Monthly Archives

May 2024

Coalition Member Schools in the News

By News
We have some exciting news to share about recent recognitions of Coalition member schools!

Two charter schools receive county-wide honors

Piedmont Community Charter School was recognized as “Best Charter School” by the Gaston Gazette’s “Best of Gaston” awards. Holly White, the elementary school principal was the winner in the “Best Principal” category, while Dawn Johnston was honored as “Best Teacher.” David Benfield, a middle school principal, earned finalist recognition for “Best Principal.”
Community Charter School earned finalist recognition for “Best Charter School.” Monica Dellinger was a finalist for “Best Principal.”
Read more about the awards from the Gaston Gazette.

Monica Dellinger (second from left) celebrates recognition through Gaston Gazette’s Community Choice awards. Photo credit: Community Charter School, Facebook.

One charter school’s approach to ‘second chances’ garners media coverage

Central Wake High School is the subject of a recent feature article from The Carolinian. Central Wake serves students ages 16 to 21 who are at risk of academic failure. Read the article here.
Congratulations to these outstanding Coalition member schools!

Bladen Journal Spotlights Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy

By News

The Bladen Journal has a new spotlight piece out about Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy (PRBLA). The only military charter school in the state, PRBLA serves 214 students in 6th-12th grades in Elizabethtown, NC. Students hail from five counties–Bladen, Cumberland, Hoke, Columbus, and Robinson–and the school provides them with transportation. The school launched over a decade ago, and student graduates have since gone on to do exciting things. Perhaps not surprisingly, a number of them are choosing military service.

A Veterans Day ceremony at Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy. Photo credit: Bladen Journal.

The article highlights the achievements of some recent PRBLA graduates:

The Academy’s ten-year history has seen many alum success stories, with its Cadets becoming college graduates, learning trades, and enlisting in the armed forces. In 2020, PRBLA 2017 graduate, former First Captain Iyanna McAllister graduated from North Carolina A&T State University.  She is working on obtaining her Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from Bowie State University. Fellow 2017 graduate Starnari Ballard obtained her bachelor’s degree in science from UNC Pembroke and currently works as a science teacher at the Academy.

Former First Captain Tristen Bray, a PRBLA 2020 graduate, will be commissioned as a United States Army officer next month after he graduates from Virginia Military Institute. Jessica Lamb, a PRBLA 2020 graduate, serves in the United States Marine Corps. Keyanna Cann, PRBLA 2019 graduate; Josh White, PRBLA 2022 graduate; Omar Cisse, PRBLA 2022 graduate; and Michael Gillespie, PRBLA 2022 graduate, all serve in the United States Navy.  Marvin Munford, PRBLA 2022 graduate, Dayvion Lacy, PRBLA 2023 graduate, and Linwood Britton, PRBLA 2023 graduate, serve in the United States Army.

Under the leadership of its Superintendent, Dr. Wray, the Academy is setting records and looking forward to another record-breaking enrollment this year.

Read more from the Bladen Journal.

PRBLA is a Coalition member school. Learn more about PRBLA here.

Durham Charter School Joins the Coalition

By News

We’re delighted to welcome Durham Charter School to the Coalition as our newest member. Formerly known as Healthy Start Academy, Durham Charter has played a significant role in the state’s broader charter movement. The school launched in 1997 as North Carolina’s very first public charter school!

Now a K-12 school, Durham Charter currently serves 775 students. The school has a well-earned reputation for excellence and innovation. Headed by state charter leader Alex Quigley (read our Q&A with Alex here), Durham Charter is a 2022 National ESEA Distinguished School and a 2023 Yass Prize Quarterfinalist. In addition to leading Durham Charter, Alex also serves on the state’s Charter Schools Review Board.

Here’s how Durham Charter characterizes its mission:

Our mission is to build a world-class K-12 school in Durham that empowers students to thrive in college, career, and life.

The school is currently located on W. Chapel Hill Street in Durham. However, next June, Durham Charter will move to a new campus on Wake Forest Highway.

Photo credits: Durham Charter School.

Welcome to the Coalition, Durham Charter! We’re excited to partner with you.

Read Durham Charter’s academic snapshot. View the updated list of Coalition member schools.

TMSA Students Recognized at NC General Assembly

By News

As part of National Charter Schools Week, House Speaker Tim Moore on Wednesday recognized students from TMSA Triangle Math and Science Academy and The Math & Science Academy of Apex. These students, who gathered in the House Gallery with parents and school leaders, represent charter school excellence in multiple areas, and at various ages.

Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis and Coalition lobbyist Lee Teague organized the event with TMSA students and lawmakers. Rep. Erin Paré, District 37 (Wake), sponsored their visit.

Below, we include the write-up of the visit from TMSA leaders:

It is with great pride and excitement that we extend the highest honors to six of our outstanding students from TMSA Triangle Math and Science Academy and The Math and Science Academy of Apex. Led by the NC Coalition for Charter Schools and sponsored by Rep. Erin Paré, the visit honoring these remarkable students provided them with recognition in the House Chamber of the NC General Assembly. House Speaker Tim Moore called out their names and read their achievements. They then received a standing ovation from all of the representatives in the House Gallery. Students’ parents also joined the event and met Rep. Erin Paré.
These students have demonstrated exceptional talent, dedication, and achievement in various fields. We acknowledge their remarkable accomplishments and invite you to join us in congratulating them! The students are:
  • Aashritha Karthik Kamu (Grade 5, TMSA Triangle)
  • Abeeha Yasheen (Grade 7, TMSA Triangle)
  • Vatsalya Vishnoi (Grade 6, TMSA Apex)
  • Daniel Loeffler (Grade 6, TMSA Apex)
  • Sina Dehghani (Grade 11, TMSA Triangle)
  • Alekhya Kotha (Grade 11, TMSA Triangle)

Here are some specifics about these students’ achievements:

Aashritha Karthik Kamu won 1st prize across all five categories in the Elementary division for a special award by NC One Water in the NC Science and Engineering Fair.

TMSA Triangle FLL team, the Cyber Tigers, achieved a remarkable feat at the North Carolina FLL Semifinals. With their incredible project, “The Arithmacade,” they not only captured the imagination of all but also earned the prestigious First Place Innovation Project Award and advanced to the NC State Championship. Abeeha Yasheen is recognized on behalf of her team.

Sixth graders Vatsalya Vishnoi and Daniel Loeffler were ranked top at the NC State Science Olympiad State Tournament. Vatsalya and Daniel competed with 40 teams consisting of 7th and 8th graders and came in first in the Air Trajectory category.

Sina Dehghani received 2nd Place in Travel and Tourism in the 2024 DECA State and 2024 DECA Internationals. Additionally, Sina achieved 2nd Place in the College Physics and Community Awareness Project in 2024 HOSA States.
Alekhya Kotha distinguished herself as a USA Biology Olympiad Semi-Finalist, ranking in the top 500 out of 10,000 participants from 44 states.

Congratulations to these exemplary students! We share photos from Wednesday’s visit:

Six students from TMSA visit the General Assembly on Wednesday and meet with Rep. Erin Paré.

Students and leaders from TMSA stand outside the House Gallery at the General Assembly.

Left to right: Coalition lobbyist Lee Teague, Rep. Erin Paré, TMSA leader Fatih Sahin, and Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis at the General Assembly. Photo credits: TMSA.

Report on NC School Segregation Features Outdated Data on Charters

By News

Shutterstock photo.

Released to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, a new report from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project offers a critical read-out on segregation in North Carolina’s public schools. The report, written by NC State researchers, presents charter schools as one of the forces fueling segregation and widening achievement gaps. But there’s a fundamental problem with that premise: Data used to support it are outdated and inaccurate.

Let’s start with a core argument about charter schools. On page 20, the authors write:

Charters in North Carolina have not only increased racial isolation between Black and White students, but have also widened the achievement gap between the two groups precisely because of the negative impacts on Black students in racially isolated schools.
What’s the basis for this statement? A study from Duke researcher Helen Ladd, which she and her co-author published 17 years ago–in 2007! That year, 98 charter schools operated in North Carolina, less than half of the 210 charter schools serving students today. In reality, robust, encouraging–and much more recent data–show charter schools are helping to narrow achievement gaps.

Stanford study: Charter students gain 16 days in reading and 6 days in math

A widely reported 2023 study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO)  revealed significant achievement gains for students attending public charter schools nationwide. Researchers evaluated learning outcomes in terms of days of learning–gained or lost, across the academic year. Compared to traditional public schools, charter schools advanced student learning by an average of 16 days in reading and 6 days in math. Charter schools were particularly effective in producing learning gains for Black and Hispanic students, students living in poverty, and English language learners, CREDO found. And charters run by CMOs (charter management organizations) produced even bigger gains than stand-alone charter schools–27 days in reading and 23 days in math.

North Carolina CMOs recognized as “gap-busting” schools

That’s the national picture. In North Carolina, several CMOs also earned national recognition as “gap-busting” schools. (Read more about CREDO’s findings here and here.)  Roger Bacon Academy (RBA)National Heritage Academies, and KIPP Eastern North Carolina were among the CMOs Stanford researchers commended for success in closing achievement gaps. Criteria for inclusion as a “gap-buster” were rigorous, requiring high performance for schools overall as well as for subgroups of disadvantaged students.

CREDO study findings prompted North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx to refer to charter schools as “conduits of opportunity.”

Other charter schools are earning accolades for success in closing achievement gaps. For instance, Sallie B. Howard School in Wilson, North Carolina–a majority non-white school and one of the state’s first charter schools–earned National Blue Ribbon recognition in 2021 from the U.S. Department of Education. The reason: SBHS is an “exemplary achievement gap-closing school.”

UCLA report: Wrong on weighted lotteries, too

Back to the UCLA report’s misguided claims: Authors also criticize slow uptake of weighted lotteries among North Carolina charter schools. Such lotteries enable school leaders to give an admission preference to students who are educationally disadvantaged. They’re a key way to help charter schools diversify their student populations.

On pages 20-21, as evidence of a lack of weighted lotteries in North Carolina, the authors of the UCLA study write:

In 2015, the state legislature passed HB 334, which authorized the voluntary use of a weighted lottery system that took diversity into account in admissions. This attempt was met with limited success as only four charter schools in the state implemented the system by the 2018 school year.

Limited success–and only four charter schools? As the widely available 2023 Annual Charter Schools Report notes, 70+ North Carolina charter schools–fully one-third of the state’s charters–have received approval to use weighted lotteries!

Here’s a summary from that annual report:

Over 70 charter schools are approved to utilize a weighted lottery. As more charter schools begin to implement a weighted lottery, the hope is to see more educationally disadvantaged students enrolling in charter schools. As part of the approval process, schools must explain how the needs of educationally disadvantaged students will be met. Many schools report an increase in staff, improved nutrition and transportation programs, as well as increased community outreach and partnerships.

In fact, increasing charter diversity through weighted lotteries has been a key focus of the state’s NC ACCESS Program, funded by federal Charter Schools Program grant dollars. The NC ACCESS annual review for 2022 is explicit in chronicling the explosive growth of weighted lotteries among the state’s charter schools as a way to remove barriers to enrollment.

Unfortunately, none of this information made it into the UCLA report.

It’s a shame that this new report includes outdated information about charters to support sweeping statements on a topic of such importance. Report claims will invariably make their way into news stories, which is how misinformation spreads.

*This post has been updated.

Charter Schools Week Op-Ed from Lindalyn

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Lindalyn Kakadelis, the executive director of the Coalition, has a new op-ed out to mark National Charter Schools Week. The op-ed, published yesterday in Carolina Journal, highlights the growth and popularity of North Carolina’s public charter school movement–even as the political divide on charter schools grows.

Here’s an excerpt from the op-ed:

It’s National Charter Schools Week, and there is much to celebrate about North Carolina’s charter school movement. Public charter schools in our state now educate 145,000 students in 63 counties, and charter popularity continues to grow with families. In fact, the state’s charter school waitlist now features over 85,000 student names. Despite widespread popularity, however, charter schools face mounting political challenges.

First, some facts: Charter schools are free, public, and open to all. Yet, as more parents turn to them for their children’s education, there remains a threat that these public schools of choice will face new regulatory obstacles or even a cap prohibiting new charter schools from opening. The reason baffles me, but some corners view public charter schools as a threat to be tamed, rather than a dynamic educational environment that provides the best choice for some children.

A broad bipartisan coalition birthed public charter schools decades ago, and has supported the movement for many years. It has long been my dream for the politics surrounding the issue to return to that.

Read the full CJ perspective here.

Q&A with Jake Bryson, Middle School Educator and Innovator

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Jake Bryson is a middle school science teacher at Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies (NEAAAT), a public charter school in Elizabeth City, N.C. NEAAAT is also a recent honoree of The Canopy Project, which recognizes the country’s most innovative schools. Canopy assesses innovation based on 1:1 mentoring, project-based learning, makerspace capacity, career readiness, and more.

 In conjunction with National Teacher Appreciation Week and National Charter Schools Week, Kristen Blair, the communications director for the Coalition, spoke with Coach Bryson about his approach to innovation in education and how he encourages it in his classroom. The interview covers NEAAAT’s focus on real-world learning—including a “Plant the Moon” project with a simulated regolith and a lot of moon dirt! —charter flexibility, and more.

Could you share your background in education and why you became a teacher?  

Jake Bryson: I got kind of a late start. I graduated from college with an English degree, and my wife and I moved to Boston, Massachusetts. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my degree. I bounced around with different jobs, working as a waiter and delivery driver. I ended up getting an opportunity to work as a secondary teacher for fifth grade at a school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called the Fletcher Maynard Academy. I had no idea about middle school teaching! But I went into this fifth grade math class and realized that was what I was put on earth to do. I helped out with discipline and got my feet wet with having a master teacher in the room.

So, I did that for a year, and then decided to get my Master’s. My wife and I both went to ECU [East Carolina University]. From there, I got a job teaching seventh grade English. I realized that teaching middle school was exactly what I was supposed to do. The weirdness of middle schoolers—that strange stage in life I was so familiar with—pulled me into the field and that group of individuals. I remember the struggles of middle school, and [teaching those students] is the thing I’ve become great at.

Jake Bryson works with middle school students at NEAAAT.

What drew you to NEAAAT and to a public charter school? 

Bryson: I spent most of my career, 15 -17 years, in regular public schools. When I found out about NEAAAT and what they were doing here, it just spoke to me. So, for the last three years, I’ve been working at NEAAAT, and it has rejuvenated me as a teacher. I love what we’re doing and the possibilities of what we can accomplish at a charter school. It blows away what can happen in a traditional public school.

The thing I love the most is the chance we have at a charter school to take risks. It’s okay. It’s messy. We have the freedom to try innovative ways of doing things—to focus on what the kids need rather than all the other stuff you have to deal with in a traditional public school. Our standards-based mastery is something I’ve dreamed about doing as a teacher. It eliminates grading for behaviors, and anything unrelated to “Can this kid do this standard?” I also know if I have an idea, I’m supported in trying it.

NEAAAT recently earned recognition from The Canopy Project for innovation in education. How do you work personally to cultivate an innovative classroom environment for teaching and learning?

Bryson: I’ll give you an example. Earlier this year, our STEM coordinator came to me and said, “There’s this ‘Plant the Moon’ project that we have an option to do. Would you like to do it?” It was in conjunction with NASA and the International Science Competition Committee. They put this on together, and it’s a competition of middle and high schoolers trying to grow plants in a simulated moon regolith. We got bags and bags of moon dirt. I took a day with my father, and we built greenhouses that were in the hallway outside my classroom with grow lights and plants.

NEAAAT students take a turn growing plants in moon dirt.

For eight weeks, we focused on trying to grow plants in moon dirt in my class! It took over what we were doing. I was able to take a lot of the standards we were supposed to cover and incorporate them into the “Plant the Moon” project. But I threw out the traditional pacing guide and tried to rebuild the curriculum back around this giant project because of how much of our class it took up.

The principals were all supportive. For two straight months, we had greenhouses in the hallway outside my classroom with plants growing, dying, and being replanted. We had moon dirt around the classroom, and water and fertilizer right inside the school building. The kids loved it. They were super excited every day to come to class and look at their plants—and think about the next steps for their projects. I saw kids come up with solutions I had never thought of, which showed me: This is the way to do it.

Canopy called out NEAAAT’s focus on students working with industry experts as an “exemplar” for other schools. Why is real-world learning so valuable for students?

Bryson: The big key word is relevancy. The kids start to realize they aren’t sitting here learning a math formula or memorizing scientific terms. For “Plant the Moon,” one of the things we looked at is this: Why would we need to start growing crops on the moon? What are the issues we’re facing? We looked at what’s happening on Planet Earth. As part of “Plant the Moon” outreach, they brought a temporary planetarium into our cafeteria. It’s a weird air-inflated planetarium with a light show at the bottom of it. My kids came in and they watched a presentation about the Artemis missions that are going up the next couple of years. The reason it was so important is that NASA is using some of the data we have collected to try and grow plants on the moon so they can start to have a permanent colony. They can produce their own food and it will make oxygen and a small amount of water.

We studied the Artemis missions there, too. We had some of the scientists come in and talk online to us; they are going to be the people growing the plants on the moon. The kids could see that what they were doing as we went through this project wasn’t just something limited to school. This was a world-changing project. Some of their ideas and data we’ve collected will help make decisions.  The more I sold the kids on the idea that data collection was super important—because NASA was going to use data to make good decisions—the more those kids focused on collecting clean, pure data. They got excited every day to measure precisely; they felt they were having an impact on the world itself. When you see that the stuff you’re learning in school matters outside of school, it makes things lock in so much more. This could actually change the world!

You presented recently to an international audience at the Carnegie Summit for the Improvement of Education. Could you share key ideas from your message to that audience?

Bryson: My idea was to take improvement science and focus that on our MTSS [Multi-tiered Systems of Support] Tier 3 students, who are the 1-5% most challenging students we deal with.

I’ve always done a lot of conferencing with students—sitting down and talking about their actions and how they impact other people. But I’ve never tried to quantify it.  Two years ago, I went to Carnegie Institute, which is all about improvement science, and I started to develop this idea of trying to quantify conferencing. I took individual conferences in which students and I came up with an improvement plan, and I asked them to identify three specific actions they do that most impact other students’ learning.

Jake Bryson and other educators attend the 2024 Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education in March 2024. Photo credits: Jake Bryson.

Then, we tried to figure out how much time each of those behaviors—arguing with the teacher, misusing equipment, or getting out of their seat to see what their best friends were doing—took away from the class’s learning. We talked about how much that harms other kids’ learning, and we tried to track and minimize the amount of time those distractions took up. Our end result is to look at our EOG [End of Grade] scores this year. My theory is that we could use the EOG scores to show impacts that these MTSS Tier 3 kids are having on the school. Here’s the craziest thing: When I have conferences with these kids now, they all say the same thing: “Coach Bryson, when are the EOGs? I can’t wait to take the EOGs!” They aren’t excited about taking the EOGs. They’re excited to see how their impact has increased everyone else’s scores.

So, I made a poster about this program and how I had developed it from last year’s conference to bring it to this year’s conference. I wanted people to stop by my poster at the Carnegie Institute and recognize that everyone could make one small change using improvement science to impact their school. We have a massive impact on everyone around us. When we are positive and helping kids, those scores are going to go up. But if we’re negative, everyone else’s scores are going to go down.

What is your favorite charter school moment?

Bryson: I’ve been here for three years. My number one thing is the investment NEAAAT makes in its teachers. NEAAAT sent a group of teachers to San Diego, California, to learn about improvement science. This was an entire field of science that I wasn’t even aware existed. It isn’t the fact that I got sent to San Diego! It’s the fact that there is a real investment by the school into its employees. They really care about quality employees and making sure they have all the tools to be the best teachers they can be. That’s the number one thing I love about NEAAAT. It makes me so certain about my decision to come to this school.

N.C. Charters Earn Top Spots in New U.S. News High School Ranking

By News

U.S. News & World Report is out with new high school rankings for 2024, and the news is very good for public charter schools!

In North Carolina, public charter schools occupy 14 of the top 50 spots among the state’s leading public high schools.

Here’s the list of those charter schools:

  • Raleigh Charter High School, #4
  • Woods Charter, #5
  • Lake Norman Charter, #15
  • Research Triangle High School, #17
  • Triangle Math & Science Academy, #18
  • Pine Lake Prep, #21
  • NC Leadership Academy, #24
  • Eno River Academy, #27
  • Gray Stone Day, #28
  • Community School of Davidson, #29
  • Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, #30
  • Henderson Collegiate, #35
  • Oxford Prep, #40
  • The Hawbridge School, #49

Congratulations to these schools, and especially to Coalition member schools!

Read more:

Q City Metro: ‘The importance of black male teachers’

By News

Sugar Creek Charter School, a Coalition member school, is the subject of a new Q City Metro article addressing the importance of Black male teachers in the classroom. At Sugar Creek, 15% of the teachers are Black men, compared to the national average of 2%.

The article includes comments from some amazing charter leaders and teachers: Coalition founder Richard Vinroot, Sugar Creek Superintendent Cheryl Turner–and teachers Ryan Henderson and Kareem Benson. (If you missed it, you can read our Q&A with Ryan Henderson, the 2023 N.C. Charter School Teacher of the Year, here.)

Ryan Henderson was honored as the 2023 Charter School Teacher of the Year at Sugar Creek Charter School. Photo credit: Ryan Henderson.

We share an excerpt from the article below:

The percentage of Black men who teach in U.S. schools is low. The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans says Black teachers represent 7% of the teaching workforce, and Black men account for 2% of teachers nationwide. The initiative works to improve educational outcomes for Black Americans of all ages and is part of the U.S. Department of Education. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools says nearly 8% of its teachers self-identify as Black men.

At Sugar Creek Charter, 15% of the teaching staff are Black men.

Henderson, who has been at Sugar Creek Charter for six years, knows he teaches students more than coursework. He strives to serve as a daily example and offer a supportive ear.

“When you have the opportunity to have a strong Black male teacher in the classroom, giving positive reinforcement and knowledge that you can use for the rest of your life, it makes a huge difference in how a child will turn out,” he says.

Read the full article on Q City Metro. Congratulations to Sugar Creek on this well-deserved spotlight!