Monthly Archives

January 2024

School Choice Week 2024 Recap

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It’s a wrap! National School Choice Week 2024 ended officially on Saturday. The week marked celebrations of school choice around the state and nation. We’re especially proud that our winning dance video for NSCW from Community Public Charter School (CPCS) made it into the national organization’s wrap-up video. We share the video below–as you watch, be on the lookout for CPCS students throughout!

 

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  • In case you missed it, you can watch the original CPCS video here.
  • Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis has a new op-ed out about parents as the best decision makers in a child’s schooling. Read it here.

Lindalyn Kakadelis Weighs in on Parent Choice in Education

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Photo credit: National School Choice Awareness Foundation.

Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis has a new op-ed out today in Carolina Journal. The editorial, which highlights the fundamental importance of parent choice in education, coincides with celebrations across the nation this week for National School Choice Week (NSCW).

Here’s an excerpt from Lindalyn’s new commentary:

I have a feeling most people involved in education policy intuitively accept the conclusion that parents should be the final word on what’s best for their child. But I also believe some don’t really understand its implications. You see, if we accept as our guiding principle that final authority rests with parents, then the answer to many of the debates roiling education policy becomes patently obvious.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the debate over school choice. Should all children have one schooling option, determined by a family’s address? Or should children have multiple schooling options, determined by parents and based on what they think is best?

If our guiding principle is that final word rests with parents, then it stands to reason parents should have options for where to send their children to school — and the more options the better. In this way, the public school system supports, rather than supplants, a parent’s decision-making by offering an array of options for parents to choose from.

That’s what public charter schools offer: another option, often with a curricular concentration, such as STEM or the arts or even a classical focus.

Read the rest of Lindalyn’s editorial here. In addition, if you missed it, you can view the winning video from the Coalition’s dance video contest for NSCW here. It showcases the dance moves of students and faculty from Community Public Charter School. Read more about the winning video in this Coalition blog post.

We Have a Winner: Coalition Dance Video Contest for NSCW 2024

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As our kick-off for National School Choice Week, we are especially excited this year to announce the winner of the Coalition’s dance video contest!

And the winner is … Community Public Charter School!

On Saturday, we announced Community Public Charter School in Stanley, NC, as the winner of our NSCW dance video contest. Lindalyn Kakadelis, the Coalition’s executive director, broke the happy news to the CPCS Trailblazers in a call the day before. We really loved the video (here or below), and think you will, too. The CPCS video also made it into National School Choice Week’s newsletter yesterday!

Here’s to Community Public Charter School, and the awesome students, faculty, and staff! Dance teacher Christie Stuckey, a former member of East Carolina University’s Dance Team, led efforts to pull the video together. Kudos to Christie and to the CPCS community!

Shannon Parsons of CPCS shared the school’s response to winning the Coalition’s dance video contest:

“We’re still in disbelief! Participating in the School Choice Week’s dance video competition was an honor, and winning feels incredibly humbling. In just over a week, Miss Stuckey’s dance classes practiced, recorded, and nailed the dance, showcasing the dedication of both the teacher and students. This victory reflects the resilience of our school community, and we’re grateful for the opportunity. We look forward to what comes next and eagerly anticipate Miss Stuckey’s creativity for the next school choice week dance contest video!”
Community Public Charter School, the Coalition celebrates your school choice spirit—and your super-slick dance moves!  

2024 NC Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

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The Department of Public Instruction today announced the nine finalists for 2024 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. The winner will be named on April 5. In a news release, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said:

“These nine educators are just a sampling of the incredible talent we’re lucky to have in North Carolina public schools. They represent excellence across disciplines, from core subjects to career and technical education to the arts. I commend each of them for their dedication to getting students excited about learning, and I can’t wait to see what this cohort accomplishes together on behalf of students in the year ahead.”  

According to DPI, the nine teachers are as follows:

  • Anita Rubino-Thomas, Currituck County High School (Northeast)
  • Nardi Routten, Creekside Elementary School (Southeast)
  • Rachel Brackney, SouthWest Edgecombe High School (North Central)
  • Jennifer Blake, Carthage Elementary School (Sandhills)
  • Will Marrs, Davie County High School (Piedmont Triad)
  • Sarah Lefebvre, Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle School (Southwest)
  • Erik Mortensen, Watauga High School (Northwest)
  • Heather Smith, Waynesville Middle School (Western)
  • Lee Haywood, Uwharrie Charter Academy (Charter School)

Congratulations to all of these teachers, but especially, to Lee Haywood as the Charter School Teacher of the Year!

Lee Haywood (middle) at a recognition ceremony in December, honoring her as the 2024 Burroughs Wellcome Fund NC Charter School Teacher of the Year. Photo credit: NC Department of Public Instruction, LinkedIn.

Here’s what DPI’s release said about Lee Haywood:

An 18-year veteran educator, Haywood teaches both visual arts and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), weaving the two together to show students the importance of creativity across all disciplines. 

“Integrating the arts into content areas and into NC schools from top to bottom is an absolute must if we plan on our students being competitive, creative and innovative,” she said. “The more math, ELA, science, history and STEAM that my students can learn through their artwork, the more well-rounded education they will receive.”

Haywood established a relationship with a local nonprofit organization that takes donated materials from manufacturers and individuals to divert trash from landfills. In addition to creating art from what they find there, students learn about civic responsibility, their community and art as a profession. 

She is active in several national- and state-level arts advocacy groups, including the Randolph County Art Education Alliance, the NC Association of Scholastic Activities, the National Art Education Association and the NC Art Education Association.

2024 Political Forecast for Charter Schools: Q&A with Lindalyn Kakadelis

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As another year launches, the Coalition is intent on framing the issues—both good and bad—facing our state’s public charter schools. Who better to do that than the Coalition’s own executive director, Lindalyn Kakadelis? A former teacher and member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board as well as the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board, Lindalyn has a long history as an educator and advocate. In 2018, she helped found the Coalition with other charter school leaders, seeking to establish a strong, statewide voice to protect and promote public charter schools.

The Coalition’s communications director, Kristen Blair, spoke with Lindalyn about what to expect in the year ahead. We share the full Q&A below.

Lindalyn Kakadelis speaks at an event hosted by the Coalition.

We’re at the beginning of a new calendar year, with primaries and a general election on the horizon for 2024. What’s the forecast for charter schools?

Lindalyn Kakadelis: The 2023 General Assembly was extremely favorable to charter schools. But what happens in the future depends heavily on the results of the election primary in March, and then of course the general election in November. The bottom line is that we need to elect General Assembly members who see the value of public charter schools. In addition, we want to make sure that each public school student in North Carolina receives the same amount of money, whether that child attends a district school or a public charter school.

The 2024 legislative session will be brief, so we don’t expect as much to be accomplished, simply because it’s the short session. But we’re getting ready for 2025, and that’s going to be very important. The elections—both the primary and general elections—will directly affect the 2025 session, not the 2024 session.

You’ve said before that charter schools are “politically fragile.” What does that mean in practical terms for schools?

Lindalyn: The General Assembly established charter schools in 1996 through legislation. So, the legislature is the body that has control over charter schools, along with the State Board of Education. If North Carolinians don’t elect a majority of pro-charter General Assembly members—Democrat or Republican—then we can’t get our bills passed. If that happens, we will not be able to keep the autonomy that is necessary to fulfill charter schools’ purpose. Unfortunately, we have seen more and more regulatory creep over the years, both at the statutory and regulatory levels. We need a State Board of Education that will work with us, but that is totally dependent on the governor. The governor appoints the State Board of Education members to eight-year terms.

Right now, some members of the State Board of Education have not been confirmed. So, the day a new governor takes the oath of office, he can appoint several new State Board members who are favorable—or unfavorable—to charter schools.

The General Assembly takes care of charter funding issues and policies that have a far-reaching effect on charter schools. Then, the State Board implements that legislation, but if we don’t have a favorable State Board, we risk the Board implementing legislation in the worst possible way. So, really, it’s a domino effect—and it all hinges on elections. Elections really do matter.

Many people do not want to enter the political fray, and I totally understand that. But here’s reality: If you are in a charter school, you are political. We’ve always stated that it’s better to be at the table than on the table.

Why is it so important to elect lawmakers who support charter schools? How can elections impact charter school capacity to grow and operate?

Lindalyn: In the General Assembly last year we were able to end the enrollment cap for any charter school that is not low performing. Now, because of that legislation, charter schools can grow to capacity without having an enrollment cap. That’s so important for our state’s families, as charter schools reported over 77,000 students on their waitlists last year. But if we make the application process so stringent and bureaucratic, it becomes too hard for people to start new charter schools. So, we want to work with the General Assembly to potentially provide facility funding, startup funding—none of that is available right now. That’s what we need to do to make it easier to start charter schools.

Last year, we also successfully pushed for a new law that allows county commissioners to provide facility funding for charter schools. Previously, this was not an option. We’ve already had charter schools take advantage of that. People may not know that up until that legislation, charter schools received no funding for facilities from counties or from the state, and they had to pay for all of their facilities out of their operating funds. That could be as much as 10-15% of the money they receive from the state.

District schools, on the other hand, have bond packages that pay for their facilities. They never have a facility cost that comes out of their operating fund. When I was on the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board, we had our budget, and then we would request bond funding. It’s two totally separate funding streams. But charter schools receive no funds from bonds. People don’t understand that.

What do parents need to know about charter schools and the broader political context? What can they do to support the charter school movement?

Lindalyn: Parents need to realize that charter schools have only been around since 1996, and they can be closed down. If charter schools don’t perform, the state shuts them down, and that is as it should be. But there’s another threat to charter schools, which is regulatory reform. That can absolutely stifle charter schools. The Coalition tries to stop regulatory creep, so that charter schools can flourish with the flexibility and innovation they were intended to have.

In addition, parents and charter stakeholders need to know accurate information about charter schools and understand when charter school myths are being pushed by anti-charter special interest groups. One common myth is that charter schools drain money from district schools. This is simply untrue. When a family decides to send their child to a charter school, the charter school takes the student and the money to educate that student. But that charter school isn’t “draining” money—the money should belong to the student, not the system. And the district is no longer educating that student or bearing costs associated with that child’s education!

So, in grocery stores and places of worship, parents need to be able to share accurate facts about charter schools. Parents should also share on social media about their experience at their charter school—why they are happy with it, and that they want it to continue.

Finally, in some of our charter schools, parents don’t realize how political charter schools are. They see them as similar to a district school that will never close. But that is just not the case. Charter schools can be closed, and they must also apply for renewal at set intervals established by the state. It’s important for parents to know that there are people who do not want school choice to exist. They believe the system is more important than the child, and they don’t recognize that one size does not fit all. But we must have educational options for families outside of their zip code.

How are politics in North Carolina right now impacting charter schools—and what is at stake?

Lindalyn: When a charter school has a bad actor or doesn’t perform, the anti-charter special interest groups do their best to make it look like all charter schools are like that. But that isn’t the case. Unfortunately, there are bad actors in every type of school—private, public, religious, independent—but we should not try to sink an entire schooling movement because of one bad actor. But that’s what we’re seeing: Anti-charter groups leverage one bad situation as the reason to call for more stringent charter regulations across the board.

What’s at stake? Stifling all the innovation at a charter school. Innovation is what parents really like about charter schools. But if regulatory creep continues, charter schools will have their hands tied behind their backs and will not be able to do what the parents want.

That’s why it’s important for people to read the Coalition’s blog and communications pieces, because we consistently advocate for flexibility and innovation. The Coalition is constantly fighting to stop regulatory creep and protect autonomy. But we are seeing more regulatory creep now than ever.

The Coalition is holding its second annual Charter Advocacy Summit in March. Why should school leaders attend, and what can they expect to learn?

Lindalyn: Our first Summit was such a success. We know everyone is so busy, and so we plan intentionally to fit everything into a one-day format. We let our charter leaders know what is happening in Raleigh, how to advocate for charter needs, and how to build relationships with General Assembly members. We do that important relationship-building with lawmakers through a reception the night before.

School leaders, we try to get as many representatives as possible there to meet you. We’ll also share what you can expect from the new Charter Schools Review Board, along with recent policy changes that impact your funding and school construction. And our Government Relations Team will provide a legislative outlook, analyze new election primary results, and share an overview with you of the legal landscape.

We’re doing all of this to help not just the charter school movement but to help your school, too! If you aren’t aware of the new charter school renewal policy that the State Board of Education just introduced, for example, then how can you advocate for change? Before the Coalition, charter school leaders often found out about things after the fact, without having the chance to be proactive. They had to throw their hands up and say, “That’s just the way things have to be.”

Now, the Coalition is here, saying, “Things don’t have to be that way.” We look at the legal way to protect your charter autonomy and flexibility, and we work strategically and effectively with the General Assembly to ensure that happens.

Coalition Launches Preferred Vendors Page

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The Coalition is pleased to announce the launch of a new Preferred Vendors page on our website! We encourage charter school leaders to support these vendors for school construction, financial, or other support needs.

The new Preferred Vendors page includes a detailed description of services from 12 charter school vendors as well as a testimonial from a charter leader. Charter school administrators and board members can thus be assured that these vendors have a proven record when it comes to working with charter schools–and that they have been vetted and approved by other charter school leaders!

Vendors on the Coalition’s web page are grouped by area of service, including:

Charter School Architecture, Construction & Design

School Learning Environments

Financial Services

Charter School Support Services

Public Relations

Legal Counsel

Many thanks to the following charter school leaders, who offered testimonials for our Preferred Vendors:

  • Garrett McNeill, Real Estate Acquisition & Development, Movement Foundation
  • Andrew Swanner, Executive Director, Oxford Preparatory School
  • Bruce Friend, Head of School, Pine Springs Preparatory Academy
  • John Nosek, Chairman of the Board, Revolution Academy
  • Eugene Slocum, CEO & Superintendent, Alpha Academy
  • Justin T. Smith, Managing Director, Ascend Leadership Academy
  • Dave Machado, State Superintendent, North Carolina, Charter Schools USA
  • Jack James, Chief Operating Officer, Union Academy Charter School
  • Dr. Jason M. Wray, Superintendent, Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy
  • Lindalyn Kakadelis, Executive Director, North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools
  • Kyle Shrauger, Board President, Wake Preparatory Academy (K-12)

Find the Coalition’s Preferred Vendor page here.

Get Ready for National School Choice Week 2024!

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National School Choice Week 2024 is right around the corner! The celebration runs this year from Sunday, January 21, through Saturday, January 27. There are lots of resources for schools that would like to mark the week and get involved. Nationally, more than 27,000 events will take place in all 50 states. You’ll hear more from the Coalition in the coming days about NSCW, but for now, we share some resources below to get you ready!

NSCW 2024 Resources

Want to learn more about NSCW? Watch the video below (and watch for a little representation from North Carolina!).

New 2023 Pandemic Recovery Data, with Charter Performance Coming Soon

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Earlier this week, the State Board of Education heard a presentation from a new report measuring pandemic learning recovery. Data are being analyzed as part of a multi-year project with SAS Institute. Dr. Jeni Corn, the director of research and evaluation at the Department of Public Instruction, and Dr. John White, a vice president at SAS, presented the data.

According to the new report, data reflect three specific time periods and show:

  • Pre-pandemic trends (2013-2019)
  • Pandemic impact
  • Distance to full recovery

Key findings from the new report:

  • Performance on the Grade 3 Reading EOG (End of Grade test) and English II EOC (End of Course test) is now above the recovery threshold.
  • Students have made gains in Grades 3-5 Reading and Math as well as in Grade 5 Science.
  • There was an “unexpected” drop in Grade 8 Science.
  • Math continues to be more problematic than reading for learning recovery.
  • Compared to performance before the pandemic, there is “considerably more variation among schools,” according to Dr. Corn.

DPI will release “charters-only” and school-level data on January 22. OLR will hold charters-only sessions and will be in every region of the state in the coming weeks.

Source: “2023 Statewide Year-Over-Year Trends in Achievement: Before, During, and After the Pandemic,” Presentation to the State Board of Education, January 3, 2024.

Source: “2023 Statewide Year-Over-Year Trends in Achievement: Before, During, and After the Pandemic.”  

View the presentation to SBE or the report to the General Assembly. Read the press release from DPI or articles from WUNC and WFAE.

WUNC Reports on Declining District Market Share, Charter Growth

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A new article from WUNC examines shifting enrollment trends in North Carolina. The article, “Where do NC students go to school? Trends show decline at traditional public schools,” provides some excellent charts that illustrate substantial K-12 enrollment change over the past decade.

As the article reports, non-district school models (including public charters) continue to increase their share of the K-12 market. (Read more about charters’ growing market share here, here, and here.)  Meanwhile, the percentage of students enrolled in district public schools has fallen from 85.1% in Fall 2013 to 76.6% in Fall 2022. WUNC captures in the charts below what such trends have looked like over time in NC:

Source: WUNC, “Where do NC students go to school? Trends show decline at traditional public schools,” December 28, 2023.

Source: WUNC.

Reasons for change

Why are more families choosing non-district options? The WUNC article quotes Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis, who said, “Sometimes a child’s district school is perfect for them, but sometimes it just isn’t a great fit, and that can be for a lot of reasons.” About charter schools and district schools, she noted, “They’re all public schools and I see them as complementing, not competing, with one another.”

Read the full WUNC article.