The meaning of 'schools of innovation' | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The meaning of 'schools of innovation'

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2018 at 11:50 AM

More school reporting from blogger Elizabeth Lyon-Ballay of Bella Vista on the growing use of waivers from school standards for not only charter schools but also schools operated by conventional school districts.

Lyon-Ballay, who wrote earlier about how charter school waivers have permeated and diluted standards in all schools, writes now about waivers for "schools of innovation," such as the elementary school her child attends in Bentonville. It has a waiver from class size standards, supposedly no more than three pupils over the standard.

But Lyon-Ballay says the school appears to be on an honor system on class size and she's observed much larger classes. She says it's made it hard for teachers to keep up with her own child. She writes:

So far, Education Commissioner Johnny Key (who chairperson of the Senate Education Committee when Act 601 became law) has approved 268 “School of Innovation” waivers. 22 of these directly exempt schools (like Cooper Elementary) from having to follow class size limitations. They also waive teacher qualification requirements, teacher pay requirements, and statewide curriculum requirements. Notably, Commissioner Johnny Key has even waived “mandatory probationary status” rules meant as consequences for schools that violate the laws left standing. Commissioner Key and the ADE have absolved themselves of any responsibility to ensure the compliance of Schools of Innovation or assign probation to rule-breakers.
Teacher licensure is the runaway favorite waiver. Accountability for these "innovations"?

This position — that the Arkansas Department of Education is not responsible for the wrongdoing of the schools under its supervision — has already protected the ADE from liability in the Dreamland Charter fraud case. The ADE argued, at that time, that it “did not have management responsibility for the operation of the Charter School during or after its closure and, therefore, was not responsible for the design and implementation of programs and controls to prevent and detect fraud and to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, contracts, agreements, and grants.” And it worked! The ADE got off scot-free.
She has something even crazier coming in the waiver category for "schools of innovation.' Stay tuned.

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