Monthly Archives

June 2023

Lawmakers Pass Bill Streamlining Charter Application Process

By News

We have good news to report on H.B. 618, Charter School Review Board! Lawmakers in the House voted Tuesday to concur with the version of the bill the Senate passed last week. H.B. 618 was ratified yesterday and presented to Governor Cooper. He has 10 days to sign or veto the bill–or allow it to become law without his signature.

The Coalition worked hard to secure passage of H.B. 618, and we are grateful to all of the bill’s sponsors and supporters–and its bipartisan support in the House. The bill’s primary sponsors include Rep. Tricia Cotham, Speaker Tim Moore, Rep. Destin Hall, and Rep. David Willis.

Streamlining an inefficient process

H.B. 618 creates a remedy for an inefficient process. It converts the current Charter Schools Advisory Board into a Charter School Review Board, with sole authority to approve charter applications and renewals. Currently, CSAB reviews charter school applications and makes recommendations to the State Board of Education; the State Board then approves or denies these applications. As Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis pointed out in a recent WCNC article, this process is duplicative and inefficient.

Under H.B. 618, the State Board of Education would continue to oversee charter school accountability, rule-making, and funding. In addition, the State Board would hear appeals related to Review Board denials. The bill stipulates that applicants, charter schools, and the State Superintendent may appeal Review Board decisions.

Read more from the News & Observer, NC Newsline, or an earlier Coalition blog post.

Dept. of Public Instruction Announces New Parent Safety Committee

By News
Last week, the Center for Safer Schools (CFSS) at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction announced the formation of a new statewide parent advisory board on school safety. Known as the Parent Engagement Committee, the group will include 24 parents (two district school parents and one charter school parent from each of the state’s eight education regions). The committee is modeled after the Superintendent’s current Parent Advisory Commission, DPI noted.

Parents to provide input for policymakers, elected officials

“Members will share their aspirations for and discuss challenges within the K-12 education system, helping to put together recommendations for elected officials and policymakers in North Carolina, and provide direct input to CFSS Executive Director Karen W. Fairley,” DPI indicated in a press release.

We encourage parents to apply! Turnaround for applications is fast: Applications must be submitted by Friday, July 7.

Notifications to selected parent committee members will go out on Friday, July 28. Find the Parent Engagement Committee application here. Please note that parents must also submit a reference from an educator or public figure (county commissioner, member of the local chamber of commerce, etc.) with their completed application.

Questions? Email

9th Grader at N.C. Charter School Wins National Archery Championship

By News

Congratulations to Pinnacle Classical Academy‘s archery team! The Thunderbirds came in third in the country at the recent Scholastic 3-D Archery (S3DA) 3D National Championship in Rend Lake, Illinois, held June 15-18. Makenzie Glenn, a 9th grader, left as the lead women’s archer, winning the Individual S3DA National Championship (youth female pins division). Well done, Makenzie and the rest of the PCA Thunderbirds!

Pinnacle Classical Academy’s Thunderbirds celebrate a strong showing at the national archery championships. Photo credit: Pinnacle Classical Academy.

Makenzie Glenn, a 9th grader at Pinnacle Classical Academy, takes top honors in the women’s national archery competition. Photo credit: Pinnacle Classical Academy (PCA Eagles/Facebook).

Here are some additional highlights from Pinnacle Classical Academy’s news release this morning:

Heather Carswell, an eleventh grader, placed fourth in the nation in the young adult division, and the school’s youth team placed third in the nation. Pinnacle Classical Academy had the highest ranked school youth team at the national championship, placing behind two club teams.
“What an amazing weekend,” said Todd Tongel, coach of the Pinnacle Classical Academy Thunderbirds archery team. “These students and parents traveled ten hours to compete against the best young archers in the country and held their own once again.”
… Earlier, at the North Carolina S3DA 3D State Championship, held on June 10 in Mount Airy, the middle school (youth) team won the state title, and four Thunderbirds (Heather Carswell, Makenzie Glenn, Anzlee Kilby, and Aidyn Smith) received shooter of the year awards.
Congratulations to these young archers and to Pinnacle Classical Academy!

Q&A with N.C. Charter Leader Jonathan Bryant

By News

School is out for the year, but the Coalition is looking ahead as the summer season sets in. What can parents do to promote charter school success? And what are some key opportunities for the 200-plus public charter schools in North Carolina? Recently, the Coalition caught up with Dr. Jonathan Bryant—the chief administrator at one of the state’s largest and most established charter schools, and the chair of the Coalition’s Board of Directors—to talk about these and other important questions. We include the full interview below.

You launched your career in education as a middle school teacher, later moving to Lincoln Charter. How have those experiences shaped your investment in K-12 education and ways to optimize outcomes for students?

Jonathan Bryant: I began my career working as a coach, athletic director, and middle school teacher in the parochial system in Charlotte. My first experience of working in a charter school started after that, in 2007. As anybody who has worked in a charter school knows, it isn’t unusual to wear a ton of hats! I was no exception to that rule. When I started, I led Lincoln Charter’s Denver campus—middle and high school—and also served as athletic director.

I do think it has been helpful for me as a leader, in order to understand the dynamics of the classroom, to have come from the classroom myself. The same is true for extracurriculars and the importance they play in the development of students as they follow their passions; my athletic background was also helpful in shaping how I view the world. When you lead a building, you see all of the dynamics that happen within a school community.  All of that has shaped the way I approach my job now and the way I look at public education and charter schools, in North Carolina and nationally.

How have you seen the charter movement change in the 16 years since you arrived at Lincoln Charter?

JB: It’s an apples to oranges comparison, because so much has changed. I’ve witnessed a strong era of leadership that built much of the foundation for charter schools in the state. Now that group of leaders has transitioned to include different leaders. Really, there isn’t any facet of the charter movement that has stayed the same since I started in 2007!

The support from the Department of Public Instruction has changed dramatically in a lot of positive ways. There have been other substantive shifts in support statewide; a lot of that has to do with the Coalition and our efforts. The NC Association for Public Charter Schools has offered consistency and organization as well. In addition, I’ve seen really positive developments in my work as a charter operator. There is a greater willingness, at least in Lincoln County—within the community, the local public school system, and other entities—to work together. That’s encouraging and awesome to see.

Jonathan Bryant at a Coalition event with Lindalyn Kakadelis, the executive director of the Coalition.

Given your dual roles as a charter operator and board chair for the Coalition, how would you characterize the opportunities ahead for charter schools? 

JB: A growing number of really smart people are involved in charter schools. That isn’t to say this wasn’t a dynamic for charter schools in the past. But there are more people involved today who are really quality educators, and they are trying to do the right thing for kids and communities. I see that as an opportunity: The brain trust is continuing to develop and grow and mature.

In addition, the Coalition has enabled charter schools to speak with a more unified voice as we wrestle with complicated questions and seek common ground. That’s an opportunity as well because it’s impossible to agree with everybody, all of the time. There are nuances for every charter school, just like there are nuances for every type of school—public, private, parochial. But there are certain things we can all agree on. I’m hopeful for the future that there are continued opportunities for everybody to work together to do the right thing for the state and for kids. There are folks at the table now who are open to that idea. In the past, the work felt more siloed: us versus them; charter versus non-charter.

What are some key challenges for the state’s charter schools?

JB: There are ongoing misconceptions about charter schools, which are public and free. At Lincoln Charter, we still hear questions about how much tuition costs. That’s a continued source of frustration, but hopefully, we all as charter leaders can take time to explain who we are and what we do.

Another misconception is that any dollar that goes to a charter school will have a negative impact on somebody else. That’s a barrier in conversations we need to continue having. Education is not funded like it should be in North Carolina. So, that’s a barrier and struggle for all of us.

 Why is it important to have an organization like the Coalition that exists solely to protect and promote public charter schools?

 JB: In the past, charter schools have not been at the table or part of the conversation as legislation was discussed and formulated. In addition, when policies and procedures were discussed at the State Board of Education, we did not have a strong, unified, or organized voice. That’s why our organization is so important. To invoke a familiar quote, ‘If you are not at the table, you are on the table!’

Now, with the Coalition, we are at the table. We may not get one hundred percent of what we ask for, but we are definitely influencing those conversations. Ultimately, we want to make sure the decisions that impact charter schools are well-informed—not based on conjecture or relying on what you hear from your firepit friends on Friday night. The Coalition has the capacity to help inform, and I think we do that.

 How important is it for the future of the state’s charter movement to have an advocate?

 JB: The Coalition creates a unified voice, which is important to keep the movement strong. It helps us advocate for ourselves and our fundamental precepts of fair funding and autonomy. It also helps us communicate the benefits of charter schools. All of this serves as a catalyst to keep us strong.

Some charters perform better than others, by whatever metric you use. Hopefully, however, we are fostering a ‘rising tide that lifts all boats’ scenario—by communicating well, advocating effectively, and influencing policies, procedures, and legislation. We help establish and sustain an environment where we’re all able to be successful and have fewer forces working against us.

With the Coalition—Lindalyn Kakadelis, our executive director, and our government relations and communications teams—I have seen just how much we can accomplish in a few short years. It’s a lot of hard work; it isn’t a happy accident.

What do parents need to know and understand about charter schools, especially in the public policy realm?

 JB: Voting matters. There’s a mindset that believes charter schools are not going away so we don’t really have to worry too much about them. That has some truth to it, but as a charter operator, I also know this: There are lots of actions, policies, and procedures that could make life very challenging for charter schools. So, voting is important. Being active and engaged is important. Folks who are passionate about charter schools can donate monetarily to support organizations like the Coalition. All of that helps.

 What can parents do to promote the sustainability and success of public charter schools?

 JB: Share your story and your student’s story.  It’s always helpful for me to hear anecdotes: ‘This school changed my kid’s life or the trajectory of their path.’ That can be an easy thing for parents to do; it’s a low-barrier, value-add from a parent perspective.

There are a lot of quality charter schools doing a lot of quality things. Statistics on how we’re doing academically—proficiency, growth, graduation rate—are valuable. But we all love to hear about the success of our fellow humans. Stories about how we have impacted young people’s lives matter most.

About Lincoln Charter:

Lincoln Charter serves more than 2,300 students at two K-12 campuses in Denver and Lincolnton, North Carolina. Founded in 1998 as a college preparatory public charter school, Lincoln Charter seeks to “facilitate the development of college ready individuals through emphasis on rigorous academics” and the community expectations of “honesty, respect, empathy, responsibility, service, and preparedness.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2023!

By News

The Coalition wishes to congratulate all of the members of the Class of 2023 in North Carolina’s public charter schools. Well done, graduates!

Students at Coalition member schools accomplished a great deal this year–and they are headed on to do amazing things. Here are just a few snapshots of their successes:

What else happened this year?

Surely, there are many other student success stories to celebrate at charter schools across North Carolina. We congratulate all of our charter schools on the 2022-23 school year–and extend our best wishes to all of the state’s newest charter school graduates!

New national report reveals significant learning gains for charters

By News, Research

A new national study reveals significant achievement gains for students attending public charter schools. The study, released by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), was large and comprehensive, spanning the years of 2014 to 2019. Researchers evaluated 1.85 million charter students in 29 states (along with Washington, DC and New York City), comparing them to a matched set of 1.85 million students in traditional public schools (TPS). Data covered 81% of tested students in the United States, “making it one of the largest data sets of student-level observations created to date,” according to researchers.

Charter schools advance student learning in reading and math

Researchers reported learning outcomes in terms of days of learning–gained or lost, across the academic year. Compared to traditional public schools, charter schools advanced the learning of their students by an average of 16 days in reading and 6 days in math.

“As a Matter of Fact: The National Charter School Study III 2023,” CREDO, June 6, 2023.

Performance among charter student subgroups, types of schools

Charter schools were particularly effective in producing learning gains for Black and Hispanic students, students living in poverty, and English language learners. Researchers also identified differences in efficacy among charter schools themselves. Specifically, charter schools run by charter management organizations (CMOs) produced bigger gains than stand-alone charter schools–27 days in reading and 23 days in math.

“As a Matter of Fact: The National Charter School Study III 2023,” CREDO, June 6, 2023.

Just 6% of charter students nationwide are enrolled in virtual charter schools, according to CREDO researchers. Unfortunately, performance for students in these charter schools did not parallel the performance of brick-and-mortar charters in the study. CREDO researchers write:

Brick-and-mortar charter school students had significantly stronger growth in reading (22 more days) and math (15 more days). Online charter school students had much weaker growth. Online charter school students grew 58 fewer days in reading and 124 fewer days in math than their TPS peers.

Findings for North Carolina charter schools

Charter schools in North Carolina produced significant learning gains for students in reading but not in math. In reading, the study found that North Carolina charter students gained 13 days–a significant gain compared to traditional public schools. In math, student performance was weaker for charter schools than for traditional public schools, although the difference was not statistically significant. See all state-level results here.

State Leaders Brief Lawmakers on School Performance Grades Redesign

By News
On Tuesday, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt provided an update on school performance grades redesign to members of the House Education K-12 Committee. See the committee’s meeting agenda here.
Work to redesign the state’s accountability model centers around eight potential indicators, reflecting both academics and school quality. The goal in the months ahead is to evaluate and study the indicators, sharing a policy proposal with the General Assembly by next February. Implementation of a potential pilot is expected to take place during the 2024-25 school year.

Here’s the screenshot outlining potential indicators:

Screenshot from: “School Performance Grade Redesign,” State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, Deputy State Superintendent Michael Maher, Assistant State Superintendent Andrew Smith, House Education-K-12 Committee, May 30, 2023.