LISA Academy

“Charter school fans massage numbers.” Arkansas Times’ Arkansas Blog, 10/29/2011
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page — reflecting its publisher Walter Hussman's devotion to the Billionaire Boys Club effort to wreck the Little Rock School District by encouraging establishment of as many charter schools as possible and forsaking efforts to improve the existing public school districts in Pulaski County — naturally emphasizes the positive when it comes to charter schools...

Now for what the Dem-Gaz conveniently omitted.

The State Department of Education's most recent data show 472 students in LISA's middle and high school grades. Of these 148, or 31 percent were black; 130, or 28 percent were Asian, and 162, or 34 percent were white. 30, or 6 percent were Hispanic.

Last I heard, Asian subpopulations haven't been generally identified as lagging in educational achievement. More than a few of the Asian population at LISA probably are Turkish-American students who followed the striving Turkish educators who established the LISA Academies here and who have associations with a burgeoning network of Turkish-influenced charter schools around the country. I've mentioned previously how former City Director Lottie Shackelford introduced me to several of the LISA officials at a local coffee shop and said proudly about the Turkish community here, "They even have their own school." Those with Lottie were too kind to correct her by saying LISA was actually a public school, funded by tax dollars, not a "Turkish school."

Based on national statistics, I'd guess that the Little Rock School District's test scores would be better if its population was 62 percent white/Asian, like LISA's, rather than 71 percent black. The reason, I hurry to add, is more about class than color. Study after study has shown the negative impact of poverty on school achievement and poverty falls disproportionately among black students here.

So let's compare by a more meaningful indicator, again drawn from state data.

* LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT 71 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches on account of low family income.

* LISA ACADEMY: 26 percent qualify...

The current State Board of Education, I'm happy to say, gets it. It turned down an expansion request from LISA Academy recently because the school could make no showing that it did any better in student achievement with similarly situated students than the surrounding Little Rock School District...

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NOTE: Inci Akpinar, the vice president of this Gulen movement-affiliated business, was reported to be involved in a $20,000 bribe attempt of a Louisiana state official. She wanted him to “fix” problems at the Cosmos Foundation-operated Abramson Science and Technology Charter School; see 7/15/2011 story on THIS PAGE. This construction company has done work for multiple Gulen charter schools in the region.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Houston, Texas–based Atlas Texas Construction and Trading Inc. for 11 serious safety violations carrying proposed penalties of $51,000.

OSHA's inspection, initiated under a national emphasis program on construction, found that about 20 workers were exposed to electrical and fall hazards while constructing the Lisa Academy School on Corporate Hill Drive in Little Rock.

"This company disregarded the safety of its workers by exposing them to multiple hazards," said Carlos Reynolds, director of OSHA's Little Rock Area Office, which conducted the inspection. "OSHA's standards must be followed to prevent injuries and fatalities."

The violations involve failing to train workers on the hazards of electrical equipment, ensure employees were protected from protruding rebar, fully plank scaffolds, provide a guardrail system or fall protection to prevent falls, and ensure that working levels of scaffolding had safe means of access and egress. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known...

Atlas Texas Construction and Trading, which employs about 4,000 construction workers nationwide, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Little Rock or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission...

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SCHOOLS HAVE FISCAL WOES; April 12, 2011; Arkansas News Bureau 
…The board also denied a request from LISA Academy, an open-enrollment charter school in Little Rock, to raise its student cap from 600 to 800 and allow it to add grades 4 and 5. The school now serves grades 6-12.

Board members noted that LISA's high school did not meet adequate yearly progress last year.

Superintendent Cuneyt Akdemir said the failure to meet yearly progress in one year was not statistically significant because the high school has fewer than 40 students per grade, so one student can affect the school's score.

"Lots of data shows we are providing a quality education in our high school," he said.

According to statistics provided by the school, LISA Academy ranked third among Arkansas public schools in benchmark test scores in 2008-09. In 2009-10, the school ranked 16th among public schools in the state.

Mays noted that 27 percent of LISA Academy's students are eligible for free and reduced lunches, whereas at other schools in the area, typically 60 or 70 percent of students are eligible.

Akdemir said the school compares favorably to other schools with similar percentages of economically disadvantaged students.

State education officials provided a chart comparing the performance of economically disadvantaged students at LISA Academy in 2010 with economically disadvantaged students at 18 other schools with free and reduced lunch counts within 10 percent of LISA's.

According to the chart, LISA's middle school students ranked 5th among the schools in literary proficiency and 15th in math proficiency. Its high school ranked 5th in literary proficiency and 18th, or second to last, in math proficiency.

"When I look at the comparison of LISA Academy with other schools that have the same socioeconomic demographic, I'm not impressed (that) the statistics tell me that LISA is doing anything other than assembling a group of socioeconomically advantaged students out of the area, where they're a precious commodity, and by doing that you can have better test scores," Mays said. [my emphasis]

A motion to approve the request failed in a 2-6 vote…

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