Monthly Archives

October 2023

New brief: Charter school market share nationwide continues to grow

By News

A new education brief from K-12 Dive reveals parents nationwide are doubling down on pandemic enrollment trends. Culling data from Moody’s Investor Services and federal sources, the brief shows that charter school market share is increasing nationwide as families continue to leave public district schools. Not surprisingly, growth is greatest in states with policies and a climate friendly to school choice. But interestingly, as the brief notes, even states that are not generally as receptive to school choice are seeing growth.

Highlights of the changing charter school market share

Here are some of top takeaways in enrollment between 2017 and 2022 for choice-friendly states, according to K-12 Dive:

  • Texas charter enrollment grew from 5.1% of total K-12 enrollment to 7.4%.
  • Florida charter enrollment increased from 10.4% of overall K-12 enrollment to 13.3%.

However, charter school market share is also growing in New York and California–states that have been less receptive to school choice policies. Read more from K-12 Dive.

North Carolina’s shifting K-12 landscape

Meanwhile in North Carolina, charter schools enroll about 9% of the state’s public K-12 students. New enrollment figures for 2023-24 are not yet out, but recent trends have reinforced growth in the charter sector.

Over the past decade, there has been a 172% increase in public charter school enrollment. During the pandemic, charter school enrollment grew by almost 19%.

Last year, roughly 1.4 million students attended district public schools while 140,000 students attended public charter schools. Charter schools also reported over 77,000 students on waitlists for 2022-23, according to the state’s annual charter report.
Seven new charter schools opened this year, bringing the state’s total number of charter schools for 2023-24 to 211 schools. Read more on the Coalition blog about K-12 enrollment trends here and here.

 

 

Success Institute Principal Shadrach Martin Featured in Iredell Free News

By News

Shadrach Martin, the principal of Success Institute Charter School, a Coalition member school, is the subject of a new feature story in the Iredell Free News. He recently took the helm at the K-8 charter school, located in Statesville, North Carolina. Today the pressroom of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools included the story in its daily roundup of charter news from around the nation.

From the Marine Corps to public education

A Marine Corps veteran, Shadrach Martin began his career in education as a teaching assistant and bus driver, later becoming a school administrator in Guilford County Schools. He also launched a mentoring program, “A Few Good Men,” in Iredell-Statesville Schools and Guilford County Schools. In a letter to the Success Institute school community earlier this year, he shared his background in education and his hopes to bring the mentoring program to the charter school.

Principal Shadrach Martin at Success Institute. Photo credit: Iredell Free News.

We share an excerpt from the Iredell Free Press story below:

Martin strives to lead by example and is known as a hands-on leader.

When a coach had a schedule conflict, Martin stepped in to help coach basketball. He also has driven the school bus on an early release day.

His mission is to educate children — inside and outside of the classroom.

“It’s not about telling them, but showing them — while putting the resources in front of them — about what’s out there to help them reach their full potential,” Martin said.

Martin wants to increase academic rigor and make sure every student leaves the K-8 school prepared for high school. He also stresses the importance of giving back to the community and has students participate in community service projects throughout the school year.

Read the rest of the article here. Congratulations to Shadrach Martin and Success Institute Charter School!

U.S. Senators Introduce Bill to Provide Charter Start-up Grants

By Legislation, News

A bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators is seeking to provide pre-planning grants for new charter schools led by educators. Last week these lawmakers introduced the Empower Charter School Educators to Lead Act. If passed, the bill would leverage grants under the federal Charter Schools Program that would enable educators to plan and launch high quality public charter schools.

The senators sponsoring the bill include four Republicans and four Democrats: Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Scott (R-SC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mike Braun (R-IN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Brian Schatz (D-HI). Senator Cassidy is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Primarily, the legislation would:

  • Enable state entities that receive federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) funds to award “pre-planning grants” to prospective charter applicants who are educators with at least five years’ experience.
  • Allow states to use up to 5% of their overall grant dollars for these special planning grants.
  • Create more capacity for states to allocate grant funds for technical assistance and quality improvement–and allow help finding a facility to be part of technical assistance.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools supports the legislation, as do a number of other charter organizations.

Read more:

  • The news release about the bill from the Senate HELP Committee.
  • A statement from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools supporting the bill.
  • An explanation of the federal Charter Schools Program.

Charter Review Board Reverses State Board Decision on Union County Charter School

By News

The N.C. Charter Schools Review Board voted this week to reverse the State Board of Education’s decision on a prospective charter school. The charter applicant, American Leadership Academy-Monroe, sought approval last year to launch a K-8 campus in Union County. As part of this process, ALA-Monroe successfully secured a recommendation in Fall 2022 from the then-Charter Schools Advisory Board. Despite that recommendation, however, the State Board of Education voted in January 2023 to deny ALA-Monroe’s application.

Review Board empowered to reconsider State Board applicant decisions–and open or close schools

Now, thanks to a new 2023 session law, reconsideration is possible. That law converted the Charter Schools Advisory Board into a Charter Schools Review Board, with authority to open, renew, and revoke charters. In addition, the law includes a provision that allows the Review Board to reconsider applications on which Advisory Board recommendations and State Board decisions differed. The provision does include key stipulations, however: Applicants seeking reconsideration needed to notify the Review Board within 60 days of the law’s enactment. And the timeline for reconsideration includes only those decisions occurring after July 1, 2022.

This week’s reconsideration features both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes for charters

As a result of the new law, ALA-Monroe and another applicant–Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy–applied to the Review Board for reconsideration. At this month’s meeting, school leaders from both prospective schools appeared before the Review Board for Q&A. During ALA-Monroe’s presentation, leaders referenced the school’s robust interest list, which includes over 1,100 students.

The Review Board voted on Tuesday to approve ALA-Monroe’s application. The school now moves directly into the Ready to Open process and is slated for a Fall 2024 launch. Read more about the Review Board’s decision in Yahoo! News and NC Newsline.

Charter One Presentation to the N.C. Charter Schools Review Board, October 17, 2023.

For Heritage Collegiate, however, the Review Board on Wednesday voted to uphold the State Board’s denial. As a result, this charter applicant will not move forward.

Fast Facts on the new Charter Schools Review Board

By News

The state’s new Charter Schools Review Board (CSRB) meets for the second time today and tomorrow in Raleigh. This summer state lawmakers created the Review Board through Session Law 2023-110 (formerly H.B. 618), giving it the authority to authorize and renew charter schools in North Carolina. The law converts the former Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB) to the Review Board, maintaining continuity in membership.

Previously, CSAB made recommendations to the State Board of Education on charter applications and renewals, but did not have the authority to make final decisions as a charter authorizer.

At today’s meeting, members welcomed Alex Granados as the State Superintendent’s new designee to the Review Board. Prior to his service as a special advisor at the Department of Public Instruction, Alex served as the senior reporter for EdNC, covering education in North Carolina for more than eight years.

For the 2023 year, the Review Board has set the following leadership offices and committees:

  • Chair: Bruce Friend (committee floater)
  • Vice Chair: John Eldridge

Performance Committee

Policy Committee

  • John Eldridge, Chair
  • Stephen Gay
  • Todd Godbey
  • Eric Sanchez
  • Shelly Shope (also a Coalition Board member)

At this month’s meeting, the Review Board is interviewing 2023 charter applicants and reconsidering two applicants that the State Board of Education denied in 2023. These applicants are American Leadership Academy-Monroe and Heritage Collegiate Leadership Academy.

Learn more about the new Review Board’s duties and responsibilities–and the 2023 charter application process by clicking on the image below.

CSRB October 2023 Applications Presentation

2023-24 Charter School Seed Grants Are Open!

By News

Charter leaders, are you looking to launch or grow a public charter school? Applications are now open for seed grants from the Charter School Growth Fund. CSGF has awarded over $80 million in funds since 2013. These grants are available to charter leaders who are seeking to open a new charter school. They’re also available for leaders who want to expand or replicate a high performing charter school.

 

Here’s the timeline:

  • October-December 2023: Application portal is open. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on December 1.
  • January-February 2024: Reviewers identify semi-finalists.
  • February-May 2024: School visits to semi-finalists take place.
  • June 2024: Grants are awarded.

Eligible grantees include the following, according to CSGF:

Schools and networks that will begin growing in the next two years (Fall 2024 or Fall 2025) to serve 250 to ~1,200 additional students, typically by expanding enrollment or adding 1+ new schools.

Leaders who are looking to open their first charter school in Fall 2024 or Fall 2025.

Learn more about the seed grants and the Charter School Growth Fund. Apply for a grant here.

Questions? Email seed@chartergrowthfund.org.

Q&A with Charter Trailblazer Jason Wray

By News

Meet Charter Trailblazer Jason Wray

A 20-year U.S. Army veteran, Dr. Jason Wray is the superintendent of Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy, North Carolina’s only public charter military school. Prior to coming to Paul R. Brown, Dr. Wray served for eight years as the principal of East Bladen High School.

 Located in Elizabethtown, Paul R. Brown opened in 2013 and serves 200 students from five counties. In addition to its unique status as a military charter school, Paul R. Brown is a funding trailblazer: Last month, Bladen County commissioners approved the school’s request for $70,000 to renovate the gymnasium, making Paul R. Brown the first N.C. charter school to receive facility funds by direct appropriation from county commissioners. Such funding is possible because of a new law—the outcome of a strong advocacy push from the Coalition—that allows county commissioners to provide facility funds to charter schools.

 Kristen Blair, the Coalition’s communications director, spoke with Dr. Wray about how charter schools can optimize success with facility funding requests, impacts of the new law for the charter movement, and more. We include the full Q&A below.

You’re a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army and the former principal of East Bladen High School. What drew you to a public charter school?

Dr. Jason Wray is the superintendent of Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy in Elizabethtown. Photo credit: Jason Wray.

Jason Wray: East Bladen is about eight miles from Paul R. Brown. I’ve known Colonel Lloyd [Paul R. Brown’s founder] for about ten years. I graduated both of his boys from East Bladen High School. So, when the opportunity arrived to move to Paul R. Brown, it just felt right for me to do that. I had been at East Bladen for eight years, so the time to move was kind of ideal. I fit right in, with my military background and a military school.

Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy serves an economically disadvantaged student population—and it’s the state’s first and only public charter military school. Tell me about your vision for this school and the students you serve.   

Jason: The vision is to give the students the opportunity to be successful. We provide transportation to the students; we go to their doorstep and pick them up for school. Parents appreciate that. We serve five counties: Bladen, Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson, and Columbus. That’s huge to cover such a wide area and bring 200 kids to this school every day. That’s something that most won’t tackle, but we’re willing to do that to give kids a chance to be successful.

How does the military school structure help instill character traits such as integrity, honor, and self-discipline?

 Jason: It helps get kids on track. For a lot of kids at Paul R. Brown, their parents bring them here because of a reason: They’re not interested in school; they don’t want to attend school. But one thing I tell the teachers and the staff is, “Don’t mistake behavior for ability.” Just because a kid gets in trouble doesn’t mean that kid doesn’t have the ability to succeed and do well in school.

That was Jason Wray: I got in trouble, and I didn’t do well in school. But things change and people change, and mindsets change. So, that was one of the things that drew me here—to give the kids a second, third, fourth, or even fifth chance to be successful.

Let’s cover another first: Paul R. Brown is the first North Carolina charter school to receive county facility funds. In an historic first for the state’s charter movement, Bladen County commissioners voted last month to allocate $70,000 in county funds to renovate Paul R. Brown’s 75-year-old gymnasium. What does this mean for your school?

Jason: The funny part about it is I really didn’t set out to be the first. Once the law was passed [allowing county commissioners to allocate funds for charter facilities] through the General Assembly, I thought … there probably wasn’t a chance to do anything this year. But I was working on the gym and trying to set aside some funds to do that, so I reached out first to the Office of Charter Schools. They directed me back to Lindalyn [the Coalition’s executive director]. I called her and said, “This is what I want to try and do.” She gave me some tips and ideas for how to approach it.

It was really about what kind of relationship we had with the county commissioners. Are you a stranger asking them for $70,000, or are you someone they know has put in work in the community and offered assistance financially? Paul R. Brown does a lot of community events, we post colors at the town council meetings, and we have great relationships with local businesses. There are nine county commissioners [in Bladen County], and I think for five or six of them I have graduated their kids or grandkids from East Bladen.

So, I could walk in there, and they could see a familiar face and we could have personal conversations. That was part of the battle. Then, I had to understand how to put together a product that convinced them to support us. Because again, it had to be something they voted to support; it wasn’t required by law.

What we did was lay out a plan to show that we put a lot of financial support into Bladen County. I laid out all of the vendors. Over the last 18 months since I’ve been here, we’ve spent $783,000 just on Bladen County [vendors] alone. We all know county commissioners are about the purse. We wanted to show them we were really investing in this community, and we needed some help to get this gym renovated so our parents, kids, and community could be proud.

That data about the vendors, and every dime we spent on them, was a huge selling point. They were really impressed by it, and I think that turned a corner for us.

What could this new flexibility for facilities funding mean for the state’s charter movement?

Jason: A lot of the charter schools across the state have, like us, moved into pretty old buildings. That’s what was available, and you have to take what you can get. Right now, charter schools have to foot their own bill for facilities updates or renovations, and they just don’t have the funding to do those things.

Show the county commissioners that you’re doing great things in the community—helping and investing in the community. Work with commissioners on how you can invest in the community, not only financially, but also as a volunteer.

How would you characterize the opportunities ahead for North Carolina’s charter schools?

Jason: There’s a huge market for charter schools. Every day there’s a new kid coming through the doors at Paul R. Brown. Parents are seeing value in smaller classroom sizes and the personal touch that a charter school can bring to education.

When I was on the public [district] side, I never saw that.  Now being on the charter side, you see the advantage with your child needing a smaller, more personal setting—parents can pick up the phone and call the charter superintendent or school director to have a conversation. You don’t get those things on the public district side unless something is going wrong. There’s a huge advantage for charter schools. That’s why charters are growing the way they are, because parents are now turning to a small classroom and school setting for their child.

What do you see as some key or ongoing challenges ahead?

Jason: When you come to a charter school, most folks in the building wear four or five hats. I’m the director, the superintendent, and the data manager; I also drive school buses. That’s true for everybody in this building. You have to wear multiple hats to be successful in a charter school. You don’t have the resources of 40-50 people on your staff to get things done. But the state still requires you to get those things done. In that, lies the difference. That’s my main takeaway in moving from a public [district] school administrator to a charter school administrator.

What do parents need to know about charter schools, and how can they work to help and advance the state’s charter movement?

Jason: Parents need to get more involved with the charter school and understand the process. There are a lot of misconceptions about charter schools. I even had some myself before I came over.

Public charter schools are held to the same expectations as regular public schools. They do the same end of grade tests and end of course tests. All of those things are required. There are no shortcuts for charters the way people assume there are.

I had a misconception that charter schools could do whatever they wanted to do—that they could spend money wherever they wanted to spend it. They’re required to follow those same structures. That’s important because that keeps charter schools in line and accountable for what they’re doing. I think that’s important for parents to understand and know.

What would you like Coalition members and other charter operators to know about you and your approach to leadership? And is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to share? 

Jason: The main thing I would say is if you are a small charter school, you have to advertise—what you have available, what you do, what your mission is. If you don’t do those things, no one will ever know.

We go to five different counties. But none of our buses had Paul R. Brown written on them. We were in Cumberland County picking up kids, but parents didn’t know. So, we got the buses painted and put our name on them. And that’s when the kids really started to come. Other parents saw the military uniform and knew that child was doing better, so they said, “I’m going to go talk to that parent.” That’s how you get the word out.

Niche: Charter schools among N.C.’s top-ranked public schools

By News

Education platform Niche has released its 2024 school rankings, with N.C. charter schools earning top honors among the state’s public schools. One N.C. charter school–Raleigh Charter High School–is ranked #4 on the list of the country’s best charter high schools. Among elementary schools in North Carolina, 18 of the top 20 public schools are charter schools!

These charter schools made Niche’s list of the state’s top public high schools:

In addition, these charter schools made Niche’s list of the state’s top public elementary schools:

  • Southeastern Academy, #1
  • Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, #2
  • The Academy of Moore County, #3
  • Quest Academy, #4
  • The Expedition School, #5
  • Woods Charter, #6
  • Sterling Montessori, #7
  • Summerfield Charter Academy, #8 (Ranked #1 among best public elementary schools in the Greensboro area)
  • Greensboro Academy, #9 (Ranked #2 among best public elementary schools in the Greensboro area)
  • Endeavor Charter, #10
  • Magellan Charter School, #11
  • Willow Oak Montessori, #13
  • Tiller School, #14
  • Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, #15
  • Socrates Academy, #16
  • Lake Norman Charter, #17
  • Pine Springs Preparatory Academy, #18
  • New Dimensions, #19

Read more about just charter schools:

*Coalition member schools are in bold.