Bringing Light to a Community

Roberto Castillo understands the dangers that can lurk behind dark corners, alleys and other hidden spots in his neighborhood.

About three years ago, Castillo, who lives in Maryvale, and his cousin were robbed as they were walking home after playing soccer.

“As we were walking home, these two guys were behind us. We didn’t notice because it was kind of dark,” he said. “In no time at all, they just dropped us to the ground and grabbed anything they could.”

That experience motivated him to search for ways to improve safety in his neighborhood and eventually collaborate with two like-minded students in his social entrepreneurship class at Western School of Science and Technology: A Challenge Foundation Academy, a public charter school in Maryvale. Western opened in 2014 as one of the inaugural schools in the New Schools for Phoenix program, which aims to increase the number of high quality schools in Phoenix’s urban core. The school serves grades 7-10 and will grow to serve seniors by 2018.

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Alexandrea’s Story

Only a few months into her freshman year, Alexandrea Barajas was a high school dropout. Barajas was a promising student, but her life was in flux as she endured a childhood marked by a turbulent relationship with her parents, frequent moves to different homes and an unending concern for her younger brother and sister’s well-being. Then her charter school principal intervened, issuing a simple challenge: break the cycle. Find out how a south Phoenix charter school helped Alexandrea overcome life’s obstacles to forge her own legacy.

Here is her story.

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STAR School’s Story

The educational landscape for Native American students has changed dramatically within the last few decades, as tribes have sought to take ownership of an education system that previously disconnected them from their culture. Learn how a small Arizona charter school, which straddles the edge of the Navajo Nation, strives to interweave its academic focus with traditional Navajo values.

Here is their story.

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Michael’s Story

Michael Galola faced uncertainty four years ago when both of his sons were diagnosed with autism. Find out how a Phoenix charter school was able to restore hope and ensure a bright future for the boys.

This is Michael’s story.

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Charters at the Capitol

A Note from Eileen

Representing every legislative district across Arizona, school leaders turned out for ‘Charters at the Capitol’ Wednesday to discuss how charters are changing lives in their unique schools. Governor Doug Ducey met with our leaders and recognized their academic success, as Arizona charter students outperformed nearly every state on the 2015 Nation’s Report Card.

In our 130 meetings scheduled with 27 legislators and the Governor, along with my presentation to the House Education committee, we highlighted how charter students are exceeding the state average in every grade for reading and math. Charter leaders also discussed how the instability of Arizona’s K-12 funding impacted their plans to expand and serve thousands of families on wait lists.

The schools represented have diverse educational philosophies, such as STEM, Waldorf, Arts, and Socratic methods of learning. Our leaders drove from all corners of the state including Sierra Vista, Kingman, Tucson and Bisbee to participate.

With 170,755 students and 556 public charter schools, Arizona’s charter community is committed to student success and strengthening K-12 education, ensuring a vibrant Arizona.

I want to personally thank the Governor, legislators and everyone who made ‘Charters at the Capitol’ a great success.



Eileen B. Sigmund
President and CEO
Arizona Charter Schools Association

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Mission Montessori Academy’s Story

How one Charter School Inspired a Group of 7th-Graders to Use a Global Perspective to Solve Local Problems

Educators have the ability to inspire students to think beyond their school walls, and Mission Montessori Academy has made that their mission.

The K-8 charter school in Scottsdale provides a global education, even sending students to New York City, Chile and China to attend conferences and discuss methods for conserving resources and protecting the environment.

Emboldened by their teachers, a group of seventh-graders have taken a local approach to solving problems and raising awareness of these issues, hoping to change the lives of their community for generations to come.

The students have created their own Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) dedicated to creating a more sustainable environment and helping to influence the lives of those in their communities.

Here are their stories.

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“Charter students are beating state averages at every grade level. Beyond the data, charters are changing lives and giving students and families a world of new academic options.”

-Eileen Sigmund, Association President and CEO
Phoenix Business Journal 2-16-16

Charter Teachers Share Education Experiences with Lawmakers

Elizabeth Tavasci

Elizabeth Tavasci speaks before the House Education Committee.

Education remains a priority for politicians and voters, with lawmakers sending Prop 123 to the ballot, polls showing education as a top issue and the usual spate of education bills circulating through the State Legislature this session.

With education at the forefront of policy discussions, the House and Senate Education Committees have made it a priority to highlight some of the positive happenings in Arizona’s schools.

For the last few weeks, Education Committee Chairs Rep. Paul Boyer and Sen. Sylvia Allen have invited teachers to share their experiences in Arizona’s public education system with committee members.

And charter teachers have led the way.

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Erik’s Story

With negative headlines splashed across news outlets, the hard work of our K-12 teachers and leaders is sometimes overshadowed and forgotten.

We want to change that.

Our Charters Changing Lives campaign is a way to share the stories that are often overlooked: to recognize the efforts of our students, teachers, leaders and community members who dedicate their lives to ensuring student success.

With 556 public charter schools serving over 170,000 student, charters play an integral role in shaping the lives of Arizona’s youth. We plan to share how Arizona’s charter schools are changing lives every day.

Here is Erik’s story.

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Arizona Charters Academically Exceeding in 2015

Arizona is home to 556 charter schools serving 170,755 students, representing 30 percent of schools and 15 percent of students in the 2015-16 school year. Charter schools are public schools that are innovative while still being held accountable for improved student achievement. Arizona laws provide public charter schools more autonomy in exchange for greater accountability for improved student achievement.


Recent data indicate that Arizona’s charter students outperformed nearly every other state on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. On eighth grade mathematics, for instance, Arizona charter students scored in a statistical dead heat with Massachusetts, the highest scoring of the 50 states.

NAEP Infographic

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