Monthly Archives

September 2023

New Study: Attending KIPP Charter Schools Helps Boost College Completion

By News, Research

Students who attend KIPP middle and high schools are much more likely to enroll in–and finish–college than students who don’t. Those are the exciting findings from a new Mathematica study, released earlier this month.

KIPP, an acronym for Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national nonprofit network of public charter schools in 21 states and Washington, D.C. The network consists of 275 schools, serving 120,000 mostly minority and economically disadvantaged students. In North Carolina, KIPP’s network features eight public charter schools, including several Coalition member schools.

Here’s the write-up from KIPP about the findings:

The study followed 2,066 students from ten regions who applied to join KIPP in 5th and 6th grade via an admissions lottery. These students graduated from high school in the classes of 2016, 2017, and 2019 … Researchers tracked the college enrollment and persistence patterns of all three cohorts for at least three years after high school graduation.

… The study concludes that students who persist at KIPP from middle school to high school experience a large, long-term boost in their college outcomes.

KIPP impacts and college completion

Specifically, KIPP graduates were 31% more likely to enroll in college than students who did not attend KIPP middle and high schools. Almost twice as many KIPP graduates earned a degree from a four-year college within five years, compared to non-KIPP students (39% versus 20%).  Such impacts, KIPP notes, are “large enough to close the degree completion gap for Black students and nearly close the degree completion gap for Latinx students in the United States.”

Source: “Long-Term Impacts of KIPP Middle and High Schools on College Enrollment, Persistence, and Attainment,” Mathematica, September 12, 2023.

Read the Mathematica study, KIPP’s summary, or The 74 article about the study.

Two Top-Ranked Charter Schools Host State Lawmaker

By News
We often encourage charter schools to host the lawmakers who represent their districts. Recently, two N.C. charter schools did just that. The visit came about following emails that Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis sent to lawmakers, alerting them to charter schools in their districts that had earned a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s top-50 list of public high schools in North Carolina. (Read more about that ranking here.)

Rep. Frank Sossamon visits Henderson Collegiate & Oxford Preparatory School

Rep. Frank Sossamon (District 32–Granville & Vance) replied to Lindalyn’s email, saying he’d like to visit the two charter schools in his district. As a result, earlier this month he visited Henderson Collegiate and Oxford Preparatory School. Both schools shared details and photos from the visits with the Coalition. While onsite at Oxford Preparatory School, Rep. Sossamon toured the Upper and Lower Schools and athletic facilities, and also participated in a roundtable discussion. At Henderson Collegiate, Rep. Sossamon went on a student-led tour and had a meal with students, team members, and board member Tom Church. Students also talked with Rep. Sossamon about his policies and experience.

Pictured: Oxford Preparatory staff and students with Rep. Sossamon. Photo credit: Oxford Preparatory School.  

Pictured: Tom Church, Henderson Collegiate Board member; Rep. Frank Sossamon; Anaiya Brame, student; Zion Mosley, student; Qui’Neja Robinson, student; and Carice Sanchez, Henderson Collegiate Chief Program Officer and co-founder. Photo credit: Henderson Collegiate.


Greensboro Academy Named 2023 National Blue Ribbon School

By News
The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday announced the 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools. Public and private schools nationwide are eligible for Blue Ribbon recognition in one of two categories: Exemplary High-Performing Schools or Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools.

Eight N.C. schools named 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools

This year, the Education Department recognized 353 schools across the country, including eight schools in North Carolina. One of these schools, Greensboro Academy, is a public charter school managed by National Heritage Academies as well as a Coalition member school. Greensboro Academy was recognized as an Exemplary High-Performing School.

In a press release, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said:

These schools are a shining example of the incredible things North Carolina’s public schools are capable of accomplishing. I’m so proud of the students, teachers, staff members, and leadership of each of these schools for their hard work over the past year.
Congratulations to all of the National Blue Ribbon Schools–but especially to Greensboro Academy and the North Carolina public schools! The Coalition is proud of your achievements.
  • Watch the video announcement of the 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools.
  • Click here or on the image below to see the 2023 infographic.

County Commissioners Approve Charter School’s Facility Funding Request

By News

Congratulations to Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy! Last night Bladen County Commissioners approved the public charter school’s request for $70,000 in funds to renovate the school gymnasium. PRBLA, a Coalition member school located in Elizabethtown, is the state’s only public charter military school. The school serves a 95% economically disadvantaged student population. Dr. Jason Wray, a former U.S. Army warrant officer, JROTC instructor, and principal, has served as the superintendent since January 2022.

A first: Facility funds by direct appropriation from county commissioners

The news is especially noteworthy as PRBLA is the first charter school in the state to receive facility funds by direct appropriation from county commissioners. Such funding is newly possible based on a law that passed late this summer. The Coalition advocated intensively for passage of this law.

Funds are also well-deserved. The school has used its facility to invest in the local community, hosting camps, town council meetings, parades, festivals, and more.

Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis attended last night’s county commissioners’ meeting, along with Dr. Olivia Oxendine, a member of the State Board of Education.

We’re so excited to see impacts from this new law already–and know these funds will directly benefit this charter school and local community. Congratulations to Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy, and to Superintendent Jason Wray and other school leaders!

Pictured from left to right: Scott Johnson, a member of the board at PRBLA; Dr. Jason Wray, the superintendent of PRBLA; Dr. Jacqueline Wray, human resources director at PRBLA; Minnie Price, the chair of the board at PRBLA; and Lindalyn Kakadelis, the executive director of the Coalition.

Superintendent Wray stands with Dr. Olivia Oxendine of the State Board of Education.

A view from last night’s meeting of the Bladen County Commissioners.

Students from Pinnacle Classical Academy Named CLC Junior Scholars

By News
Congratulations to William Brooks and Hannah Clontz, both rising 11th graders at Pinnacle Classical Academy, a Coalition member school. William and Hannah have been named Junior Scholars by Classical Liberals in the Carolinas (CLC). CLC is an organization composed of scholars and business leaders, and it seeks to “cultivate the ideas of individual liberty, responsibility, equality before the law, in keeping with the American founding and the classical liberal tradition,” according to its mission.

Here’s an excerpt from Pinnacle’s press release:

The students were named CLC Junior Scholars in honor of Dr. Michael C. Munger, the recipient of the inaugural John A. Allison IV Award, given annually by CLC and Pinnacle Classical Academy’s Classical Foundations Program. Dr. Munger is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program at Duke University. Brooks and Clontz were honored on August 4 at CLC’s annual conference, as was Dr. Munger.

“We are so proud of William and Hannah, and deeply grateful to CLC for recognizing our students’ hard work,” said Dr. Shelly Shope, the school’s headmaster.

Pictured from left to right: Professor Michael Munger, Hannah Clontz, John Allison IV (retired CEO, BB&T), and William Brooks. Photo credit: Pinnacle Classical Academy.

Congratulations to these students, their families, to Shelly Shope–the headmaster and a Coalition Board member–and to Pinnacle Classical Academy! We’re proud of your achievements.

Coalition responds to State Board of Ed. policy threatening charter funding

By News

Last Thursday, the State Board of Education voted 8-3 to approve a new policy that threatens funding for new  charter schools. This policy, CHTR-022, requires the Charter Schools Review Board to present all approved applications, renewals, and material revisions to the State Board for funding allocation before any state or federal funds can be disbursed, to ensure schools are in compliance. It comes in response to Session Law 2023-110 converting the Charter Schools Advisory Board into the Charter Schools Review Board, with authority to approve and renew charters.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Dr. Olivia Oxendine, and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson voted against the policy. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, a non-voting member of SBE, also voiced concerns.

Coalition response to the State Board’s policy

The Coalition issued a press release and statement in response to the State Board’s policy, noting that it violates state law and threatens to withhold funds from new public charter schools. In the release, Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis said:

North Carolina charter schools are enormously popular with families, as evidenced by the 77,000 names on charter school waitlists. The legislature streamlined the approval process for new public charter schools to meet this demand. The State Board of Education is wrong to play these bureaucratic power games when parents just want options in their public schooling.

The Coalition also sent a letter to SBE members outlining concerns about the policy.

Read more

Q&A with Charter Review Board Member Hilda Parlér

By News

What’s next for charter schools in North Carolina? What impact will a new law converting the Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB) into a Charter Schools Review Board (CSRB)—with the authority to approve and renew charter schools—have on the broader charter movement? To answer these and other questions, the Coalition’s communications director, Kristen Blair, spoke with Hilda Parlér, a longtime educator and charter leader. Hilda is serving her third appointed term as a member of CSAB, now the Charter Schools Review Board.  

 A middle school math teacher for nearly three decades, Hilda is also the founder of two public charter schools: Wake Forest Charter Academy and Wake Preparatory Academy.  She serves as the current board president for Wake Forest Charter Academy, which was named one of Raleigh’s best charter schools by the News & Observer in 2022. She is also the former board president of Wake Preparatory Academy. In addition, Hilda has served as a member of the NC ACCESS Equity Working Group. Created in 2018, the five-year NC ACCESS Program has distributed over $36 million in federal grants to charter schools, to remove enrollment barriers for educationally disadvantaged students.

 We include the full Q&A below.

You began your career in education as a middle school math teacher in both public and private schools. What led you to the charter movement? 

Hilda Parlér: It goes back 70 years to when I was a young girl, seven years old. I always wanted to start my own school because I loved numbers, loved my teachers, and loved going to school. I also used to teach my brothers and sisters when school was out. So, I practiced teaching quite a bit as a young girl!

When I retired on paper in 2013, after really seeing that many students were not getting a quality education and were falling through the cracks to no fault of their own, I researched and researched the possibility of opening a private or charter school. I decided to open a charter school because it would be tuition-free and still a public school, but non-traditional.

I started Wake Forest Charter Academy in 2014; it’s a K-8 school. The second one, Wake Preparatory Academy, a K-12 charter school, opened in 2022. They were my lifelong dream, realized with the help of many.

Hilda Parlér is a member of the Charter Schools Review Board and the founder of two public charter schools. Photo credit: Hilda Parlér.

Given your experience as a charter school founder, how would you characterize the most essential components of a new charter school?

Hilda: Oh, I have such a long list! It ties in with the board, too, as well as the school itself. The founding board members must have a clear vision and mission and be committed to follow through, so that when the school opens successfully the mission aligns with what the school is promising to provide the families and students.

Schools, especially the administrators and the board, should have a working knowledge of charter school finance, accountability, federal programs, legislative updates, local and state [policies]—all of those areas that affect the school. Teacher retention is very important. Schools must make sure that they hire quality leaders and teachers, and ensure they have consistent teacher professional development opportunities so that they can grow, and bottom line, that their students will grow academically and socially. Involve parents where appropriate.

Leveraging your charter oversight and governance background, what would you share with charter superintendents and operators about optimizing their school’s operational and academic success?  

Hilda: They must be very knowledgeable about charter school laws as well as federal, state, and local laws. They should be knowledgeable about the roles and responsibilities of the board and what they are held accountable for. The board holds the charter, and the buck stops with the board. So many times, I’ve heard some school administrators and operators say, “Our charter.” No, they have to know that the board holds the charter because the board applied for the charter. And superintendents or heads of schools must attend board meetings. Reports should be presented at the board meetings which include updates of their ADM [Average Daily Membership] by grade, the waitlist, updates on academics, special programs, teacher professional development sessions, teacher retention, student discipline cases, and any expulsions—all things about the school. And then of course, activities, assemblies, athletics, fine arts, and parent involvement.

In your view, how has the charter movement advanced educational opportunities for students, and what work still needs to be done to remove barriers for educationally disadvantaged students? 

Hilda: I think it has advanced significantly overall. Most people think charter schools are not public schools. But the state report cards and other data prove that many of the charter school students have outperformed the students in the traditional public schools. Charter schools have been able to be innovative with instruction. That has made a marked difference in student proficiency and growth, too.

More of the charter schools are beginning to implement equity plans so that they will help students who are educationally disadvantaged to be successful. Schools are beginning to see the difference between equity and equality—and that using equity plans will enhance learning for all students. If we implement equity plans, it will reduce challenges for the education of educationally disadvantaged students, and ultimately, all students.

 What are the opportunities ahead for North Carolina’s charter schools?

Hilda: Now that we have a Charter Schools Review Board, on which I sit, that can improve the process of boards to apply for charter schools. The CSRB will have the opportunity to approve—or not, of course—boards that have applied for charters. That will reduce the time that it takes for charter schools to open because there won’t be another level of approval. It will speed up the process greatly.

The Charter Schools Review Board members are affiliated with charter schools. There are founders on the board, board of directors [members], heads of schools or superintendents; some have children and grandchildren enrolled in charter schools. I think it will encourage more boards to apply for charter schools, thereby increasing the number of charter schools.

There has been a leveling off of applicants. I remember when the board applied in 2013, for Wake Forest Charter Academy, there were 79 applicants. Now, for [its upcoming meetings on] September 11-12, the state Charter Schools Review Board received 15 applications. So, that’s a huge drop. But I do believe, because we now have the Charter Schools Review Board, more boards will apply.

What are some key or ongoing challenges for the charter movement? You mentioned earlier that many people believe charter schools are not public schools. Is messaging one of the challenges?

Hilda: Well, that, number one, is on my list! There will always be people who do not know the difference, or they choose not to express the difference [between public charter schools and traditional public schools]. So, we have to find ways so that they are not misinformed. Sometimes the media can throw a monkey wrench into the situation. [It would be good] if we could ever get to that point where people realize a fact is a fact—that charter schools are public schools, but non-traditional. A lot of people think we are private, because of uniforms to an extent. No. They say we’re taking money away from the public schools. Number one: We are public. Number two: We get 37 percent less for each kid to operate. Charter schools operate with less and get more positive results.

A lot of people don’t think charter schools are held accountable. In essence, we’re held more accountable because our schools can be closed if they are low performing for a certain length of time. That does not happen in the traditional public school sector.

As you know, House Bill 618, Charter Schools Review Board, is now law. This new law converts the Charter Schools Advisory Board into the Charter Schools Review Board, with authority to grant charter approvals and renewals. Could you share your perspective on how this shift could impact the charter approval process in our state as well as the broader charter movement?

Hilda: I strongly believe it will cause more boards to apply for charters, the charter movement will stay alive, and we will have far more applications resulting in an increase of charter schools. It will speed up the process. And it takes the politics out of the process, being that the CSRB [members] are pro-charter schools, while keeping the bottom line in mind always that schools are for children.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to share? 

Hilda: I will always do what I can to give our children the quality education they need and deserve, with equity. I remain the Voice4schoolchoice!