Greater Opportunity Through Innovative Change
MAUMELLE CHARTER SCHOOL: DOUBLE-DIGIT INCREASES ON STANDARDIZED TEST SCORES
The Policy Foundation, since its founding 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. "Charter schools," APF analyst Allyson Tucker wrote in a 1996 report, 'Arkansas' Weak Charter School Law,' "create an alternate form of public schooling where schools are granted significant autonomy but are held accountable for results. The 'charter' is essentially a contract ... Unlike other public schools, parents specifically request the charter school and if the school fails to attract students, or if it fails to meet the terms of the charter, the charter can be revoked and the school closed."
Research conducted by one-time APF analyst Donna Watson is a major reason why a handful of Arkansas charter schools exist today. Watson, in the 1996 report, compared Arkansas' weak 1995 charter law with those in states like Arizona, and argued for a broader law. Democrats in the Arkansas legislature, later in the decade, expanded the law, a move supported by Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee.(1) The Academics Plus Charter School in Maumelle, founded by parents, is one of the handful of charter schools that emerged as a result of the efforts of APF, Donna Watson, and her husband, Mike.
Critics point to the lack of empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that charter students perform better than in traditional public schools. While it is far from conclusive, preliminary data from the Academics Plus Charter School show 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 (2) in the 2001-02 school year. In 16 of 24 categories students registered double-digit percentage increases on the SAT-9 as the following chart illustrates:
In 11 of 12 categories seventh-grade students at the Academics Plus Charter School registered double-digit percentage increases on the SAT-9 during the 2001-02 school year. The 14 percent increases in the Spelling and Total Mathematics test scores are especially encouraging.
The Maumelle charter school is located in Pulaski County, whose largest district is Little Rock. A Policy Foundation analysis conducted in 1999 found declining SAT-9 math scores for seventh-grade Little Rock students. The most recent (2001) Arkansas standardized test (ACTAAP) reveals only 13 percent of Little Rock students "proficient" in math. In 1999, only 12 percent of Little Rock students were proficient in math on the ACTAAP test.
(1) In January 2002 Gov. Huckabee proposed more charter schools as part of his eight-part 'Next Step' proposal for K-12 education.
(2) Seventh-grade Listening Skills declined 1.0 percent in 2001-02.
(3) National percentile rank