The grade is based on the performance of ninth graders taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which tests verbal and math skills. The test was administered by the Arkansas Department of Education to 342,711 students in grades K-9 in Arkansas.
Greg Kaza, executive director of Arkansas Policy Foundation, said Arkansas consistently places 48th, 49th and 50th in income categories in federal economic data. He said the poor economic outlook is what causes many educated young people to leave the state.
"School districts that will reverse this trend are school districts preparing students for the world," Kaza said
"We're pleased our district is recognized as one of the top 20," Salem Superintendent Ken Rich said.
"Districts receiving an A grade are leading the way to a brighter economic future for the state," Kaza said.
Schools receiving an A grade are performing at a level significantly higher than average.
Schools receiving a B grade are performing somewhat above average, Kaza said, and schools with a C are performing at an average level.
Schools with a D have significant room for improvement, while those with an F are in peril and failing to serve the needs of their students, Kaza said.
Viola School District received a B grade and Mammoth Spring received a C.
Izard County Schools did above average as well, with Melbourne, Calico Rock and Izard County Consolidated receiving B grades.
The Highland and Cave City School Districts in Sharp County each received a B, while Twin Rivers received a C grade.
"The idea is, over time, progress or lack of progress can be tracked," Kaza said.
Salem has also received the Golden Apple Award and recognition for outstanding performance on ACTs.
"Our goal is to try to do well on all these exams so our kids do well after high school," Rich said. He said Salem schools try to do well on all exams instead of just one.
The scores for all schools in the state are posted on the Arkansas Policy Foundation homepage at www.reformarkansas.org.