Education Renewal Zone Puts Focus on Common Core
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas has established an Education Renewal Zone office to focus on helping local schools implement Common Core educational standards.
The Arkansas Department of Education awarded funding to the university's College of Education and Health Professions to create the office. The college appointed Elizabeth Smith, who previously served as the college's field placement director, to serve as Education Renewal Zone director.
“We’ve been very pleased at the energy, creativity and collaboration between the college and public schools that Elizabeth has brought about in her one year as the field placement director,” said Janet Penner-Williams, assistant dean for academic affairs. "We believe she will bring these same qualities to the new ERZ director position. This time next year, we expect faculty and staff to comment on how they can’t believe the positive difference the ERZ has made and how integral it is for our partnership with the public schools.”
The Arkansas Legislature created the Education Renewal Zones in 2003. Tom Smith, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions, said the concept fits well with the college's practice of collaborating with local educators in many ways, both formally and informally.
"This funding to create the ERZ office enables us to strengthen our interaction with schools and provides resources we can use to assist them as they continue to put the Common Core standards into place,” the dean said. "We appreciate the financial support from the Arkansas Department of Education and look forward to working with the schools in this new venture.”
Elizabeth Smith, who is not related to Dean Smith, said one of her first tasks is to identify schools that want to partner with the Education Renewal Zone. School superintendents may contact her at email@example.com or 575-3641 for more information and to nominate schools.
"We will be working with schools from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in Northwest Arkansas," she said. "Phasing in of the Common Core state standards began last year and continue this year with third through eighth grades being added. This is a big challenge facing schools, and we will work to bring the university's resources and expertise to help them with it."
Forty-five states have adopted the Common Core educational standards developed through an initiative of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Education Renewal Zone services will include collaborating with other resources such as the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative on professional development opportunities. Smith said she will also coordinate an advisory board to help guide the ERZ operations.
Smith earned a Master of Education in higher education leadership from the College of Education and Health Professions and also has a bachelor's degree in political science from the university. She is pursuing a doctorate in public policy. She has worked in several other roles that brought her into close contact with educators and students, including coordinator of leadership development at NorthWest Arkansas Community College, counselor coordinator for University Access Talent Search at the University of Arkansas, academic counselor for Talent Search and assistant director of the university's Office of Admissions.
"This is exciting, and I'm looking forward to working closely with school districts and helping them get the resources they need," Smith said.