. Statewide organizations and government entities have used the combined statistics to better understand issues and provide smarter answers to those they serve.
Who paid for this website to be developed? Is there an agenda?
The Arkansas Community Foundation funded the website and data collection. We used a data partner, CGR, to find the best county-by-county sources for data on education, healthcare, families and communities in Arkansas. Our agenda is to provide more data so that better giving decisions can be made – to let more people know how our state is doing on crucial issues so that plans can be developed and actions taken to get us on the path to solutions.
Why did the Community Foundation get involved with data? I thought you were a Foundation that gives away money.
The Community Foundation provides tools to help Arkansans give smarter to improve our communities. Better information can lead to better giving choices and clearer paths to improving communities.
Why is Aspire Arkansas needed if the data is available from other sources?
It is a question of access. Yes, this public data is available from other sources, but most people are not aware of all the data that is available on these important issues. By making the data more accessible to more people and by providing analysis of the data, the Foundation helps the citizens of our state better understand how to help their communities.
Aspire Arkansas is one source to check for data about multiple issues that is put in context by experts, compared to national data and available for easy, free download.
If we use the data from Aspire Arkansas, how do we cite the source?
Cite the original source of the data, available onsite.
A lot of this data speaks to poverty in our state. Can any of the trends really change if poverty isn’t addressed?
Over half a million Arkansans live in poverty. Poverty limits opportunities for those in its grasp and impacts the entire community. While public policy changes must be part of the solution, actions by informed and engaged community members can be a crucial component of decreasing poverty and enhancing economic vitality in Arkansas.