The state Education Department's charter school authorizing panel
waved along charter school requests before it today, with some minor alterations.
It heard applications from Haas Hall Academy of Fayetteville; KIPP Delta Public Schools of Forrest City; the Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy, the Ozark Montessori Academy, the Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle, the Arkansas Arts Academy and the Arkansas Virtual Academy.
One change: Academics Plus in Maumelle
wanted a 20-year charter renewal along with an expansion of its student body. The renewal was limited to five years.
The approval came over objections from Jerry Guess
, superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District,
in which Academics Plus sits. Guess noted that, despite representations to the contrary, Academics Plus wasn't demonstrating advancement in student test scores or the type of college prep curriculum it has said would be its strength. Its students score high on standardized tests, but Guess said the scores were to be expected at a school with few poor students. It has a black enrollment of 15 percent, though when it was begun organizers claimed they'd be targeting poor and minoroity students not well-served in other public school districts.
You can read the Academics Plus application and Guess' objections here.
Before addressing the particulars of the Academics Plus application, PCSSD thinks it is important to remind the panel that while Academics Plus claims some successes, nowhere in the renewal application is there any description of any innovative instructional techniques calculated to result in extraordinary student gain and growth. We understand these to be the reason that the charter school experiment was authorized in the beginning. PCSSD simply believes that when viewed as a whole, Academics Plus cannot demonstrate innovation, and cannot demonstrate growth above what one would expect of an essentially homogenous middle class student body, a student body that cannot be reasonably compared to schools in the PCSSD or statewide, a factor which has been emphasized by previous state boards of education.