Charter school champion Johnny Key, the state education czar, is apparently feeling a little heat from the state’s persecution of the Little Rock School District over a handful of schools with low standardized test scores among dozens.

I conclude this because — shazam! — the state Board of Education’s charter school authorizing panel, encouraged by reports from Key’s staff, has decided to hold some hearings on a couple of schools graded F by the state’s nonsensical school grading system based almost entirely on standardized test scores. It is no surprise that the schools in question have high percentages of lower-income minority students. School grades reflect these factors far more than school quality.

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It’s worth noting that the charter panel recommended revocation (on a split vote) of the Pine Bluff Lighthouse Elementary in 2018, but the state Board overrode that. This is reminiscent of the state board’s decision to overlook multiple financial and academic shortcomings at the late Covenant Keepers charter school, which had backup legal and financial support from the Walton Family Foundation until it finally self-destructed.

Being a charter school typically means never having to say you’re sorry to the state Board of Education. Being the Little Rock School District is another matter altogether.

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The D-G article notes other charter schools with poor grades. There are many other conventional public schools with poor grades as well. But you won’t find many of them heading into six years of state control with no end in sight like the Little Rock School District. One of the D schools is the Scholarmade Achievement Place, a Walton-financed charter school plunked down in a Little Rock neighborhood that was already overpopulated with elementary school seats. It graded D in its second year of operation with 75 percent of students needing reading help. Then there’s Exalt Academy in Little Rock, with two dozen violations of accreditation standards. Will Madame Zook, the board chair, lower the boom on these schools as she does with such relish on the Little Rock School District? Will the Walton’s $250K lobbyist fill his Facebook page with slashing reports on these “failing” schools?

Also: a related note. A lawsuit has been filed to stop the state of Texas from taking over the huge Houston school district, an idea even Walton-backed education reformer Jay Greene up at UA has written about with skepticism.

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It seems: The state didn’t like the local school board. The state likes the idea of more charter schools in Houston.The chronically low test scores at one high-minority, high-poverty high school was a prime justification for taking over a much larger school district with many success schools. Sound familiar?

UPDATE: Here’s the report presented to the charter authorizing panel about the performance of state charter schools and the waivers they enjoy from state rules. Notice how Little Rock is targeted along the way.

Also: Here’s a Power Point presentation that boils down the report to some essentials, such a grade summary.

 

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