What's the point 

The LISA Academy succeeds with students. But does it succeed in meeting the terms of state charter school law?

click to enlarge 25cover_image1.jpg


By most educational standards, LISA Academy, Little Rock’s sole charter school, appears to be a success.

Students at the school, now in its third year, bring home buckets of awards from science and math competitions. They routinely score higher on standardized tests than their peers locally and around the state. The school’s top academic achievers are given as much attention and status as star athletes at other schools.

But there’s a catch, and it’s a big one.

Charter schools are funded with public money and are open to all students. In exchange for producing academic results, they can request waivers from certain state regulations that govern regular public schools. One of the purposes of charter schools, according to state law, is to “Increase learning opportunities for all students, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for students who are identified as low-achieving.”

Several of the state’s charter schools meet that goal — they’re located in areas with high numbers of low-achieving students, and their enrollments reflect that.

But the others — most notably those in Central and Northwest Arkansas, including LISA Academy — have student bodies that are less diverse and more affluent than the general population in the area.

In other words, they may be successful at producing students who score highly on standardized tests and win top honors at academic competitions, but they have a considerable head start. The real news would be if they weren’t succeeding.

LISA Academy opened in the fall of 2004, with about 150 students in grades 6-8. It now has 360 students in grades 6-10, and administrators plan to add 11th and 12th grades in the next two years — assuming that the state Board of Education votes later this spring to renew the school’s charter. The board hasn’t yet set a date to consider the renewal, but when it does, it will consider the school’s financial and academic performance. It’s not clear whether the renewal process will also include an examination of the school’s demographic make-up, but if it does, administrators may have some tough questions to answer.

In their original charter application, approved by the Board of Education three years ago, the founders of LISA Academy — UALR professors Serhan Dagtas and Ibrahim Duyar — envisioned a college-prep school that emphasized science, math and technology, and listed as one of their goals reaching out to minorities and girls, who are underrepresented in the ranks of professional scientists. The application said the school wouldn’t have a negative impact on desegregation efforts in the Little Rock School District because the organizers hoped to have a similar minority population — 61 percent black.

As an open-enrollment charter school, LISA Academy must admit any student who wants to attend. If more students applied than the school had room for — that hasn’t happened yet — students would be selected through a random lottery.

But that doesn’t mean anyone who wants to go to LISA can. The school doesn’t run school buses, so parents must be able to get their kids to school and home on their own. That can mean that location has a major impact on who is able to attend.

LISA’s founders originally planned to locate the school in the Train Station downtown — which would have made it easier for residents of lower-income neighborhoods in eastern and central Little Rock to get to the school.


Comments (22)

Showing 1-22 of 22

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-22 of 22

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

More by Jennifer Barnett Reed

  • Learning to love North Little Rock in Park Hill

    Any description of North Little Rock's Park Hill neighborhood will eventually, inevitably, include a comparison to Hillcrest, its better-known cousin south of the river.
    • Dec 28, 2011
  • A reason to splash

    Fun rain gear and more at InJoy.
    • Mar 12, 2009
  • Pick up some spice

    And we ain’t talking about tarragon.
    • Feb 26, 2009
  • More »

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation