Arkansas Readiness Policies

Overview

Arkansas
High School and Postsecondary Alignment

SREB’s Challenge to Lead 2020 goals call for states to align middle grades and high school policies with college-readiness standards, to recognize multiple paths to graduation and to provide students with diverse postsecondary options and resources. The following tabs summarize how Arkansas aligns its policies to promote smooth transitions for students through high school and beyond.  

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Arkansas
College and Career Readiness Definitions

The acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to be successful in all future endeavors including credit-bearing, first-year courses at a postsecondary institution (such as a two-or four-year college, trade school, or technical school) or to embark successfully on a chosen career.

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Arkansas
College and Career Planning in K-12

Middle grades students explore careers, but state policy does not require high school graduation plans and postsecondary advisement until ninth grade. State rules require school counselors to provide a “career planning process for each student to include career awareness, employment readiness, career information, and the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve career goals.”

The Arkansas Works program leverages federal funds to deliver college and career planning to middle grades and high school students through a corps of career coaches. These career coaches provide several types of support, including tutoring, mentoring, and career and financial aid counseling. The same program supports the Arkansas College and Career Planning System, an online platform that allows students to explore education and career options.

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Arkansas
High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements for Current Seniors

The state requires districts to enroll high school students in the Smart Core unless parents sign a waiver to opt their children out of the default curriculum, in which case they will participate in Basic Core. While the two diploma paths require the 22 course credits in each subject area, specific course requirements vary.

Subject Basic Core Smart Core

English

4 Credits:

English 9, 10, 11, and 12

4 Credits:

English 9, 10, 11, and 12

Math

4 Credits:

Algebra I or A&B

Geometry I or A&B

Third math (if both Algebra I and Geometry were completed

Fourth math (if Algebra I or Geometry were completed)

4 Credits:

Algebra I or A&B

Geometry I or A&B

Algebra II

Fourth math beyond Algebra II

Science

3 Credits:

Biology

Physical Science or Technology I

Third science (Chemistry or Physics) or Technology II

3 Credits:

Biology

Physical Science or Technology I

Third science (Chemistry or Physics) or Technology II

Social Studies

3 Credits:

World History

U.S. History

Civics

Other social studies or Economics

3 Credits:

World History

U.S. History

Civics

Other social studies or Economics

Oral Communication

1/2 Credit Oral Communication

1/2 Credit Oral Communication

Fine Arts

1/2 Credit

1/2 Credit

Health and Safety

1/2 Credit

1/2 Credit

Physical Education

1/2 Credit

1/2 Credit

Career Focus

6 Credits*

6 Credits*

Total Credits

22

22

*Courses Approved for the following career clusters: Agriculture, Food & Nature Resources, Architecture & Construction, Arts, A/V Technology & Communications, Business, Management & Administration, Education & Training Finance, Government & Public Administration, Health Science, Hospitality & Tourism, Human Services, Information Technology, Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security, Manufacturing, Marketing, Sales, & Service, Science Technology, Engineering, & Math, Transportation, Distribution, & Logistics

The state requires high school students to take a half-unit digital course.

The Academic Challenge Scholarship (ACS) provides scholarships to Arkansas residents pursuing a higher education. Students who graduated from an Arkansas public high school and made a 19 or higher on the ACT or an ACT equivalent are eligible for the ACS. Unconditional admission to more selective public universities requires the completion of the Smart Core.

Assessment Requirements

The state requires ACT Aspire for Grades 9 and 10. ACT participation in Grade 11 is optional.

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Arkansas
Accelerated Learning Options in High School

Competency-Based Credit

State policy does not permit credit by examination or proficiency-based promotion in high school.

The College Level Exam Program (CLEP) allows students to receive college credit for successful completion of CLEP assessments. Postsecondary institutions determine the amount of credit awarded. 

Career and Technical Education

Arkansas Career and Technical Education (CTE) has partnered with Advance CTE to expand and improve its CTE program. Arkansas’ s CTE program aligns with the national 16 career cluster model. CTE completers are identified as students who have completed three credit units of CTE courses in high school. Arkansas public schools are required to offer nine units of career and technical education, and must provide students access to a minimum of one career focus program in three different occupational clusters.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit

High school students may enroll in college courses and earn high school and college credit for their work. Students in grade 12 who possess at least an ACT sub-score of 17 in English, reading, or mathematics may enroll in remedial/developmental courses at a postsecondary institution. College-level concurrent enrollment students must meet the postsecondary institution’s admissions requirements as well as have a signed parent release to be able to enroll in classes. Some concurrent course offerings are blended with Advanced Placement courses, and require the completion of an AP exam. National school lunch program students are not required to pay any of the cost for such courses up to six credit hours. Students and families bear the cost of concurrent enrollment, unless the costs are paid by the district or a private foundation.

Advanced Placement / International Baccalaureate

The Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program, created with the passing of Senate Bill 509 in 2013, provides state grant funding to support Advanced Placement initiatives already operating in the state. The program encourages the advancement of AP teachers and programs by providing mentorship, training, materials and resources while also increasing the number of students enrolling and performing well in AP programs.

Advanced Placement courses allow students to earn college credit and/or weighted credit in high school. Students who earn scores of 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research and on four additional AP exams receive the AP Capstone Diploma, while students who earn a 3 or higher in AP Seminar and AP Research receive the AP Seminar and Research Certificate.

Early High School Graduation

Arkansas Code 6-18-224 allows students to graduate early if they have earned the number of credits required by the district for graduation.

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Arkansas
Postsecondary Admission Requirements

Four-Year Institutions

Students must have a high school diploma or GED credential. For unconditional admission, students must complete the high school curriculum requirements with a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 2.0. All students must meet the “Smart Core” requirements with college preparatory mathematics, social studies, and science requirements unless parent/guardian waives student’s participation, in which case the student will complete the “Core” requirements.

State law authorizes institutions to admit applicants on a conditional basis. These students receive full admission once they complete 12 hours of core academic courses with a cumulative GPA of 2.0.

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Applicants must possess a high school diploma or an equivalency credential. While community and technical colleges are open-access institutions, admission does not guarantee entry into specific academic programs. Applicants who score below 15 on the ACT Composite must take an assessment to demonstrate their ability to benefit from postsecondary instruction.

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Arkansas
Postsecondary Placement Policies

Statewide

The Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) Coordinating Board requires all institutions to have an approved  student placement plan. Institutions are encouraged to use multiple weighted measures to determine placement in college-level courses when a student’s scores fall below the minimum ACT scores. However, institutions are required to use data-driven practices, provide data to support their placement decisions and allow for follow-up evaluation of placement effectiveness.

Arkansas Department of Higher Education ─ Minimum ACT Scores

ACT Sub-test Cut Score
English Composition 18
Reading 22
Math – College Algebra 22

The multiple weighted measures may include the following:

  • high school grade point average
  • the number of years since a student took a specific course or was in school
  • other test scores (such as SAT or high school end-of-course exams)
  • other non-cognitive information such as motivation, time management skills or family support
  • writing samples and successful completion of a transitional course in high school

Whichever placement criteria an institution chooses, if assessment scores are used, the score must indicate about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a “C” or better in the corresponding credit-bearing college course.

Institutions may require that students interested in STEM majors meet higher standards for placement.

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Arkansas
State Financial Aid for Undergraduates

The state lottery funds the merit-based Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship Program. Applicants may qualify for the scholarship based on high school grade-point average or assessment scores or college freshman GPA.

Recent graduates may qualify with a cumulative high school GPA of 2.5 or an ACT Composite score of at least 19. Full-time college students may earn the merit scholarship if they receive a first-semester GPA of at least 2.5 or produce an ACT composite score of at least 19. Academic Challenge Scholarship recipients must maintain a 2.5 GPA and earn 15 credits each semester to continue receiving aid.

Students will receive scholarship renewals until they reach one of the following milestones: attempting 120 credits, earning a baccalaureate degree or receiving eight semesters of funding.

Recipients may regain the scholarship if they meet the GPA and credit completion requirements within the same academic year that they became ineligible.

The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board revised award amounts beginning with the 2016-2017 academic year. Freshmen at all eligible postsecondary institutions now receive $1,000 per academic year. The award increases to $4,000 for sophomores and juniors. Seniors who maintain the award for three academic years receive a $5,000 award during their final year. Second-year students at community and technical colleges receive a $3,000 award.

The Arkansas Future Grant Program provides grants for students enrolled in qualifying certificate and associate degree programs. Recipients receive funding for five semesters or until they attain an associate degree. While in their program, recipients must meet regularly with a mentor and complete at least 15 hours of community service per semester.

Graduates must work in the state for at least three years. The grant converts into an interest-bearing loan if recipients do not meet the job requirement or leave the state. 

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Arkansas
Postsecondary Feedback to High Schools

The Arkansas Department of Education, in collaboration with ACT Inc., issues annual feedback reports, providing information on Arkansas high school graduates enrolled in college, subdivided by district, school, and institution. The reports include data on (1) high school and fall semester college GPAs; (2) scores on college entrance and placement tests; (3) the percentage of students who completed the Smart Core; and (4) the number of students enrolled in remedial courses.