Charter school accountablity: A blogger keeps trying | Arkansas Blog

Charter school accountablity: A blogger keeps trying

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CHARTER SCHOOL: Blogger asks questions about admission practices.
  • CHARTER SCHOOL: Blogger asks questions about admission practices.
I've written before about Elizabeth Lyon-Ballay, a musician and former charter school teacher who's been researching and blogging about education standards and accountability and lack of the latter when it comes to charter schools. (See here, for example, about waivers from school standards.) Her latest is a look at use of lottery selection for admission of charter school students.

She turns her attention, again, to Haas Hall Academy, the high-performing charter school in Northwest Arkansas. Earlier, she took a look at various factors that likely contribute to the school's high performance, including a lack of special needs and non-English-speaking students and a low percentage of minority students. Because it doesn't offer a subsidized lunch program (you can buy a lunch for $6), its poverty enrollment isn't known. I'd hazard a guess it's lower than, say, the Springdale School District, with its burgeoning multicultural enrollment, from which it draws students.

To repeat myself: Give me a school full of middle-class kids without special needs from homes where parents value education enough and who have either the resources or the smarts to figure out a way to provide transportation, uniforms and $6 lunches, and I'll give you a school that "succeeds." This is particularly true if you can find ways to weed out likely low performers.

Lyon-Ballay turns in her latest post to a subject that has drawn attention from the state Board of Education in the past — whether Haas Hall has run a straight blind lottery system for admissions. That is, does it truly have open enrollment or does it engage in practices that guarantee a quality student body ? Multiple complaints in the past led to expressions of concern by the Board and a move to an open lottery process.

Lyon-Ballay has dug into public records and found evidence of a whistle-blower with concerns about Haas Hall practices.



Evidence is insufficient at this point to say if Haas has or has not fully addressed past concerns. But the evidence, based on Lynn-Ballay's research, is that Education Commissioner Johnny Key has been (again) unresponsive to public inquiries.  Little Rock School District supporters feel her pain.

Did the Education Department respond to complaints from both local school officials and a whistleblower about the Haas Hall lottery? What did it find?  Accountability demands a review of such complaints and a report  — both for the benefit of the public and the school itself.

I turn again to double standards.

Key and Gov. Asa Hutchinson seemingly don't intend to let go of the Little Rock School District until, apparently it can demonstrate every single one of its schools — no matter how many poor, homeless, non-English-speaking special ed students they struggle to help — is judged a success based on high-stakes testing.  They have sprung surprise attacks on the district without advance notice and they have repeatedly forgiven failing charter schools in Little Rock with worse academic and financial track records. That they won't impose the same rigor on charter schools in Little Rock or anywhere else says a lot about who's in control of public education in Arkansas. My betting is on the Walton billionaires, whose beneficiaries include, surprise, Haas Hall.

Being a charter school in Arkansas means never having to say you're sorry.

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