Area charter schools compete in academic NASCAR event

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Columbus Charter School kindergarten student Michael Fishburn has the answer during a recent competition aimed at testing students' accuracy and speed in math and reading. Photo courtesy Roger Bacon Academy, Inc.
Columbus Charter School kindergarten student Michael Fishburn has the answer during a recent competition aimed at testing students’ accuracy and speed in math and reading. Photo courtesy Roger Bacon Academy.

Think of it as a kind of academic NASCAR challenge.

Students from three local charter schools recently converged for the annual FASTAR (Fluent Academic Skills Tournament in Arithmetic and Reading) Race of Champions, where they students sped through 50 math problems and a reading passage at top speeds of two minutes.

FASTAR was developed more than a decade ago by The Roger Bacon Academy (RBA), the Leland-based management company of a network of local public charter schools.

Champions–the fastest school-wide scorers–from Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville and, for the first time, Douglass Academy in Wilmington took to Lake Waccamaw, all vying to bring the FASTAR Cup back to their campus.

Grouped by grade level, students in kindergarten through fifth grades must complete reading and math problems with both speed and accuracy, as incorrect answers result in time penalties. Fifty-four champion racers contributed to each school’s team score, with the results coming down to only one or two seconds time difference.

As part of the RBA network, the three schools offer an identical classical curriculum and use the Direct Instruction teaching method.

“The RBA network has grown from a demand to replicate its innovative educational program in new areas. Charter Day School opened in 1999 and soon became the top-performing school in Brunswick County. In 2007, we replicated the Charter Day School model in neighboring Columbus County, where Columbus Charter School has also become its county’s top performer. Douglass Academy is the third replication of this program, and just this year, South Brunswick Charter School in Southport became the fourth,” RBA spokeswoman Sawyer Batten said.

For Douglass Academy parent Marcia Corbett, FASTAR has been a way to help her daughter, Mykhia, hone her recall skills.

“It has helped Mykhia to learn her math facts by not just counting her fingers, but by memorizing them because in FASTAR, you don’t have time to count on your fingers. This will help her in every grade and for her whole life,” Corbett noted.

Although the fledgling Douglass Academy held its own against its more established counterparts, Columbus Charter School walked away the winner for the second consecutive year, with racers from Charter Day School finishing 0.06 of a second behind.

Preparations for next year’s races will begin in January, with individual school competitions to follow in April.