A deeper dive on state reading results

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A majority of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders were not proficient on state reading tests last year. Those worrisome findings, shared with NC State Board of Education members last week, came from the 2020-21 Read to Achieve Data Report. Such findings are not for accountability purposes, since that was waived due to the pandemic. Instead, findings are intended to help educators deploy resources for this 2021-22 school year.

Here’s how the numbers stacked up

First graders:
  • 38.5% read at grade level
  • 61.5% did not read at grade level
Second graders:
  • 43.1% read at grade level
  • 56.9% did not read at grade level
Overall, less than one-third of 1st and 2nd grade students who were eligible for priority enrollment in reading camp attended.

Source: Presentation to the State Board of Education from Amy Rhyne, Director of the Office of Early Learning at the NC Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI)

Third graders:
  • 43.7% were proficient on the Beginning-of-Grade (BOG) ELA/Reading Test, the End-of-Grade (EOG) ELA/Reading Test, or the EOG ELA/Reading Re-test.
  • 56.3% were not proficient on any of the above tests.

Overall, slightly less than half (46.3%) of 3rd graders who were eligible for priority enrollment in reading camp attended.

Source: NC DPI

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said, “Those numbers are really hard to hear … We must change this trajectory and we must use science and data to do it.”
Find the presentation here. Learn more about the new reading data from EdNC.

Apply for student fellowships through the Bill of Rights Institute

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In this post, you can find information about the Bill of Rights Institute‘s inaugural Student Fellowship. BRI describes the fellowship as a “year-round educational program that helps students develop their skills in building civil society.”

Program purpose and details

The Fellowship is open to high school juniors and seniors, ages 15 to 18. BRI will choose 10 students to participate in 2021-22. Programming begins in November and runs through June. What will the program entail? BRI notes:

“The fellowship includes a curriculum of learning and dialogue in the great ideas of leadership and citizenship and will provide opportunities for published writing and media exposure.”
The Fellowship will culminate in a weekend in Washington, DC (paid for by scholarship). Find the program flyer with FAQs here. Interested students should apply by October 28th. Questions? Contact Rachel Davison Humphries at

STOP award deadline extended until October 31

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In this post, we share an important update about the Center for Education Reform‘s new STOP Award. This award seeks to “honor education providers that continued to perform for underserved families during COVID.” Innovative providers may apply for this prize valued at $1 million.

STOP application timeline extended

CER has extended the application deadline for this award!  So, you have more time to apply.

Click on the image from CER to visit the award site.

Visit the award site to learn more. Email or call 202.750.0016 with any questions.
The application window now closes on Sunday, October 31st.

2021 YRBS participation is voluntary, not mandatory

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In this post, we share important clarification about the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. YRBS administration is taking place between September and December 2021 in schools across the state. Survey findings are expected to inform policy and program decisions.

Schools: YRBS participation is voluntary

Schools should know, however, that YRBS participation is voluntary, not mandatory. Such autonomy was clarified in a September 24 statement about the YRBS from the Department of Public Instruction. In addition, the statement encouraged schools to provide parents with timely notification so they could decide whether or not to opt their children out of the survey.
Karen Fairley, Executive Director of the Center for Safer Schools at DPI, wrote:
“Although schools are randomly selected with consideration that, collectively, reflect the demographics of the state, schools have the choice to not participate in the survey.
“We appreciate that some of the questions in the survey may be considered sensitive, overly probing, or not in alignment with everyone’s values, perspectives, or beliefs … [It] is important that schools notify parents in a timely manner, allowing parents the ability to determine if they want their children to opt-out of participating in the survey.”

Learn more

  • Find the middle school survey here and the high school survey here.
  • Access national questionnaires from the CDC here.

Reminder: Apply by October 6 for the $1 M STOP award

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Charter schools, you still have time to apply for the new $1 million STOP Award. The application closes at 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, October 6. As a reminder, this new award, which is sponsored by the Center for Education Reform in partnership with a CER board member and philanthropist, is for an education provider that “continued to perform for underserved families during COVID.” The winner receives a $1 million cash prize that is paid in three installments.

What does STOP stand for?

Education should have been provided in a setting that is:
  • Sustainable
  • Transformational
  • Outstanding
  • Permissionless

Learn more

Visit the award site to learn more about how CER defines these four terms. The site has a section that answers numerous FAQs. Applicants with additional questions can email or call 202.750.0016. Applicants will be notified within a week of submission if they are under consideration for the award.

A national scorecard highlights areas of charter growth

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What makes for a successful state charter movement? The Center for Education Reform has sought to answer this question since 1996, through a detailed scorecard. As a result, the group knows what works–and what doesn’t. The 2021 scorecard offers the latest look at how state laws are helping or harming the charter movement.

A national scorecard ranks the states

Here’s the scorecard for 2021. Click on the screenshot image to take a closer look, or click here to read the write-up.

Center for Education Reform: National Charter School Law Rankings & Scorecard–2021

What makes for a winner?

Here’s the fundamental idea from CER:

The simple and original principle of charter schooling is that charter schools should receive enhanced operational autonomy in exchange for being held strictly accountable for the outcomes they promise to achieve. When charter school laws honor this principle, innovative, academically excellent charter schools flourish. In turn, schools that fail to produce strong outcomes close.

How does NC’s charter movement stack up?

North Carolina ranks 13th in the 2021 scorecard, unchanged from 2020. NC does well on the issue of growth. But, the state has plenty of room for improvement. What would help? North Carolina loses significant points, for instance, for funding inequity, constraints on autonomy, and issues related to charter authorizers. (CER advocates for multiple, independent authorizers.)

Secrets for success

What promotes charter success in any state? CER sums up:

… [C]harter school success depends on the policy environments in which charter schools operate. Some state laws and regulations encourage diversity and innovation in the charter sector by providing multiple authorizers to support charter schools and allowing charters real operational autonomy …

… Too many states, however, hamper charter schools with weak laws and needless regulations. These make it difficult to distinguish charters from their district counterparts.

Share the basics about charter schools with CER’s Charter FAQs.

Welcoming new schools as Coalition members!

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We have exciting Coalition news to share! All of our member schools have renewed for the 2021-22 school year. Welcome back, Coalition member schools. Thank you for your trust and confidence in us.

Welcoming 8 new member schools

In addition, we extend a warm welcome to our new school members. Eight NC charter schools have just joined the Coalition:
As a result, the Coalition now counts 62 NC charter schools as members. Thank you, all, for your partnership with us. We are grateful and we look forward to working together in the year ahead.

Sallie B. Howard named National Blue Ribbon School

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Congratulations to Sallie B. Howard School of Arts & Science in Wilson! A public charter school and a Coalition member, Sallie B. was named a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School today. Nationwide, Sallie B. was one of 325 schools commended for exemplary performance.

Graphic: U.S. Department of Education

Access the pdf graphic here or click on the map image.

Fifteen public charter schools win Blue Ribbon Awards nationwide

In addition, Sallie B. is one of 15 public charter schools across the country to win the award. Find the list of charter school honorees here. We are so proud of Sallie B.’s accomplishments on behalf of charter school students in North Carolina!

Eight NC schools earn top honors in 2021

Blue Ribbon schools earn honors for their overall performance or for their success in closing achievement gaps over the past five years. Sallie B. was one of three N.C. schools to earn the award in the achievement gap category.

Here are the three NC winners in the achievement gap category:
  • Blue Ridge Elementary School
  • Sallie B. Howard School of Arts & Science
  • Sampson Early College High School
Here are the five N.C. winners in the overall performance category:
  • Brush Creek Elementary School
  • Elkin Middle School
  • Pearsontown Elementary School
  • Pender Early College High School
  • Union Elementary School

About the Blue Ribbon Award

Here’s the description of the Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education:

“The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content.  Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools.”

Learn more about all of the award winners here.

Read today’s press releases about the award from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the U.S. Department of Education.


State Superintendent releases plan for NC’s public schools

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Yesterday, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt released her strategic plan for the state’s public schools. It’s called “Operation Polaris,” and it captures her vision for improving student outcomes.

The Superintendent’s plan pivots around learning recovery, given the widespread learning loss from the pandemic. The Department of Public Instruction noted in a press release:

“The focal point for Operation Polaris is the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration, launched earlier this year to serve districts and schools with support in making evidence-based decisions to help students overcome the impact of lost instructional time and also accelerate their learning. The new office will work in tandem with four key areas within DPI: literacy, student support services, accountability and testing and human capital.” 

In her statement, Superintendent Truitt said:

“The disruptions to education caused by the pandemic demand an urgent and effective response, but we must not miss this opportunity to rethink and retool our strategies for teaching and learning to ensure a sound, basic education for all students.” 

Find the Operation Polaris report here.

Read more from EdNC and WRAL.

Another call to action on 2021-22 hold harmless provisions

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In this post, we share more information about our ongoing push for ADM hold harmless provisions. As we mentioned in last week’s call to action, numerous charter schools have experienced unexpected drops in enrollment this fall as a result of the COVID Delta variant and the uncertainty families feel. Moreover, charters were not authorized to provide planned virtual instruction until August 30.

What we’re doing

We’re pushing on a couple of fronts. First, we’re working with leadership at the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. We are asking leaders to treat charters like district schools for 2021-22 funding. This would mean basing funding on the best of Day 20 OR Day 40 ADM counts. Second, we’re working with General Assembly leaders, urging them to use COVID relief funds to hold public schools harmless in the state budget for 2021-22 ADM.
But, we need your help too!

A Call to Action

Please contact Appropriations Committee Chairs in both chambers (listed below). Ask them to hold public schools harmless in the state budget for 2021-22 ADM. Share this information with parents in your school community.
You can educate parents about what will happen to your school if public schools are not held harmless for 2021-22. Then, they can take action on their own. Lawmakers need to hear directly from you and parents in your community about potential impacts for your school!
We have talking points for you as well. If you prefer to send an email, you can access sample email text from last week’s call to action.

General Assembly leaders to contact

House Appropriations Committee
919.715.3007 and 704.282.0418
House Appropriations/Education Committee
919.733.5865 and 336.625.9210
919.733.5868 and 704.263.9282
Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee
Senate Appropriations/Education/Higher Education Committee
In addition, feel free to reach out to lawmakers who represent you directly–or to those you know personally. Find your legislators here.

Talking points

Causes of significant drops in ADM for 2021-22
  • The COVID Delta variant has fueled major changes in K-12 enrollment that schools could not have foreseen. Such changes were not clear in June when public schools provided 2021-22 ADM projections.
  • Authorization to offer virtual instruction for 2021-22 did not come until August 30. This occurred after most schools had begun the academic year. Enrollments have been impacted significantly by families leaving charter schools for a remote learning option.
  • Because public schools must follow mask mandates from local public health departments, numerous parents have opted this fall for home schools or private schools.
Why ADM hold harmless provisions for 2021-22 are essential
  • Preserving capacity for students and sustainability for schools hinges on sufficient funding for 2021-22. Drastic reductions in funding will lead to long-term consequences that will not be easily undone.
  • We do not want schools to be in the position of having to downsize staff or lower enrollment caps. We expect that students and families will come back, and we must be ready for them when they return. Please ensure that charter and district schools are held harmless in the state budget for 2021-22 ADM.