University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Arkansas’ Proposed Open-Enrollment Charter Schools for 2015-16

In The View from the OEP on October 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm

This week, Arkansas’ Charter Authorizing Panel will hold hearings for proposed open-enrollment charter schools on Wednesday (October 15) and Thursday (October 16). In November, the panel will hold hearings for proposed district-conversion charter schools.

As you may remember, during the 2013 General Assembly, the legislature created a new authorizing panel that oversees the open-enrollment and district conversion charter process (read about the new panel in our 2013 blog post and policy brief). Previously, the State Board of Education served as the authorizer, but the legislature changed the authorizing panel to come from within the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). The ADE Charter Authorizing Panel is appointed by the Commissioner of Education.

This year, 14 letters of intent for proposed open-enrollment charter schools were submitted in May, but only 6 applications were submitted in July (read a Democrat-Gazette article about the schools here). To apply for an open-enrollment charter school, an entity must submit detailed plans that include curriculum and instructional practices, calendar and daily schedule, teacher and staff capacity, salary schedule and budget (for two years), and evidence of public hearings and parental and community support.

Up to six open-enrollment charter schools can be authorized in the 2014-15 application cycle. 18 charters for open-enrollment schools/districts exist in 2014-15, and the law allows the cap to be extended up to 24 open-enrollment schools. Below we detail each of the proposed open-enrollment charter schools. Find the proposed schools’ applications here.

Wednesday’s hearings:

Proposed Charter Arkansas Connections Academy
Sponsoring entity Arkansas Connections Academy, Inc.
Location Virtual school (Operated out of Bentonville)
Expected districts to draw students from All school districts
2015-16 Grade levels K-12
2015-16 Enrollment (Enrollment when complete) 1,000 (2,000 in year 2; 3,000 in year 3)
Focus “Personalized learning inherent in a high quality online school”
Other details Students slated to undergo 30 instructional hours a week with 180 days in a school year
Proposed Charter Capitol City Lighthouse Charter School
Sponsoring entity Lighthouse Academics of Central Arkansas, Inc. (National organization: Lighthouse Academies)
Location North Little Rock
Expected districts to draw students from North Little Rock School District; Little Rock School District; Pulaski County Special School District
2015-16 Grade levels (Grade levels when complete) K-6 (Add one grade each subsequent year to eventually serve K-12)
2015-16 Enrollment (Enrollment when complete) 344 (750)
Focus “Rigorous academic program that will integrate the arts with science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEAM)”
Other details Longer school day; longer school year; additional teacher development (160 hours of professional development); focus on student social and emotional development
Proposed Charter Haas Hall Academy
Sponsoring entity The Academy, Inc.
Location Bentonville
Expected districts to draw students from Bentonville School District; Rogers School District; Gentry School District; Decatur School District; Gravette School District; Pea Ridge School District; Siloam Springs School District
2015-16 Grade levels(Grade levels when complete) (7-12)
2015-16 Enrollment (Enrollment when complete) 320 (500)
Focus “To provide an aggressive alternative to the traditional learning environment of scholars with high intensity of purpose. Every Scholar, Every Day – College Bound!”
Other details Courses determined by academic ability (not grade level, except for English); ACT or SAT required for all 9-12 students each school term

Additionally, on Wednesday, KIPP Delta Public Schools will undergo a hearing to amend their charter to add a KIPP school in Forrest City. KIPP is seeking to open a school starting with grade 5 in 2015-16 and expanding to grades 5 – 8 within four years. Due to KIPP’s charter, KIPP can include the new school within its existing charter, rather than proposing a new, separate charter.

Thursday’s hearings:

Proposed Charter Ozark Montessori Academy
Sponsoring entity Ozark Education, Inc.
Location Springdale
Expected districts to draw students from Springdale School District; Bentonville School District; Fayetteville School District; Gentry School District; Greenland School District; Huntsville School District; Pea Ridge School District; Rogers School District
2015-16 Grade levels(Grade levels when complete) K-6 (Add one grade each subsequent year to eventually serve K-8)
2015-16 Enrollment (Enrollment when complete) 120 (280)
Focus Montessori “hands-on” curriculum; STEAM (science, technology, mathematics, arts, and engineering) project-based learning
Other details Small school; Multi-age classrooms; Technology focus, including video production, sound engineering, and computer coding; outdoor education; world language instruction
Proposed Charter Redfield Tri-County Charter School
Sponsoring entity
Location Redfield
Expected districts to draw students from White Hall School District; Sheridan School District; Pulaski County Special School District
2015-16 Grade levels(Grade levels when complete) 5-8 (Add one grade each subsequent year to eventually serve 5-12)
2015-16 Enrollment (Enrollment when complete) 175 (375)
Focus “Academic excellence”; “Strive to instill in each student core character values, a sense of community service, and a love of learning”
Other details The Redfield School District was consolidated into White Hall, and at the end of the 2012-13 school year, the middle school in Redfield was closed.
Proposed Charter Rockbridge Montessori School
Sponsoring entity
Location Little Rock
Expected districts to draw students from Little Rock School District; North Little Rock School District; Pulaski County School District; Benton School District; Bryant School District
2015-16 Grade levels (Grade levels when complete) K-4 (Add one grade each subsequent year to eventually serve K-8)
2015-16 Enrollment (Enrollment when complete) 125 (325)
Focus Montessori curriculum; “academically rigorous curriculum combined with practices of peaceful social development that result in joyful learning experiences for children”
Other details Multi-age classrooms; student choice in work plans

Last year, during the hearings, the Charter Authorizing Panel focused on the school’s curriculum and innovative practices, potential student body,  budget,  and parent and community support, among other issues. However, this year, the Charter Authorizing Panel is comprised of many new staff members, so we will see what the Panel chooses to focus on this year.  Furthermore, last year, a number of the decisions were appealed to the State Board of Education (the Board faced four appeals and reviewed two decisions). This year, in November, the State Board of Education will decide whether to review the Charter Authorizing Panel decisions, if an appeal is submitted. If the State Board decides to review a decision, the Board will determine the timeline to conduct the hearing.

This week, the Charter Authorizing Board hearings will begin each day at 8:30 AM in the ADE Auditorium. Read Wednesday’s agenda here and Thursday’s agenda here. You can watch the hearings live here. As always, we will keep you posted on the outcomes!

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  1. “. . . the Charter Authorizing Panel is comprised of many new staff members, so we will see what the Panel chooses to focus on this year.”

    I trust that they will focus on whether requirements of the applications have been met rather than personal whims.

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