The AAA organizes its member schools by 3-year average daily membership (ADM) in grades 10-12 every two years. Each classification is organized by rank, as opposed to a minimum threshold, to maintain consistent numbers for each class.
Since 2006, the schools have been organized as follows.
- Class 7A (16 largest schools)
- Class 6A (next 16 largest schools)
- Class 5A (next 32 largest schools)
- Class 4A (next 48 largest schools that sponsor football ("football schools"), as well as all non-football schools within range)
- Class 3A (same means as Class 4A)
- Class 2A (next 48 largest schools and remainder of football schools)
- Class 1A (all remaining schools)
The means of placing private schools within these classifications have become a key issue in Arkansas. Prior to 2002, only single-gender schools would have its enrollment altered, in this case by doubling the reported enrollment. In 2002, the enrollments reported by private schools was multiplied by 1.35. In 2006, that multiplier was increased to 1.75. Starting in 2008, the multiplier wil be dropped altogether, and each private school will be placed one classification above where the enrollment would otherwise place the school. In 2012, enrollment for private schools that were segregated were combined (for example, Catholic High School for Boys with Mount Saint Mary Academy (for Girls)).
Within each classification, the schools are further grouped into conferences, each with 6-8 schools apiece. In Classes 7A-5A, the conferences are named according to directional region (i.e. 7A-West, 6A-Central, 5A-Southeast). In the smaller classes, the conferences are named according to the activity district number which the conference is centrally located (a class 4A conference in western Arkansas would be the 4A-4 conference). In smaller classes, there can be more than one conference within an activity district. These are further named according to directional area (a pair of class 2A conferences in southwest Arkansas would be the 2A-7 West and 2A-7 East). Classes 3A and 2A group conferences for football and basketball separately (Mountainburg is in Conference 3A-1 for football and 3A-4 for basketball). Finally, sports with limited sponsorship, such as soccer and swimming, have their own conferences between the participants. These special conferences often transcend multiple classes.
As of 2010, the rules for 7A and 6A classification for football have been changed. The divisions still compete in separate playoffs, but two regional conferences that have previously been exclusive to 7A or 6A now have a mix of 7A and 6A schools so as to save on transportation expenses during the regular season.
For purposes of clarity, the activity districts with regions covered are as follows.
- District 1 (northwest Arkansas)
- District 2 (north central Arkansas)
- District 3 (northeast Arkansas)
- District 4 (west Arkansas)
- District 5 (central Arkansas)
- District 6 (east Arkansas)
- District 7 (southwest Arkansas)
- District 8 (southeast Arkansas)
The AAA has changed both the names and means of these classifications over time.
- Prior to 1977, the classes ranged from Class AAAA to Class C, with AAAA including the 8 largest schools in Arkansas. In 1977, the first "class shift" added an "A" to each class, and references to Class C were removed.
- In 1983, Class AAAAA merged into and was renamed Class AAAA, with all other classes relatively consistent.
- In 1998, the state witnessed the second "class shift", this time removing all references to Class B.
- In 2006, Class AAAAA was split in half, and Classes AAA and AA, both with over 70 schools each, were reorganized into three smaller classes. At first, the largest class was called Class AAAAAAA. The current naming conventions, changing the reference to 7A, were adopted soon after.
Prior to 2006, the activity district number was placed in front of the class for conference names (i.e. 4AAA, 7AA-East). These naming conventions changed as well, but many local media outlets still placed the district number before the class (3-4A instead of 4A-3). Prior to this, a few outlets mixed prior references to new ones (some newspapers in western Arkansas made references to the 4AAA-West, yet such a conference never existed).
Read more about this topic: Arkansas Activities Association
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