AGS alumni statement regarding the Governor's School Site Selection Process.

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AGS alumni statement regarding the Governor's School Site Selection Process.

This petition had 2,917 supporters

Melissa Sawyer started this petition to Arkansas Board of Education

Arkansas Governor's School is a six-week residential program for gifted and talented rising seniors funded by the Arkansas Department of Education. Since 1980, over 15,000 rising seniors have matriculated at Arkansas Governor's School where they benefited from a researched and verified curriculum, developed by educators specializing in gifted education, specially designed for the social, educational, and psychological needs of students.

This year, as provided by statute, the Arkansas Department of Education solicited bids from colleges and universities to submit proposals to host Arkansas Governor's School for the next three-year cycle. Three colleges submitted bids and a governor-appointed site selection committee visited the three campuses armed with a “site visit evaluation: Arkansas Governor’s school 2019-2021” form, two pages of rules defining the curriculum and site requirements, and a sheet entitled "Final Scoring" that explains the voting process. 

In a decision that raises more questions than it does answers, the Site Selection Committee gave Hendrix College its highest cumulative score but recommended Arkansas Tech as the site location for the next three-year cycle. This recommendation appears to violate the site selection committee’s own rules.  On the final scoring sheet, it clearly states that “the institution with the highest cumulative score will be recommended as the site for the 2019-2021 Arkansas Governor’s School.” The sheet then goes on to state, “in the event of a tie, the institution with the highest number of first-place votes will be recommended as the site for the 2019-2021 Arkansas Governor’s School.” Cost is not an issue since both bids predict the same cost for operations. As one AGS Alum put it recently, "this looks bad."  We do not have a satisfactory explanation for this decision. We request that the Arkansas Board of Education not follow the Site Selection Committee’s recommendation and pick the site that had the highest cumulative score, Hendrix College, pursuant to its own rules.

Further, we have concerns about the proposed curriculum from ATU. Arkansas Governor’s School was meant to nurture the future leaders of Arkansas by exposing them to peers from across the state as well as fostering intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. Rule 5.06 clearly states that Area II “will focus on the ways we think, the assumptions that underlie our own thinking and the thinking that takes place within the various discipline.” Thus far, Governor's School has not focused on building finite knowledge, but building intellectual curiosity and teaching students how to explore the many facets of a complex issue through healthy, meaningful debate. We believe that the Area II curriculum outlined by the ATU proposal fails to fulfill the requirements of Rule 5.06.

We are also concerned that such a tight focus on technology and technology alone will alienate a certain segment of the population who will choose not to apply to the program. In its description of the proposed Area 3 curriculum, the ATU application states that "problems like cyber-bullying, sexting, or other misuse of social media will be framed in a context that affords student the opportunity to understand long-term consequences of such practices." Quite simply, the students of AGS are much more likely to be victims of cyberbullying and misuse of social media than perpetrators and the description gives us concern that the creators of this proposal don’t understand the needs of its target population.

There are other issues regarding the safety of having high school aged students on a college campus with college students. There is no guarantee in the proposal submitted by Arkansas Tech that they will not have summer school college classes during the Arkansas Governor’s School session. We also have noticed that the proposed schedule is so late in the summer that it would interfere with football and marching band practice.

We all want to encourage our brightest students to stay in Arkansas and contribute positively to our state. Many of the most talented students can feel isolated in their own communities, however, and some may go out-of-state for college as a result. Providing a summer residential program in Arkansas that uses well-researched techniques for educating gifted students can help students connect with true peers socially and academically, and to see that they are not alone, and that they can pursue their academic dreams and goals in their home state.

We never expected Arkansas Governor’s School or its curriculum to be stagnant but we never expected that the proposed changes would completely disregard what has worked for the students who attended the program.

For these reasons, we ask that the Arkansas Board of Education not follow the recommendation of the Arkansas Governor’s School Site Selection Committee and reconsider Hendrix College.

Petition Closed

This petition had 2,917 supporters