The child of a single mom who left high school to provide for her son, Mike Beebe understands firsthand what an education means for a family and what an educated workforce means for a community.
Four years ago, Mike promised to begin improving our education system to ensure that it prepares all of our young people to make the most of their God-given potential. Since then, he has worked hard to honor his promises.
As Governor, Mike Beebe ended a decades-long dispute over the adequacy of our public schools, and we've begun a path toward excellence. He made record investments in K-12 education and higher education, because he believes in Arkansas and in the limitless possibilities of our people.
Cultivating the Relationship between Education and Job Creation
Governor Beebe believes that education and job growth are inseparable. To help foster that relationship, he brought together 1,500 leaders from all 75 Arkansas counties for a first-of-its-kind meeting, the Arkansas Works Summit. The 2008 Summit was organized to begin coordinating the investments our communities make in education and economic development, but soon grew into an ongoing initiative. The effort has already begun to unify the commitment of educators and employers, which will help the State attract more businesses to Arkansas and give established companies the skilled workforce they need.
The expansion includes hiring 43 full-time college and career coaches in 21 of the State's most economically challenged counties. The coaches work for community colleges and with high schools and guidance counselors. They advise and prepare students for career exploration, college planning, and enrollment. Under the Governor's leadership, roughly 23,000 new jobs have been announced, even in the midst of a national economic downturn.
Investing in Classrooms, Teachers, and Students
As a father, Governor Beebe understands what many moms and dads around Arkansas know: smaller class sizes, strong teachers, and committed parents are crucial in giving a child an excellent education.
That's why Mike has made record investments in Arkansas's public schools and the State's college and university system, including four-year and two-year institutions. This investment goes toward modernizing classrooms and expanding the opportunity for higher education. It provides the platform our people need for jobs in the global economy. Mike didn't just talk about the importance of parental involvement in the classroom, he led by example, giving state employees one day of paid leave to volunteer in their children's school and attend their children's parent-teacher conferences.
Raising Standards, Raising Scores
Governor Beebe believes the more we challenge our children in the classroom, the more their minds will grow and develop -- the more our students will be able to find and create good-paying jobs in the future.
Mike Beebe asks a lot of our teachers, administrators, and students. And students and teachers are meeting the Governor's challenge. In fact, for the first time, more than 60 percent of Arkansas students at each grade level scored at or above the proficiency levels on both the mathematics and literacy on the Arkansas Augmented Benchmark Exams, a rigorous and nationally recognized exam. Arkansas now ranks in the top ten in the nation in education policies and student achievement, according to Education Week's annual report, "Quality Counts." The Center for Education Policy recently praised Arkansas for gains at the elementary, middle school, and high-school grade levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Creating New Opportunities in Math, Technology, and Higher Education
To create a workforce that will attract businesses to Arkansas, Governor Beebe is working to give more students the opportunity to study advanced math and science and to attend college. Mike believes in the students of Arkansas.
And again, students are responding. Under Governor Beebe's leadership, student performance in geometry and algebra has increased on the State's assessment scores. Arkansas now ranks in the top five in the nation for public high-school graduates taking Advanced Placement Exams. Arkansas students' math and reading scores on ACT college entrance exams are at all-time highs for the State, with the gap between the scores of majority and minority students having narrowed.
With greater access to math and science educational opportunities, students from all 75 of Arkansas's counties will have the tools they need to compete in the new global economy.