Charter Schools In Arizona Held Accountable
July 30, 1997
There are now 500 charter schools in 27 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico -- with almost 250 proposals for other charters to open this fall.
Arizona opened its doors to charter schools in 1994 -- three years after Minnesota pioneered the concept -- and now leads the nation with 219. Arizona also has the distinction of having the least restrictive of charter school laws.
- The state's Board of Education and the Board for Charter Schools can each sponsor up to 25 charters a year -- an option not available in most other states, which require approval of local school boards.
- Potential operators in Arizona can also go through local school districts, which can open as many charter schools as they want.
- Most Arizona charters are good for 15 years.
Nationwide, a handful of charters have failed, often the victims of poor financial planning. Schools can also be closed for not improving academic results, but that has only occurred in a couple of cases. Charter backers say imposition of financial accountability and academic standards are strong features of the schools, and the fact that a few have been found wanting is further proof that the system works.
Edge Charter School in Tucson, Arizona, caters to drop-outs and students having trouble in traditional schools -- most entering with a thorough distaste for education. But they soon come to love the school's tough rules, they say, as well as the demanding curriculum.
- Suspensions are doled out if students fail to attend 92 percent of the time, have more than two tardies a month, cheat on tests or fail to earn one-and-a-half credits per trimester.
- There is zero tolerance of gang activity.
- Teachers promptly return sloppy or illegible work, and grades below "C" are not permitted.
Thirty-six students have earned high school diplomas there in the past two years and the school now has an enrollment of 175. It has been open two years.
Source: Tamara Henry, "Arizona Students Flourish Outside Traditional System," USA Today , Wednesday, July 30, 1997.
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