Monthly Archives

November 2023

NC charter enrollment continues to grow

By News

NC charter enrollment continues to grow, with more families than ever choosing these public schools of choice for their children. That’s a key takeaway from a recent analysis by EdNC of the first month’s enrollment figures for 2023-24. Those numbers, released by the Department of Public Instruction and reflecting Average Daily Membership, are current as of November 3. They will be updated in the coming weeks.

Charter enrollment continues to rise this year

Currently in North Carolina, 139,985 students are enrolled in 209 public charter schools, according to EdNC’s analysis. This is a 4.9% enrollment increase since last year.

Meanwhile, enrollment in district public schools has declined 0.4% since last year and 3.6% since before the pandemic. Fall 2020 numbers in the table below reflect the first enrollment drop, following school closures in Spring 2020. Numbers ticked back up in 2021 and 2022, and appear to have declined again this year–the second drop in district enrollment since the pandemic.

Here’s EdNC’s table of fall enrollment for the past four years (totals include charter as well as lab schools):

Source: EdNC, November 28, 2023.

Four of the state’s five biggest school districts experienced enrollment declines this year, EdNC notes. Those districts include Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, Cumberland County Schools, and Guilford County Schools. Among the state’s largest districts, only Wake County Schools grew its enrollment.

Read more from EdNC.

U.S. News: Charter schools among N.C.’s top public elementary and middle schools

By News

Charter schools are among the state’s top public elementary and middle schools, according to U.S. News & World Report’s new 2024 rankings, which are based on academic performance. The publication ranked five charter schools in the state’s top 20 public elementary schools— and eight charter schools in the top 20 middle schools.

N.C. charter schools among the top 20 elementary schools include:

  • Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy, #2
  • Lake Norman Charter, #7
  • Pine Lake Preparatory, #12
  • NC Leadership Charter Academy, #15
  • The Academy of Moore County, #17

In addition, Lake Norman Charter was highlighted in this recent News & Observer article about the rankings.

N.C. charter schools among the top 20 middle schools include:

  • Endeavor Charter, #3
  • The Expedition School, #7
  • Greensboro Academy, #8
  • Pine Lake Preparatory, #11
  • Triangle Math & Science Academy, #13
  • Peak Charter Academy, #15
  • Lake Norman Charter, #18
  • Envision Science Academy, #19

Congratulations to these top-performing charter schools!

Charter schools perform well in other recent rankings

U.S. News released its list of top high schools in August. As we noted in this blog post, 16 charter high school’s made North Carolina’s list of top 50 public high schools. Charter schools fared extremely well in  2024 rankings from Niche as well. Read more about that in this Coalition blog post.

Coalition member schools are in bold.

Congressional Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Charter Funding Bill

By Legislation, News

 

Congressional lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives last week introduced companion legislation to a Senate bill that would provide start-up funds to charter schools. The bipartisan “Empower Charter School Educators to Lead Act” enables educators to use a portion of federal grant monies under the Charter Schools Program for the charter application and start-up process. Congresswoman Julia Letlow (R-LA), Congresswoman Jill Tokuda (D-HI), Congressman John James (R-MI), and Congressman Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ) are sponsoring the bill.

Right now, the federal Charter Schools Program does not allow grant funds to support charter school planning. This bill would change that, allowing states to award grants of up to $100,000 for pre-planning purposes. States would also be permitted to direct up to 5% of their federal grant funds for these planning awards.

Learn more

Participate in the Coalition’s Dance Video Contest for NSCW 2024!

By News
Are your students ready to dance? National School Choice Week 2024 is coming up fast on January 21-27, and the Coalition is hosting a dance contest for all of the state’s charter schools. We invite you and your students to showcase your school choice dance moves, using the tutorial and song outlined by National School Choice Week. In addition to bragging rights, the winner will receive an in-class pizza party—at the Coalition’s expense!!—for up to 35 students. We’ll also share the winning video, along with a runner-up video, on our Coalition platforms as part of our National School Choice Week promotion and celebration.

Action steps:

  • Decide to dance!
  • Watch the video tutorial from Indian River Charter School in Florida below on You Tube. The 14-minute video includes step by step instructions with four students and then the full dance, put to music with Indian River students.
  • Recruit dancers at your school and begin to practice.
  • Record your dance video and upload it to our Google Drive Folder by 6 p.m. Friday, December 15. Be sure to review the “Read First” instructions in the folder before uploading your video.
  • Sit back and rest! Meanwhile, Coalition Board members* will serve as judges for video submissions. *Board members at participating schools will recuse themselves as judges.
  • We will announce the winner in our Coalition Connection and Charter Chatter newsletters on Saturday, January 20—right before the launch of National School Choice Week.

Learn more:

  • Read about the dance and access a tutorial here and here.
  • Download the steps here.
  • Download the song here.

Questions? Contact Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis at nc.chartercoalition.org or 704.231.9767.

For schools, safety is the ‘number one job’

By News

A new Parent Engagement Committee, with a charter parent and law enforcement expert on board, is at the ready

On October 27, the Center for Safer Schools (CFSS) launched its timely new Parent Engagement Committee, featuring district and charter parents from each of the state’s eight education regions. Committee members will advise Karen Fairley, the executive director at CFSS, and will help develop school safety recommendations for state policymakers. The new committee moves forward with a highly qualified charter parent for whom the Coalition advocated: law enforcement expert Ed Carter, whose 6th grade daughter has attended Classical Charter Schools of Southport (CCSS) since kindergarten.

Advising policymakers on school safety is work Carter is fully prepared to do. A former deputy sheriff, police officer, and U.S. Air Force law enforcement specialist, he has considerable experience working in schools.

“I’ve been in law enforcement since 1995, so almost 30 years,” Carter says. “Early in my career as a law enforcement officer, I served as a school resource officer at a high school. So, I’ve had some experience in dealing with the safe schools issues.” He has also served on the board of the North Carolina Association of School Resource Officers. As his career advanced, he began training SROs.

Since his retirement in 2020, Carter has stayed on as a trainer. “I’m one of the guys that helps new officers to be school resource officers and I also continue to educate the guys that are in place,” he says.

Students and staff from Classical Charter Schools of America, a network of public charter schools. Photo credit: CCSS.

Addressing campus disparities—and understanding community context

He’ll leverage his considerable experience as he looks for ways to improve school safety statewide. What’s top of mind for him right now? Carter is concerned about campus disparities—in SRO utilization, incident reporting, and emergency response protocols.

“SRO engagement and involvement is a big ticket right now because that’s a fairly inconsistent thing across the state,” he says. “One school system may use officers this way while another may use them another way.” Disparities in reporting complicate matters further. “I would like to clean that up so if an officer goes from this classical charter school to another charter school, they’ll be on the same playing field. There has got to be some bridge-building and information-sharing going on,” he adds.

Basic, shared safety protocols are also essential. “We’re going to be following the same protocol regardless of the property,” Carter says of the response from law enforcement. “If there’s any difference in how the charter is doing it versus what we expect to see happen, that’s going to be a huge hindrance.”

Understanding community context is critical too. “One thing that is really important from the officer perspective—and this is true for any school, whether it’s a charter or Christian or [traditional] public school—is that school is always going to be a reflection of the demographic that feeds into [it],” he says.

Providing ‘really important representation for the charter system’

CCSS Headmaster Bill Stidham has seen firsthand how valuable Carter’s expertise can be in securing school safety resources and strengthening protocols. Last year, when an incident occurred on CCSS’ campus, the school did not have a funded SRO, which fueled a drop in enrollment. Carter helped Stidham apply successfully for a grant to fund one. Carter’s informed perspective on the new committee will be invaluable, Stidham believes, especially given funding disparities between district and charter schools.

“His involvement on our campus and his eye through a law enforcement lens has really helped with putting structures in place,” Stidham says. “To have that voice at a state level representing charter schools—[given] the disparity between what a public school for each county gets, versus what is appropriated for charter schools—will provide really important representation for the charter school system.”

Baker Mitchell, the founder of Classical Charter Schools of America—the charter network of which CCSS is a part—is hopeful that the new committee will be comprehensive in its scope and mindful of charter autonomy in its recommendations. “Safety in the law enforcement aspect has its vital role; but in a school’s day to day operations, other areas also need attention and demand awareness with reporting protocols,” he says. Facility repairs, dangerous weather events, health hazards: These, and others, all fall within the scope of administrators’ safety concerns. “Safety must have the broadest definition possible,” he affirms, “with flexibility for charters to customize their response to fit their local communities.”

In the end, the mandate for schools is clear. “We have to portray to the community that we have safety measures in place to keep their children safe from the moment they get here to the moment they go home,” Stidham notes.

“Safety is our number one job,” he adds.

Classical Charter Schools of Southport is a 600-student, K-8 school located between Southport and Supply in Brunswick County, North Carolina, and has been part of the Classical Charter Schools of America network since 2015.  The school recently celebrated construction of a new auditorium and gymnasium and launched its inaugural 8th grade class this fall.

National Blue Ribbon School Leader on Parent Trust, Engagement

By News

Q&A with Charter Leader Tracey Duhaime

Tracey Duhaime is the principal of Greensboro Academy, a public charter school in Greensboro, North Carolina, that is part of the National Heritage Academies network. A 2023 National Blue Ribbon honoree, Greensboro Academy serves over 750 students in grades K-8, emphasizing a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and a strong moral focus. The charter school has outperformed the local school district for over 15 years.

 A former district public school teacher, Tracey first arrived at Greensboro Academy as a parent herself, later becoming a teacher and then school administrator. The Coalition’s communications director, Kristen Blair, spoke with Tracey about what first drew her to a charter school; her school’s national recognition for excellence; the importance of communication and trust between schools and parents; and more.

 We include the full interview below.

You’ve been involved with Greensboro Academy as a parent, teacher, middle school dean, and now principal. What led you to a public charter school? 

Tracey Duhaime: When my daughter was accepted into kindergarten at Greensboro Academy, we were not sure what to expect with our limited knowledge of charter schools, but we had heard amazing things and felt blessed to be given this opportunity. This is my 16th year at GA and when my daughter was in 2nd grade, I began working here as the 6th grade math teacher. I had been extremely impressed with the level of academic rigor and the teaching of moral focus virtues, the teachers and staff were outstanding, and it felt like a family community. It was something I knew I wanted to be a part of not only as a parent but an educator. When a position opened up, this was where I wanted to be to positively impact students and their school experience.

National Heritage Academies Founder J.C. Huizenga and Greensboro Academy Principal Tracey Duhaime in October, prior to an assembly celebrating 2023 National Blue Ribbon School recognition.

How have your experiences as a charter leader impacted your view about what works in education?  

Tracey: I have had a very positive experience as a leader with National Heritage Academies. There are many reasons to stay but one of the main drivers for continuing to work at Greensboro Academy is the tremendous amount of support provided by National Heritage Academies. They invest in their employees by providing growth opportunities and ongoing trainings, so we’re always learning and developing as educators. There’s always someone you can call when you need help and that has allowed me to focus on the things that are more important, which are the people–the staff, the families and the kids.

The people in the building are what make this school great. Greensboro Academy has been diligent at hiring not only highly qualified teachers but teachers who care about kids and are invested in the school and the journey of our students as they move through grades K-8. Many of the teachers have watched their own children grow and learn by attending GA; it’s a personal and professional investment. We work to retain teachers and they just get better and better each year!  The smaller atmosphere provided by a K-8 school enables us to impact our students in a profound way.

Earlier this year, Greensboro Academy was named a 2023 National Blue Ribbon School in the Exemplary High Performing School category, one of just eight schools statewide to earn Blue Ribbon recognition. What was that honor like for you and your school community—and to what do you attribute the school’s success with students?  

Tracey: I don’t know that words can express how excited and proud we are to receive this award! Our staff work incredibly hard and are very dedicated and it was reaffirming and flattering to be recognized on a larger scale. Our school has seen success for many years, and I am so happy for my staff, students, and families! It is amazing to be a part of something so great! Everyone in the school contributes not only each day in the building but also to complete and submit our application. What we were sharing in our application with the U.S. Department of Education was genuine and personal because it came from everybody in the building and not just the leaders.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tremendous impact our parent organization and school board have on our school. They volunteer their time to fund and plan family events, engage in teacher and student appreciation, contribute to the classroom and the campus to make our school the best choice for families. These folks are team Greensboro Academy and it shows in everything they do!

It has been a little overwhelming and a whirlwind of a month! It has been so touching to have so many organizations and businesses in the area reach out to congratulate us. We were blessed to have had the founder and leaders of National Heritage Academies come from Michigan to celebrate with us during an assembly on October 6th–yet another example of the support provided by NHA. We welcomed Senator Berger later in the month of October and were able to showcase our school and share what GA is all about with him. My staff, administrative team, students, and families have earned this well-deserved recognition, and I am so proud to be their leader. It takes every single person in the building working together to make these great things happen. The people are the secret sauce to our success!

You’re headed to Washington, D.C. later this month to celebrate Greensboro Academy’s Blue Ribbon recognition. Any thoughts before you prepare to go?

Tracey:  I have been reflecting on my journey with Greensboro Academy over the past 16 years and the impact it has had on my family and my career. It is very humbling to be a part of something this big, and as I’ve shared with many of our families (current and prospective),  I really believe that my kids are the amazing young adults that they are because of Greensboro Academy. My kids are 22 and 18 now, and the impact of the moral focus virtues, the connections that they made with the other kids, the connections with their teachers is something [for which] my husband and I will forever be grateful.  I have had the privilege of both personally and professionally seeing the impact of this school and it just warms your heart. It is a great reminder that what we do each day is making a difference and helps to reaffirm why we chose to be educators.

Parent partnership is a big part of Greensboro Academy’s ethos and, more broadly, for National Heritage Academies. Why is parent engagement so important, and how do you work intentionally to engage your parents?

Tracey: I believe it takes a village. We need to work together, support one another, and trust each other. We are all on the same team and that team is rooting and working for the success of the students. We openly communicate with our parents before they attend that we’re going to work hard, play hard, and hold everyone to high expectations. There will sometimes be challenges or bumps in the road, but the mindset needs to be collectively supporting kids both at school and at home.

The majority of our parents truly value being a part of GA and view this as an opportunity. They know that we only have [students] for seven hours a day. Working together at home and at school is the key to raising not only well-educated children but kind people who will go on to make their own positive impact on our world. We encourage parent volunteers, and we host activities and events for both students and parents to attend. A few examples are festivals, band concerts, assemblies, moral focus luncheons, field trips, in class activities, and parent learning events. Providing those opportunities for the parents to come in and not only participate but get to know one another is important to building our school family.

 What’s the best thing parents can do to help their child’s charter school?

Tracey: Parents are the first role model and trusted adult in a child’s life and we all need to remember to lead by example. We are all on the same side and we all want what’s best for students. Respectful and productive communication is key to building the relationship with the school and with the teachers. That’s really what the teachers are looking for – they are looking for a partnership and to be treated as professionals that truly care about their children.

With one year to go, NC ACCESS is removing barriers to charter attendance

By News

A new report on the NC ACCESS Program shows it is succeeding in opening up educational opportunities for students. The program, which is allocating nearly $37 million in school-level grants, seeks to remove barriers for educationally disadvantaged students so they can attend charter schools. Funded through the federal Charter Schools Program, the NC ACCESS grant was due to sunset this fall–but has now been extended through September 30, 2024.

At this week’s meeting of the state’s Charter Schools Review Board, members heard a promising update from Dr. Barbara O’Neal of the Office of Charter Schools. Sharing data from a Friday Institute program evaluation, she said she was “really pleased” with results.

NC ACCESS Highlights

  • Last year, the program served over 25,000 educationally disadvantaged students.
  • Since the program’s inception, grants have benefited 62 charter schools.
  • All NC ACCESS schools offer transportation and lunch.
  • Most of the schools are on track to offer a weighted lottery, prioritizing admission for educationally disadvantaged students.
  • 90% of the schools are deemed high-quality schools. O’Neal told Review Board members that her office will be working with low-performing schools this year.

Source: Barbara O’Neal, NC ACCESS Presentation to the Charter Schools Review Board, November 6, 2023.

Leaders from several NC ACCESS schools, including Eugene Slocum of Alpha Academy and Derrick McCullough of Central Carolina Academy (both Coalition member schools), shared updates with the Review Board.

Charter Review Board Approves Two New Movement Schools

By News

North Carolina’s Charter Schools Review Board yesterday approved two new charter applicants from the Movement Schools network. The new public charter schools will serve economically disadvantaged students in grades K-5 in the Greensboro and Gastonia areas. Both schools are expected to open in 2025.

CSRB members voted unanimously to give the schools the go-ahead to open.

‘World-class academics and virtues’ for families lacking education options

Movement Schools is a mission-driven charter network, affirming a commitment to “teaching world-class academics and virtues in areas where families have historically lacked access to education options.” Movement currently operates charter campuses in Atlanta, Charleston, and in multiple Charlotte-area locations. The network expects to expand to other locations in the Southeast, with 10 N.C. schools planned by 2028.

Photo credit: Movement Schools.

Both new North Carolina schools will offer families full bus transportation and lunch, a tuition-free Pre-K program, and trauma-informed support.

Read more

Report: Charter Schools Spend ‘Fewer Dollars to Achieve Better Outcomes’

By News

A new report from a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform reinforces the market value of public charter schools. The report, “Still a Good Investment: Charter School Productivity in Nine Cities,” evaluated economic and academic metrics related to charter schools in a geographically diverse sample of U.S. cities. Researchers concluded: “We find that charter schools tend to demonstrate greater efficiency on both metrics of cost-effectiveness and return on investment, using fewer dollars to achieve better outcomes, relative to TPS (traditional public schools).”

The cities included: Camden, New Jersey; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York City; San Antonio, Texas; and Washington, DC.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

  • Charters are more cost-effective: Charter schools operate at a level of cost-effectiveness that is 40% higher than TPS. Researchers determined cost-effectiveness based on NAEP test score increases for every $1,000 in per pupil expenditures.
  • Charters produce higher ROI: Attending a charter school for 13 years increases ROI (return on investment) by over 58% compared to TPS. Practically speaking, for every dollar invested, charter school students recoup an additional $2.31 in lifetime earnings, relative to their peers in TPS. (See the table below.)

Source: “Still a Good Investment: Charter School Productivity in Nine Cities,” University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, November 2023.

Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform, commented on the report in a news release yesterday, noting:

The reason this is so valuable is because on a daily basis people discount the importance of charter schools. But it turns out when public schools have freedom and flexibility to do their work, are not hamstrung by traditional rules and regulations, and parents have these choices, students thrive. It’s no surprise that students who attend public charter schools in cities like Indianapolis and Washington, DC, despite receiving much less funding, achieve at a rate that is two to three times higher than their traditional public school counterparts.