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U.S. News hails Friendship-Pine Bluff top charter elementary in Arkansas

Friendship Aspire Academy Pine Bluff on South Hazel Street is ranked the No. 1 charter elementary school and No. 28 elementary school in Arkansas, according to U.S. News and World Report.
In addition, awarded Friendship an overall niche grade of A. The website considers data such as academics (which account for half the grade), teachers, culture and diversity, and parent-student surveys.
U.S. News has released data on 103,099 elementary schools and offered its annual rankings for each on its website. No national ranking was given, but the magazine explained each school was scored from 0-100, representing how well each school did on a percentile basis.
Friendship Principal Jherrithan Dukes said he learned about the rankings Thursday night and immediately shared the news with his bosses. He ranked the accomplishment at the top of his all-time list in his career.
“Absolutely, No. 1 for sure,” he said. “It brings it in perspective not just for the school, but for the area to celebrate because we’re showing it’s possible. Just to show where our school is ranked among other top-performing schools around the state, it feels really good to be amongst the elite.”U.S. News explained 50% of its score was based on mathematics and reading proficiency, which measure students’ abilities that equal the percentage of each school’s test-takers who were proficient in both areas. The other 50% was based on mathematics and reading performance, which accounted for how students’ performances compared with U.S. News’ modeled expectations.
Friendship’s reading proficiency is tied for 34th in Arkansas, and its math proficiency is 47th in the state. Both the school’s reading and math performances are well above expectations, according to the publication.
Students at Friendship tested 65% at or above proficient level in math and 55% at or above proficient level in reading. Both percentages surpassed statewide averages of 37% for math and 35% for reading, according to state and U.S. News data.
“First of all, it starts with preparing the staff,” Dukes said. “The kids are only going to perform based on what they’re taught. The staff was aware how students are going to be scored and what teachers need for the 21st century, and we’re making sure teachers are in position to teach those things for students to be successful.”
The school serves 405 students in grades K-4. Friendship has a 95.1% enrollment of Black or African American students and 85% enrollment of economically disadvantaged students.
The school will receive a U.S. News Best Elementary Schools award badge, but celebrating the achievement won’t stop there.
“We’re definitely planning to have a major celebration for the staff,” Dukes said.
And for the kids?
“We always show up for the kids. The next principal’s party, we’ll have a big celebration for that,” Dukes assured.