Community Impact

Results of the Promise

The anticipated results of the El Dorado Promise were that it would produce an increase in higher education outcomes, that there would be improvements in academic achievements in the school district from kindergarten through 12th grade and that there would be positive changes in community and economic developments.

Increased Higher Eductation Outcomes

Improved College – Going Rates

Over 84% of the Promise-eligible 2016 EHS graduates are attending college. This percentage is significantly higher than both the current Arkansas college-going rate, at 50.1%, and the national rate at 65.9% (According to the Arkansas Department of Education). This number is also higher than the college-going rate of EHS graduates prior to the Promise, which was 60%.

EHS College-Going Rates

  • EHS Graduates Attending College 2007-2015 with the Promise 82% 82%
  • EHS Graduates Attending College 2004-2006 pre-Promise 62% 62%
Benton Garrison – EHS 2012,
University of Mississippi 2016

EL DORADO’S PROMISE TO YOU

Union County (Excluding El Dorado) and Comparison Districts, 1990-2016

Ash, J.W. & Ritter, G.W. (November 2014). Estimating the Impact of the El Dorado Promise on High School Outcomes. Presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management. Albuquerque, NM.

K-12 Improvements

Increased Enrollments

Prior to the Promise, enrollment in the El Dorado School District had been on a steady decline, as had other districts in Union County and other comparable districts. Data indicates that while the overall enrollment number for the District is greater than it was when the Promise was announced, the more significant news is what the current enrollment looks like if compared to projections of where the district would be had the Promise not been implemented. Compared to the expected student enrollment, based on prior trends, El Dorado has experienced a 15.5% increase in enrollment above expectations (representing more than 600 students in the district that served more than 4,500 students in 2015-2016.) Comparative districts continued on the projected decline.

Higher Test Scores

Since the Promise began, and more students are going to college, they realized they must work hard to prepare themselves. As the district reviewed research-based curriculum to better prepare all students for college, Advanced Placement courses from College Board had the data to show that students who took AP courses had an improved college success rate and finished college in a shorter period of time. In 2007, the district applied to become a member of Arkansas Advanced Initiative to Improve Math and Science (AIMMS). The district was one of eight schools selected. The goals of this endeavor were to increase the number of students taking AP courses, increase the diversity of the AP students, and to increase the number of passing scores.
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Parent meetings were held to better inform families of the importance of rigorous course work and the role it played in college success. As a result, parents, students and teachers began demanding more rigorous courses of study, and more students are enrolling in AP classes. This caused a change in curriculum and Pre-AP classes now begin in middle school.

Introducing students to pre-AP earlier has resulted in an increase in AP enrollments in high school. AP enrollment at EHS has increased 164% over the past 10 years. The number of AP classes offered has increased from three in 2000, to 19 classes now. From less than 100 students choosing AP courses, now well over 400 students select the most demanding classes. Even with the dramatic increase in the number of students taking AP courses, the passing rate of EHS students has remained steady.

In 2011, El Dorado School District was selected to be included in College Board’s AP Achievement List for Significant Gains in AP Access and Student Performance. From the 12,000 school districts who offer AP courses in the United States, only 388 districts were selected nationwide with only two from Arkansas. Everyone has higher expectations. AP courses are continually added as student demand indicates their need. At El Dorado High School, all AP courses are “open enrollment,” meaning any student can register for any AP class. Consequently, the academic culture of the staff and students has changed.

Culture Change

The Promise spurred a culture change throughout the school district. Since the new expectation was that all EHS students would go to college, the atmosphere within the district changed to a college-going culture. This culture change involved realizing a large portion of students in the district would be first-generation college students, which means their home support group didn’t have the experiences, or the understanding of college, needed to prepare their student. The school district has transformed itself into a college preparedness center – preparing its students academically as well as attitudinally. Creating a college-going culture also means making college a common discussion among all students.

Community Response / Improvements

The community response to the Promise has been overwhelming. In the days immediately following the announcement, there was a renewed energy in the community. As students, parents, small business owners, as well as, other large companies expressed their appreciation to Murphy Oil, they all began thinking of ways they could join the effort to strengthen the community.

Immediately following the announcement of the Promise, you could see the attitude of the city change in a very positive way, and the attitude remains very positive today.

-Mike Dumas, El Dorado Mayor in 2007

Economic Development

An economic development tax was approved by the voters in April 2007, after the announcement of the Promise in January. The vote to pass this one-cent sales tax showed the community’s enthusiasm to support the Promise through economic improvements in El Dorado. The initial tax was passed in 2007 and extended through 2014. Voters renewed the tax in 2015 showing their continued desire for economic development in the community.

A portion of the funds raised through the initial tax increase went toward building a multipurpose conference center designed on the campus of South Arkansas Community College (South Ark), which opened in 2011. The El Dorado Conference Center is a joint endeavor of the city of El Dorado and SouthArk and has a unique design reflective of the area’s oil and timber heritage.

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In September of 2007, an additional millage was passed to build a new high school. This was the first millage increase in the city since the 1970s. El Dorado High School welcomed students to the new campus in the Fall of 2011. Additionally, a new Arts and Entertainment District was opened in 2018 in downtown El Dorado. The Murphy Arts District has extensive plans to revitalize the downtown district and make El Dorado the entertainment hub of the south.

MAD includes an outdoor amphitheater, playscape and splash pad, a large music hall and a restaurant.  Additional phases of the project will renovate three more historic structures to create additional art gallery space, performing arts venues, and hotel space.

Other businesses in El Dorado have also supported Murphy Oil’s effort to revitalize our community and school district by sponsoring additional programs for the students to extend the Promise culture throughout the district.

Promise Backpacks for Kindergartners

The Promise changed the way students in the El Dorado School District look at college. It also changed when students in the district begin thinking about going to college. Since the inception of the Promise, each kindergarten student in the District receives a Promise Backpack, provided by Simmons Bank. The El Dorado Promise Director and others visit each kindergarten classroom on the first day of school to hand out the backpacks, tell students about the El Dorado Promise and teach them the famous Promise Cheer. Students begin hearing about their opportunity to attend the college of their choice on their first day of school.