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Share input on the state’s redesign of school performance grades

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Don’t miss your chance to share input as the state revises school performance grades! The Department of Public Instruction is soliciting input from charter leaders on the new model. Here is a portion of the note to charter leaders from Assistant Superintendent Andrew Smith in this week’s Office of Charter Schools newsletter:

 … To ensure you have the opportunity to learn about the process and provide input on the model, we are holding three optional informational/feedback sessions in the month of December.  If you are able, we would love to have you attend a session, provide feedback, and learn more about the process.  Virtual meeting links will be sent to school leaders the week of November 28th.

Information/feedback sessions are on:

  • December 5, 2022, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
  • December 15, 2022, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • December 20, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Learn more about the advisory group that is redesigning school performance grades here. Read about charter leader John Marshall’s appointment to the advisory group here.

New 2022 charter enrollment numbers show parents want options

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New numbers from the Department of Public Instruction, showing 2022 Average Daily Membership (ADM), confirm that parents want choices in public education. Enrollment in N.C. public charter schools grew by 6.4% between 2021 and 2022, and by 19.2% between 2019 and 2022. See the article from EdNC with analysis about the new data, including K-12 enrollment trends.

Coalition statement on charter growth

The Coalition has been working to spread the news about charter growth and the good work that charter schools do. Read the Coalition’s press release about the state’s new charter numbers here. Several media outlets picked up Coalition Executive Director Lindalyn Kakadelis’s statement on charter growth. Read articles in Carolina Journal, The Center Square, and The Mountaineer.

We share a screenshot below from EdNC’s article, showing charter enrollment growth during the pandemic.

Coalition Welcomes Vance Charter School as New Member

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We’re so pleased to welcome Vance Charter School to the Coalition! The Coalition now counts 73 public charter schools as members.

A K-12 school located in Henderson, Vance Charter emphasizes the Core Knowledge curriculum. The school offers a STEAM program in middle school and Advanced Placement as well as Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways in high school. Watch a video about Vance Charter School here or click on the image below.
See the latest list of Coalition member schools here.

Why choose a charter school? A longtime educator explains

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Angela Brooks, charter parent and administrator:

‘I was looking for more’ 

Angela Brooks’ soft-spoken demeanor belies her passion for shaping students’ minds. The dean of secondary education at Pinnacle Classical Academy in Shelby, Angela launched her career in 2004 at a Gaston County public school. As a high school history teacher, she often taught students nearing the end of their K-12 studies. She noticed some were better prepared, especially the students who previously attended a nearby charter school.

“Those students seemed to have a really great foundation,” Angela says. “They stood out above some of the other students.”

That got her thinking. Still, she and her husband were busy raising their own children, Will and Amy. Both attended the local elementary school. A precocious reader, Amy completed classwork easily, turning to books to fill the school day. Teachers were great, Angela says—but challenges were scant.

What to do? When Pinnacle launched in 2013, Angela leapt at the opportunity to teach at the new charter school. She quickly signed on as a fifth-grade teacher, enrolling Will and Amy in first and third grades. “I loved the experience I had when I was in a public school,” she reflects. “But I was looking for more—as an educator and a parent.”

Angela Brooks and her daughter, Amy, outside Pinnacle Classical Academy in Shelby, North Carolina. Photo credit: Angela Brooks.

Building on a strong foundation

She found more at Pinnacle. Angela was most intrigued by the rich, college preparatory curriculum, taught within the classical tradition. At Pinnacle, students master core knowledge, tackling rigorous texts. Accelerated coursework pays off: Over half of Pinnacle’s seniors earn an associate degree along with a high school diploma.

Angela also relished the dual challenges of shaping a school even as she shaped students’ minds. “I really wanted to be part of building this new school,” she says. “I was inspired by being able to teach students foundational things at an elementary level, and then building on that as they grew.”

Free markets fuel innovation  

As she closes in on a decade at Pinnacle, Angela is reflective about the benefits of the charter model. She prizes charter flexibility, especially for the freedom it gives her to choose curriculum. Moreover, she sees benefits that reach beyond the confines of her charter school. “That free market idea has helped better educate all students in the county, not just the students here at Pinnacle,” she says. “It keeps everybody looking for what is best for students.”

Educational choice has also created options for families. “It’s hard for working-class and lower-income families specifically to be able to choose a school where tuition is going to be a factor,” she says. “And that’s one of the areas we excel at, in terms of test scores. Our lower income demographic tends to do very well here—better than in the county.”

Shaping students’ minds—again   

Amy, that erstwhile third grader with her nose in a book, is poised to graduate from Pinnacle this spring. She is honing her leadership skills and planning her own role in education. Last spring, State Superintendent Truitt tapped Amy to serve a two-year term on a Student Advisory Council, the only charter student in the state to do so.  “I really enjoyed it over the past year,” Amy says. “My favorite part was being able to travel to Raleigh and meet the Superintendent and the department heads at DPI and talk to them about our ideas.”

What’s next? Amy doesn’t know yet where she’ll go to college. But she’s sure about what she hopes to study. Like her mother, she wants to shape students’ minds. “I would like to get a degree in elementary education,” she says.  Stay tuned.

Coalition Member School NEAAAT Wins Coding Grant

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Congratulations to Northeast Academy for Advanced and Aerospace Technologies (NEAAAT)! A Coalition member school in Elizabeth City, NEAAAT is the state’s only public charter school to win a new grant to develop students’ computer science skills through coding. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt announced the grant winners earlier today in a press release. Along with NEAAAT, 12 school districts will receive the grants this year.

NEAAAT also won a coding grant in 2021. Read here about the charter school’s use of that grant.

Boosting students’ STEM skills through coding and business partnerships

Begun in 2017, the Coding and Mobile App Development Grant Program is funded by the N.C. General Assembly. (See statute here.) It seeks to boost the STEM skills of middle and high school students, leveraging partnerships with local businesses.  Students benefit from coursework as well as work-based learning. Last year, around 8,500 students participated in the program.

Here’s the description of grant awards from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction:

The grants, which range from nearly $80,000 to $25,000 this year, help districts and schools purchase equipment, digital materials and cover the costs associated with teacher professional development to build capacity in coding, computer science and mobile application development initiatives.

… Partnerships include a variety of business and industry connections across the state, including such companies and organizations as STEM West, Sesame Technologies, Lee Chevrolet, Innovation Barn, Google Data Center, Stemerald City, LLC, Esports Performance Academy, Winston-Salem State University, and VectorCSP.

Here’s the list of grant recipients from DPI:

Source: N.C. Department of Public Instruction, “13 Districts and Schools Earn $800,000 in Coding and Mobile App Grants,” November 10, 2022 press release.

 

Election Day Resources for Charter Supporters

By Election 2022, News

Since it’s Election Day, we’re sharing some final voter education resources. If you haven’t voted yet, please do so today!

What’s at stake for N.C. voters  in the 2022 Election?

Here’s a recap from EdNC:

Voters this year will get the chance to choose their state lawmakers, two Supreme Court and four Court of Appeals judges, and various local judges, sheriffs, and county commissioners across the state. Voters will also pick someone to serve in one U.S. Senate seat, and 14 U.S. House seats.

Voter education resources for N.C. charter supporters

The Coalition has a number of nonpartisan resources to educate voters about the candidates and public charter schools. You can find our list of recommended candidates here. These are candidates seeking N.C. General Assembly seats who support the Coalition’s goals of charter autonomy and fair funding. Wonder how the Coalition chose candidates to recommend? See our Guidelines for Candidate Recommendations, approved by the Coalition Board. We also encourage you to view the responses of more than 100 candidates to our charter questionnaire. Find responses here.

Resources from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

In addition, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has developed an education voters’ guide. The Alliance has also created a website with easy ways to check voter registration status, polling location, and more. Find that here.

New Poll Heralds High Parent Turnout at the Polls This Year

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A recent poll from the National Parents Union heralds high parent turnout in this year’s election. The poll found, for instance, that 82% of parents are “extremely or very likely” to vote on Tuesday. Moreover, investment in this election is unusually high. Fifty-nine percent of parents say they are more motivated to vote this year than in past mid-term elections. The poll assessed over 1,000 registered voters who are parents of school-age children.

The economy is top of mind, but parents are quite concerned about K-12 education

The key driver for parents this year? The economy. That issue dwarfs all others by wide margins. However, parents have numerous concerns about K-12 education. Their top three issues are school safety, readiness for the future, and mental health. For example:

  • 67% of parents are “extremely” or “very concerned” about “how schools are addressing the threat of violence.”
  • 66% are “extremely” or “very concerned” about “how schools are preparing students for the future.”
  • 63% are “extremely” or “very concerned” about “how schools are addressing students’ mental health and emotional needs.”

Access the poll’s topline findings.

Additional 2022 election resources for parent voters

View the Education Voters’ Guide from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (Read more about election resources here.)

Review the Coalition’s 2022 Candidate Recommendations or Candidate Surveys. The Coalition’s candidate recommendations are non-partisan and are based on a candidate’s support for charter autonomy and fair funding.

New Tool Allows Users to Track Per Pupil Expenditures by School

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BEST NC has unveiled a new tool that allows users to track per-pupil expenditures in N.C. between 2018 and 2021. Called the “Per Pupil Expenditure Interactive Data Explorer,” the web-based tool features data on both district and public charter schools. Moreover, users can study funding trends at the school level, within school districts, or even across districts, according to BEST NC.

Public charter schools are shortchanged on local dollars

A quick look at the data confirms what charter leaders have long known: Public charter schools receive considerably less local funding compared to district schools. In 2020-21, for instance, average per-pupil expenditures at public charter schools represented about 63% of per-pupil expenditures at district schools, based on local funding.

Here’s a screenshot from BEST NC showing the difference:

Source: Best NC, “Per Pupil Expenditure Interactive Data Explorer.”

View Best NC’s announcement here. Read an article about the tool from EdNC.

The Wall Street Journal Recognizes N.C. 4th Graders for NAEP Performance

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Fourth grade students in N.C. charter schools significantly outperformed non-charter students on a recent national test. That finding, from new 2022 results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has attracted attention from national media. In fact, earlier this week The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board cited N.C. charter performance as another reason to favor school choice.

Here’s how the Editorial Board summed up findings:

The NAEP results support the case for school choice. Charter school performance was uneven, but in at least 11 states charter fourth graders outperformed their non-charter counterparts in math in 2022, including in Alaska (+16 points), Nevada (+12 points) and North Carolina (+21 points). NAEP says reporting standards were not met for a charter comparison in 22 states.

Read the full article from The Wall Street Journal: (“The School Lockdown Catastrophe”).

View an earlier Coalition blog post on national findings. We’ll have more analysis for you on this blog in the coming days about the overall performance of N.C. charter students on NAEP.

New NAEP scores reveal historic learning loss

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New test results released yesterday show the full scope of learning loss from the pandemic. Scores from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “The Nation’s Report Card,”  reveal historic declines in math and significant drops in reading performance. The new NAEP scores are the first to be released since the pandemic, and measure performance changes since 2019. Students in both 4th and 8th grades took the tests.

Peggy Carr, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which released the scores report, called it “a serious wake-up call for us all.” (Read more in this AP news story.) She added, “In NAEP, when we experience a 1- or 2-point decline, we’re talking about it as a significant impact on a student’s achievement. In math, we experienced an 8-point decline — historic for this assessment.”

What are key takeaways from the new results?

In North Carolina:

Scores declined across the board–in both grades and subjects.

  • Math scores tumbled 10 points for 8th graders and 5 points for 4th graders.
  • Reading scores dropped 7 points for 8th graders and 5 points for 4th graders.
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, one of the urban districts participating in NAEP, posted its lowest scores on record for basic skills. Read more about CMS’s performance from WSOC-TV.
Nationwide:
  • In 4th grade math, scores decreased in 43 states/jurisdictions. Scores in 10 states did not change significantly between 2019 and 2022.
  • Eighth grade math marked the grade and subject with the greatest disruption. Scores dropped in 51 states and jurisdictions.  Only students in Utah and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) did not show significant negative change.
  • In 4th grade reading, scores declined in 30 states/jurisdictions. Scores in 22 states did not change significantly.
  • In 8th grade reading, scores dropped in 33 states/jurisdictions. Scores in 18 states did not shift significantly. In DoDEA schools, scores increased.

In a press release about the results, Commissioner Carr said:

The results show the profound toll on student learning during the pandemic, as the size and scope of the declines are the largest ever in mathematics. The results also underscore the importance of instruction and the role of schools in both students’ academic growth and their overall wellbeing. It’s clear we all need to come together—policymakers and community leaders at every level—as partners in helping our educators, children, and families succeed.