Monthly Archives

April 2021

Charters encouraged, not required, to provide summer learning

By Legislation, News

The summer learning law has been signed. What are charters required to do?

First, a recap:

Governor Cooper signed HB 82, now Session Law 2021-7, on April 9. The law requires school districts to develop learning recovery programs for Summer 2021. But, what does the law require of charters?

Here’s the bottom line:

Charters are not mandated to provide summer learning programs. They are encouraged to do so. Coalition lobbyists worked to keep charters out of this mandate–and protect charters’ autonomy. Charters can continue to serve their students as they see best.
Ultimately, charter schools follow an accountability model that is “performance-based”– not rule-based. They have freedom to do what they believe works best for their students, whether that’s summer learning or fall enrichment. They are responsible for the performance of their students.

Guidance from the State Board of Education:

Last week, the State Board of Education approved guidance for SL 2021-7.
Charters that intend to provide summer learning are encouraged BUT not required to submit a plan. The Office of Charter Schools will inform schools about submitting plans later this month. Schools should use ESSER II funds for their summer programs.

More reading:

The nonpartisan Center on Reinventing Public Education reviewed summer learning plans for 100 urban and large school districts. Read their assessment here.
Read a WRAL recap of SBE actions here.

Legislative update on bills with impacts for charters

By Legislation
Here’s the latest on three bills in the General Assembly with impacts for charters. We’ll post more in the coming days, as bills progress.
Timely payments to charters

H 335 – Timely Local Payments to Charter Schools has made crossover and is now in the Senate. The bill passed the House with only two “no” votes, showing the effectiveness of what can happen when we work in conjunction with the NC School Boards Association. H 335 would revise requirements regarding LEA payments to charters to “incentivize the timely transfer of funds.”

*The crossover deadline this year is Thursday, May 13. To maintain eligibility for consideration for the rest of the 2021-22 legislative session, all bills must pass either the House or Senate chamber by this crossover deadline.

Blended learning  

The Coalition is tracking S 654, K-12 COVID-19 Provisions. This bill addresses state statute regarding school performance grades, annual report cards, designations of low-performing schools, and remote learning, among other things. S 654 encompasses public school units, so its provisions apply to charters.

We are concerned that the bill restricts what charters are able to offer in terms of blended learning. We’re talking with school leaders and lawmakers, with the view of looking potentially at another vehicle for blended learning options.

Reducing duplication work  

H 163 Treasury Administrative Changes AB is an agency bill generated by the Treasurer’s office. Language in this bill would reduce duplication work for charters regarding audits. This bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate Rules Committee on April 15.

Growth and goals, attained: News from the state’s draft charter report

By News

A draft of the annual 2020 charter report is out, with good news for the state’s charter movement. North Carolina charters are experiencing growth, even during the pandemic, and attaining key goals. At April’s Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) meeting, members heard a presentation from the Office of Charter Schools with important developments.

Some take-aways:

  • 98.9% of charter schools met or exceeded all financial and operational goals in 2019-20.
  • 42 charters in 21 counties have received NC ACCESS subgrants, enabling them to serve larger numbers of economically disadvantaged students.
  • Enrollment in North Carolina charter schools grew in every grade level during the pandemic.
  • More than 126,000 students are currently enrolled in the state’s charter schools for the 2020-21 school year. This represents 7.5% of the state’s public K-12 enrollment. Read an earlier blog post about pandemic impacts on overall K-12 enrollment here.
  • 200 charter schools operate across the state; 78% have waitlists of students.

View the NC charter movement’s growth over time in the screenshot from the presentation to CSAB below:

How the pandemic is impacting K-12 enrollment

By COVID-19, Research

It’s obvious the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped K-12 enrollment. But how? Emerging data show impacts for North Carolina, and in some surprising ways.

A new brief from the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC), by Sarah Crittenden Fuller and Kevin Bastian, shows traditional public schools have been hardest-hit. Other sectors, including charter schools and home schools, experienced growth between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020. Some key findings:

  • Traditional public school enrollment dropped by 2.5%, or around 35,000 students.
  • Charter school enrollment increased by 9%, or almost 10,000 students.
  • Home school enrollment grew by nearly 19,000 students.

Enrollment declines were highest in kindergarten. Urban school districts lost more students, as did areas with more affluent and white students. Schools with higher report card grades also experienced larger enrollment declines.

Here’s a deeper dive from the EPIC authors, about charters specifically:

For existing charter schools and grades, enrollment changes were relatively constant (between 2.5 and 3.3 percent) for the previous school years but increased to 4.8 percent for 2020–21. These data reveal that increases in charter school enrollment are due to both increased enrollment in existing charter schools/grades and the opening of new charter schools.

Findings on charter enrollments affirm data just out from the state’s draft annual charter school report. That report shows charter enrollment increased from 117,000 students in 2019-20 to over 126,000 students in 2020-21. Charters experienced enrollment growth at every grade level. An additional 76,000 students are on charter waitlists.

Interested in percent enrollment changes over time? This screenshot from the EPIC report captures shifts by K-12 sector:

Read an EdNC perspective from the EPIC report authors here.

More school choice, including charters, is linked with better performance

By News, Research

States with abundant, accessible school choice programs boast higher student performance. That’s the key finding of a new University of Arkansas study from researchers Patrick Wolf, Jay Greene, Matthew Ladner, and James Paul.

Specifically, the study evaluated states’ levels of education freedom, along with student performance on NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP tests students in 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.

The report authors write:

We find that higher levels of education freedom are significantly associated with higher NAEP achievement levels and higher NAEP achievement gains in all our statistical models.

To measure choice, researchers evaluated private, charter, homeschool, and public school choice programs in each of the 50 states. For instance, they looked at the proportion of all K-12 students involved in each kind of program. They also considered states’ charter and homeschool laws.

Then, they created a 2021 Education Freedom Index, building on an earlier index created in 2000. Compared to other states, North Carolina ranked 38th in education freedom in 2000 and 31st in 2021.

In overall accessibility of charter schools, NC ranked 20th. Here’s a screenshot–but see page 11 of the report for the full ranking.


The authors conclude:

The evidence gathered here indicates that increased family options in K-12 education can be useful in spurring broad improvements in student learning along with being desirable in their own right.

Read NC Senate Leader Phil Berger’s release about the study here.