Greater Opportunity Through Innovative Change
Arkansas' charter school movement faces significant obstacles, including restrictions on the number of schools, restrictive chartering authority and onerous rules and regulations that do not exist in other states.
Despite these obstacles, students at the Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle continue to record double-digit increases on standardized, national norm-referenced tests. The Policy Foundation, since its inception in 1995, has championed charter schools, i.e., public schools created and operated by a group of teachers, parents, or other qualified individuals that is largely free from state oversight. The work of former APF analysts Mike and Donna Watson is a major reason why a handful of Arkansas charter schools are operating today.
Dr. Caroline Proctor is the Maumelle charter school's president and CEO. In their first year, Academics Plus students recorded double-digit percentage increases on standardized tests between September 2001 and April 2002. Sixth and seventh-grade students taking the Stanford Achievement Test (Ninth Edition) improved in 23 of 24 categories in the 2001-02 school year. In 16 of 24 categories students registered double-digit percentage increases on the SAT-9, a national norm-referenced test (APF, "Maumelle Charter School: Double-Digit Increases On Standardized Test Scores," July 2002). Gov. Mike Huckabee, in a Summer 2002 appearance at Academics Plus, told students the Arkansas charter school movement was depending on their continued academic performance. Academics Plus has completed its second full year (2002-2003) and students in two of three groups at the school have again recorded double-digit increases (Fall-to-Fall, Spring-to-Spring) on the SAT-9 as the following charts illustrate:
Academic Plus students in the third group recorded double-digit increases in two categories (Total Reading, Total Math); single-digit increases in eight categories (Language, Science, Social Studies, Listening, Using Information, Thinking Skills, Basic Battery, Complete Battery); and declines in two categories (Spelling, Study Skills).
Groups One and Two include second-year Academics Plus students. Group Three is comprised of first-year students new to the program.
The mission of Academics Plus Charter School is "to provide an academically rigorous college preparatory program for all students regardless of race, ethnic origin, national background, or socioeconomic level." The impressive test scores of Academics Plus students on the SAT-9 the last two years is proof that administrators, parents and others involved with the Maumelle charter school are accomplishing that worthy mission. Arkansas needs more charter schools and fewer restrictions on their operation.