School choice now mainstream as near majority of students attend school outside the one assigned

By Eileen Sigmund

Does your child attend his or her assigned district school? If so, they’re nearly among the minority in Maricopa County.

That’s according to a surprising new analysis compiled by the non-partisan Center for Student Achievement and researchers at Yale University. The study found that nearly 1 in 2 K-8 students in Maricopa County don’t attend the district school to which they were assigned based on home address. The actual number is almost certainly higher as the analysis only looked at district and charter-school students, and didn’t take into account those who are homeschooled or attend private or online schools.

Simply put, “school choice” has gone mainstream in Arizona.

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Arizona School for the Arts principal inspires students, teachers to think creatively

2017 Charter Transformational Leader of the Year: Sara Maline Bohn

By Jamar Younger

For Sara Maline Bohn, no idea is too far-fetched.

The Arizona School for the Arts principal is always willing to sit with her teachers, students and fellow administrators to discuss a new plan or innovation, and figure out how to make into a reality.

Bohn uses her infectious enthusiasm and sense of humor to encourage her fellow educators and students to engage in challenging work, try new methods and persevere through difficult situations.

As a result, she has helped cultivate a welcoming, inclusive campus culture where students, staff and the community try new ideas, grow, and learn from mistakes.

Bohn’s efforts have led to her recognition as the 2017 Arizona Public Charter School Transformational Leader of the Year.

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Reid Traditional Schools’ Painted Rock Academy

2017 Arizona Public Charter School of the Year

By Jamar Younger

Painted Rock Academy has established itself as a model of consistency since the public charter school opened its campus six years ago.

The school, operated by Reid Traditional Schools, prides itself on its traditional education model, and believes – given the right tools – all students can achieve success. Students analyze classical literature and develop a love of math, science and technology, using strong foundational skills to explore new concepts and ideas in the upper grades.

Teachers and administrators work hard to ensure that each student will receive the same education experience, regardless of which class they attend.

A stable, committed group of teachers and strong parental involvement are the hallmarks of Painted Rock’s success. Parents play a prominent role on campus: assisting in classrooms, planning school events and supporting the teachers so they can focus on academics.

This consistency and stability has helped Painted Rock cement its reputation as one of the top schools in the state, with A-ratings and AzMERIT scores that rank above the state averages.

It’s also the reason the school has been named the 2017 Arizona Public Charter School of the Year.

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Nearly 1 out of 2 students in Maricopa County exercise school choice

By Eileen Sigmund

Educational freedom is fundamental for Arizona families.

For nearly 25 years, parents have been given the opportunity to select a school that best meets their child’s needs. No longer do you have to be able to afford a pricey home to attend a great school.

Now we know a little more about the magnitude of those choices: Nearly one out of every two students in Maricopa County participate in school choice through open enrollment or charter schools.

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Charter School Founder Greg Miller Dies, Leaves Behind a Legacy of Service to Arizona Public Charter School Students

By Arizona Charter Schools Association Staff

Former Arizona State Board of Education Chair Greg Miller died unexpectedly on Tuesday, Oct. 24.  Greg and his wife, Pam Miller, founded Challenge Charter School in 1996.

Their Glendale elementary school has been recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, National Charter School of the Year by the Center for Education Reform and is consistently ranked among the state’s top public schools.

Because of both Greg and Pam Miller’s servitude and contribution to Arizona’s charter movement, the Arizona Charter Schools Association honored the Millers with its 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.

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State Charter Board issues guidance for charters regarding special education students

By Jamar Younger

Public charter schools are required to admit all students, including special education pupils.

The State Board for Charter Schools has issued guidance for charters clarifying whether schools can cap or limit admission for special education students.

In short, charter schools are required to accept all special education students and offer the same services, and make the same accommodations for those students as school districts.

The Charter Board cites information from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The Arizona Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services can also provide resources for charters.

You can view the Charter Board’s guidance here.

The Association also created an enrollment and admissions fact sheet to address questions and misconceptions about charter school enrollment policies. Click here to view the fact sheet.



What you need to know on A-F

By Eileen Sigmund

This week, Arizona issued its first “A-F” letter grades in three years. This is what you need to know about these grades and what the Association is doing on behalf of Arizona’s public charter schools to ensure our unique campuses are rated fairly and accurately:

  • First, keep in mind these grades remain preliminary and are subject to change. More than half of all charter schools in Arizona have yet to receive any grade whatsoever. One of the biggest problems is that the rating system assumes every school is either K-8 or 9-12 and does not account for non-traditional models. Additionally, many schools received an initial grade that they are appealing.
  • The Association believes strongly the new letter grade formula needs to be improved, and we are vigorously advocating for Arizona policymakers to immediately revisit the formula before parents are misled and schools are further harmed.
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Charter supporters set the record straight on school accountability

By Jamar Younger

After a self-published and flawed report on public charter schools, Arizona’s charter community and the Arizona Republic quickly responded that charter schools are held accountable and school leaders are motivated by student success, not financial gain.

The Arizona Charter Schools Association issued the first set of responses with a statement and letter to our schools emphasizing that charter schools are academically successful, which is what matters most.

Here is a roundup of the other responses:

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Student success matters most

By the Arizona Charter Schools Association

The Arizona Charter Schools Association issued the following letter to our charter schools on Sept. 22 in response the Grand Canyon Institute’s report on charter school finances and accountability:

The Grand Canyon Institute recently released a paper that attempts to malign charter school accountability. We understand this is the first in a series of three hit pieces designed to discredit the work that charters are doing to deliver strong outcomes for kids. As your Association, we stand for quality and accountability in public charter schools. We do not agree with the baseless conclusions in this document.

Lost in the self-published 90-page diatribe against public charter schools is virtually any mention of what matters most: student success. And that’s no coincidence, as students across all demographics see higher outcomes when enrolled in charter schools. For the last three years, public charter students in all racial and ethnic groups are outperforming their peers, a simple truth that this paper sets out to ignore. Despite the availability of these and other data, including the most recent NAEP results that shine a light on the strong practices of charter schools, the paper’s authors cherry pick numbers from an old 2013 report to support their insinuations.

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AzMERIT results show that charters educate all students

By Jamar Younger

Arizona’s public charter students have outperformed their peers for the past three years, topping state and national indicators of academic success.

This year, charter students once again scored higher than the state average in virtually every grade level and subject area on the state’s AzMERIT test for the third straight year, according to results released by the Arizona Department of Education on Sept. 6.

Despite these accomplishments, Arizona’s charter performance is usually met with the skepticism of those who believe charters don’t cater to all students, notably minority and underserved youth.

It’s time to retire that stereotype.

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