Johnny Key discovers poverty could affect school performance. Do only charter schools get a pass? | Arkansas Blog

Johnny Key discovers poverty could affect school performance. Do only charter schools get a pass?

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EUREKA MOMENT: Education Commissioner Johnny Key, with the governor, discovers special circumstances can contribute to school ills.
  • EUREKA MOMENT: Education Commissioner Johnny Key, with the governor, discovers special circumstances can contribute to school ills.

Deep in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's coverage of yesterday's state Board of Education meeting came a quote worth noting, savoring and remembering.

The context: The continuing "failure" of the Covenant Keepers Charter School in Southwest Little Rock — failure being a measurement of not attaining a 50 percent proficiency rate on standardized test scores. It is word used repeatedly by those who attack the Little Rock School District.

Despite this performance, the state Education Department charter authorizing panel and the state Board have taken no steps against the school. It serves almost entirely minority kids from low-income homes. The kids are making some progress, if not attaining proficiency. The people who review them seem to think the operators mean well.

Into this discussion steps Education Commission Johnny Key, Gov. Asa Hutchinson's hand-picked school leader. His main qualification for this job was having been a state senator who waged war for the Walton Family Foundation's "school choice" agenda. More charter schools. Free ability to flee a school district whose enrollment was disagreeable to a parent. Take over the Little Rock School District so somebody who knows what they are doing can run the place, preferably a charter management company. Now to Key:

In schools like Covenant Keepers, the aggregate scores may be overshadowing the benefits to students, Key said. For example, if a school has high turnover, the aggregate scores wouldn't reflect the achievement levels of current students, he said.

"That may be one of the multiple measures that we may look at as we are designing the new accountability system," he said. "Those are all considerations that we will be giving a lot of thought to."
My question: Will the new accountability system apply ONLY to failing charter schools? Or will it also apply to the Little Rock School District? I won't bother to link the number of times I've written that the so-called failing schools in Little Rock are 1) virtually all-minority; 2) virtually all low-income; 3) disproportionately populated by people who don't speak English as a native tongue; 4) have disproportionate numbers of special education students; 5) include an astonishing number of homeless students; 6) in Southwest Little Rock, particularly, have dramatically changing enrollment as transient families bounce from apartment to apartment and job to job, if they're lucky. These are some measures that should get "a lot of thought."

When the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Waltons, their paid shills like Gary Newton and even members of the Little Rock Board of Directors were agitating for the state to take over the Little Rock School District on account of six of 48 schools with a "failure" label, I didn't hear Johnny Key or anybody else talking about "new accountability systems." Now the Walton shills up at Walton U. and their embedded operatives like Key have suddenly discovered that improvement is important, even if an arbitrary "proficiency" standard isn't met and that demographics are, too often, destiny.

At least they believe this about charter schools. Of course, it also could be that Key is beginning to make excuses for Little Rock now that he is the district school board, not that majority black democratically elected bunch of unpaid volunteers who got nothing but abuse for caring about kids.

New school report cards are coming out today. I've heard rumblings of some adjustment in scores to reflect certain demographics, changes that could bode well for some Little Rock schools. We'll see.


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