Independence County

Excel by Eight in Independence County

Independence County is one of the inaugural community partners for Excel by Eight. Led by the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce, E8 joins other education-related initiatives in the area and incorporates goals that are inclusive of ages birth to eight as a foundation for improving outcomes for the whole child.

During an initial research phase, the community’s steering committee reached more than 200 people through a Data Walk project— raising awareness about E8 and gathering critical feedback about priorities across the resource grid. Community members and education and health sector representatives alike agreed on the top priorities for their county, which include: food security, substance use prevention, poverty alleviation, child care availability and kindergarten readiness.

The steering committee also used data from the Early Development Instrument (EDI) when setting priorities. The EDI is a population measure of how young children are developing based on the five domains of early childhood development: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge. Kindergarten teachers in  school district completed the assessment for their students. Kindergarten teachers in all school districts in the county completed the assessment for their students.


North-central region of Arkansas, adjacent to the White River

Specialties in agriculture, healthcare, banking and retail

Lyon College

Implemented first community school model in the state

Steering Committee

Jamie Rayford, E8 Chairperson, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce
Bani Meharg, Midland Elementary
Brooke Stevenson, Parent
Clint Shackleford, ARcare
Crystal Johnson, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce
Debbie Mize, Child Care Aware
Jennifer Douglas, Batesville School District
Dr. Julia Roulier, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Kimberly Poole, Southside School District
Dr. Lesley Milton, Tooth Be Told Pediatric Dentistry
Lisa Mcghee, Southside Schools
Mary Katherine Hardin, STARS Academy
Mindy Shaw, UA Community College – Batesville
Nikki Yonts, Lyon College
Tracey Owens, Cedar Ridge School District
Whitney Massey, Baker Family Dentistry

Read more about E8 Communities

Realizing the EDI’s Full Impact

Realizing the EDI’s Full Impact

Building a strong foundation for children’s success starts with taking a look at where they are now. Enter the Early Development Instrument (EDI), which offers a comprehensive view of how children are developing in neighborhoods and census tracts across...

Uncovering the Impact of the Early Development Instrument

Uncovering the Impact of the Early Development Instrument

When building a house it is best to start with a strong foundation. This applies to early brain development as well. The brain develops faster in a child’s first three years than any other time in life, laying the bricks and mortar of future learning and success. A...

An E8 Community Convo: Michelle Puckett in Independence County

An E8 Community Convo: Michelle Puckett in Independence County

As Michelle Puckett, Batesville Preschool director, has witnessed firsthand, early care and education set the stage for children’s long-term cognitive development, school achievement, and overall success. Today, she combines this real-world knowledge and decade of...