NC Coalition for Charter Schools Archives - Page 2 of 9 - North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools

TMSA Students Recognized at NC General Assembly

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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

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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.

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

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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:

NBC News Analyzes Declining Public School Enrollment Nationwide

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NBC News has published a 10-year analysis of public school enrollment, showing public schools are losing K-12 market share across the nation. Between 2012-2022, for instance, public school enrollment dropped in every state except Delaware and Rhode Island, with the enrollment downturn occurring despite population growth. NBC ties the shift to the national proliferation of school choice programs and initiatives, including charter schools. However, NBC inaccurately and unfortunately positions charter schools as an “alternative” to “public schools.” In fact, charter schools are public schools. They are not private schools, so they are not part of education “privatization” efforts–and they are open to all students, just like district public schools.

Here are some key takeaways from NBC’s report:

Between 2012-2022, the share of children ages 5-17 attending public schools nationwide declined by nearly 4%, from 90.7% to 87%. Some states, including North Carolina, experienced much larger “public school” enrollment decreases during this 10-year timeframe. Here are the states experiencing the largest declines:

  • Kentucky: -7.73%
  • South Carolina: -7.35%
  • Alaska: -6.88%
  • Mississippi: -6.78%
  • Florida: -6.53%
  • Idaho: -6%
  • West Virginia: -5.75%
  • Montana: -5.72%
  • North Carolina: -5.64%
  • Alabama: -5.6%

North Carolina’s changing K-12 sector

NBC does not report enrollment trends in the one public schooling sector in North Carolina that has grown dramatically: public charter schools. Between 2012-2022, the same timeframe NBC News studied, N.C. public charter enrollment shot up 175%. More recently, between 2019-2022, public charter enrollment in North Carolina increased 19%, as the state’s Office of Charter Schools has noted.

A shift in what parents want in education

The report makes clear what other previous studies have affirmed, which is that parent preferences have changed–with education sectors outside district public schools scooping up K-12 market share, as we have noted before. Notably, however, parents are leaving public schools even in states without a robust school choice environment. For example, Kentucky, which has the largest share in the nation of students exiting public schools, does not provide families with publicly-funded school choice programs. Lawmakers have sought to create such opportunities, but legislation creating a way to fund charter schools was struck down in December; in addition, the state Supreme Court has ruled against education tax credits. Instead, parents are leaving Kentucky public schools for home or private schools, which account for around 15% of the state’s K-12 population, according to a 2022 report from EdChoice Kentucky.

NBC’s map of public school enrollment declines nationwide:

Read the full report on NBC News.


NEAAAT Earns Innovation Honors from the Canopy Project

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Congratulations to Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies (NEAAAT)! The Elizabeth City public charter school and Coalition member school is one of 10 North Carolina public schools (including three charter schools) recently honored by the Canopy Project for innovation in education. Other honoree schools in North Carolina include lab and district schools.

About the Canopy Project

The Canopy Project is an initiative from the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Transcend Education. The 10 North Carolina schools are among 189 schools nationwide to make Canopy’s 2024 list and to be included in the project’s database.

NEAAAT students at work. Photo credit: Facebook, Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies.

  • Click here to go to Canopy’s searchable database and learn more about NEAAAT’s achievements.
  • View the portal guide.
  • Read more from EdNC or The 74.
Congratulations to NEAAAT CEO Andrew Harris and to the entire NEAAAT school community! We’re proud of you and your achievement.

It’s FASTAR® Championship Week at Classical Charter Schools of America

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For Classical Charter Schools of America, it’s FASTAR® Championship Week! FASTAR® is a fun academic competition assessing rapid recall of math and reading skills–with an obvious nod to NASCAR (can’t miss those checkered flags!). According to CCS-A, two of the four North Carolina schools have finished early FASTAR® competition already: CCS-Whiteville and CCS-Wilmington. CCS-Leland competes today, while CCS-Southport launches tomorrow. Competition culminates in next Wednesday’s “Race of Champions.”

Student winners receive trophies after qualifying races are over. Roger Bacon Academy, which partners with CCS-A, developed the clever competition, re-purposing the lingo of NASCAR into new roles for academic pit crews, crew chiefs, timing trials, and more. Watch a CCS-A video about FASTAR® here.

Here’s the update from CCS-A’s newsletter today:

CCS-America students competing in the annual FASTAR® (Fluent Academic Skills Tournament in Arithmetic and Reading) competition will race to the finish line this week, with the Race of Champions scheduled for next Wednesday, April 24th. CCS-Whiteville and CCS-Wilmington checkered-flag champions have completed their preliminaries after two exciting race days filled with close competition!

Congratulations to these Coalition member schools! We share pictures below from Classical Charter Schools-Whiteville and Classical Charter Schools-Wilmington.

Above and immediately below: Students from CCS-Whiteville at FASTAR 2024. Photo credit: Facebook, CCS-Whiteville.

Above and below: Students from CCS-Wilmington at FASTAR 2024. Photo credit: Facebook, CCS-Wilmington.

Q&A with Erica Nielsen, Charter One’s Student Data Expert

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An expert on student information systems shares what parents and schools can expect from North Carolina’s conversion to Infinite Campus

Erica Nielsen is the student information systems (SIS) director for Charter One, an education management organization that partners with public charter schools in North Carolina as well as other states. She has extensive experience working with student data, and she currently serves on the steering committee for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) Phase One of SIS modernization efforts. 

Kristen Blair, the Coalition’s communications director, spoke with Erica to learn more about what parents and school leaders can expect with North Carolina’s upcoming SIS conversion to Infinite Campus. Conversion is occurring as a result of a state law, which mandates SIS modernization in the state’s public schools. (Read more about that here.) One-third of North Carolina’s public schools launched Phase One implementation in February and will use Infinite Campus for the upcoming 2024-25 school year. All other North Carolina public schools will convert from PowerSchool to Infinite Campus by July 2025.  

It’s great to talk with you! Could you tell us about your background, and how you became involved with student information systems?

Erica Nielsen is the SIS director for Charter One, an education management organization. Photo credit: Erica Nielsen.

Erica Nielsen: It’s all by chance. I worked in hospitality through my first degree, which was a BS in Health Promotion, and I carried two to three jobs for a very long time, one in education at a private school, ending up as the admissions director. I left to complete my master’s in educational leadership, later stumbling on an opportunity to work for an IT firm on CRM (customer relationship management) and Microsoft products, staffing, and software development. That’s when I learned that education is my passion. I stayed on with the IT firm part-time but decided to go back to education.

I looked specifically at American Leadership Academy (ALA). They were bold about leadership being part of their core values and combining this with excellent academics. I interviewed them seven times before I took the position! I eventually ended up on the student information systems team because of my background with software. I already had a lot of experience with data, and in a school setting, too. I ended up leading the department, and that was over 10 years ago. Eventually, we moved into Charter One as a management organization in 2017. We wanted to be able to provide charter school support anywhere—with our mission and vision. So, Charter One came about as a company, and I stayed on. I have been with Charter One this whole time, on the SIS side.

What drew you to the charter sector, specifically?

Nielsen: The biggest thing that stands out to me is the ability to have a choice. I was drawn to ALA specifically because of the leadership component and mission; those are the things that have kept me with the same company.

We don’t choose for families; they get to make the choice for education and we get to partner with them. That’s what has stayed with me all of these years.

What do parents and school leaders need to know as North Carolina prepares for its SIS conversion from PowerSchool to Infinite Campus? What are some of the key benefits and differences Infinite Campus will offer families and schools?


Nielsen: For parents, I’m really excited. I firmly believe Infinite Campus is a far superior system than any other student information system out there. It is more sophisticated with more capabilities, and it has more solutions. No system is perfect; I do recognize that. But in my experience with the different systems we have worked with, this is by far more robust.  What I’m most excited about for parents is that it’s a “one stop shop.” There’s a really easy way to log in to their parent portal. In PowerSchool, parents have to claim their kids and input all of these numbers on each of their kids—and then they can get their family all put together. To me, that’s a lot of work. The transparency that parents get with the parent portal in Infinite Campus is important. Making that streamlined and easier for them is going to give them the resources to be a partner in their student’s education.

A lot of this has to do with the contract DPI created. Infinite Campus has several modules that DPI put into the contract. When parents log in to the parent portal, they have access to grades, attendance, missing assignments—all of what they are used to. In addition, online payments, for example, are part of the contract. Parents can pay fees online through the parent portal as well. It’s almost like an Amazon account. They don’t have to log in to any other system.

The food service module with Infinite Campus is not part of the contract, but if schools implement that, parents can see their kid’s lunch account in the same portal—what they’ve eaten and their balance. They can add money to it. With different plugins over the years, PowerSchool has been able to have solutions, but with Infinite Campus, you don’t have data sync issues. You don’t have multiple vendors for parents to work through.

Schools, teachers, and staff:

On the staff side, DPI has done an incredible job with the contract they’ve created. They’ve included online registration, Messenger, online payments, the LMS (learning management system)—which helps with transferring grades back into the system from options such as Canvas. It really helps teachers and the implementation of academics inside the classroom. The LMS portion of the contract speaks very easily to software such as Canvas. In other states, we’ve had slim to no issues in configuring this for our teachers. With PowerSchool, it has been a really big hurdle. There are going to be some efficiencies in use. The gradebooks are really similar between systems, but there are some better features—it’s ease of access, the views teachers get across the gradebooks. Teachers are definitely going to see an improvement, and I think they will be better equipped.

For the rest of the staff, online registration (OLR) really helps data flow more easily into the system. OLR is a huge component in Infinite Campus that’s going to create a lot of efficiencies. Staff can run transactions at the front desk, parents can pay online—providing ease of use for managing fees and lunch accounts. Messenger is another product in the contract; it’s all real time and it’s all live. When a student comes into the system, there’s no synching that needs to take place. Schools are going to benefit from efficiencies, ease of use, and access to data. I’m excited for staff and what they’ll be able to utilize. It will create a lot of good processes, and it will be faster so schools can take care of the kid in the seat instead of being stuck in administrative processes.

Broadly, what sorts of data does the Department of Public Instruction collect about students, and how are data points used?

 Nielsen: There isn’t anything personal. It’s all statistical data used for growth and performance. Every state has the same goals: How can states better improve their educational systems and track their money? The data they pull is demographic, grade level, and end of year assessments. That’s to identify growth; it’s more about the specific student population rather than individual students. You’ll get a lot of subcategories in there as well, as far as performance and resources.

Those are the data points they’re collecting to help with performance and growth metrics—where you get your school report cards, your graduation rates, dropout rates. Other data points? It’s always funding—making sure the funds are being managed. Every state has a unique way of managing funding and distribution among the schools. Again, it isn’t personal—it’s about each enrolled student and how that funding is going to work.

There is never personal identifying data going back and forth, which is why there are unique identifiers. It’s like your Social Security number; you’re a number. It isn’t about an individual student. It’s about being able to identify growth and progress for the schools and for the state.

How secure is student information?

Nielsen: I love that question. It’s based on the integrity of the organization. I do believe DPI has a lot of integrity and confidentiality in making sure there is a lot of awareness and they’re tied up tight in security. Actually, that is part of the reasoning that Infinite Campus is a better system—they have more integrity with their system than I’ve seen with others, and there are a lot more controls in place that secure data and ensure it stays secure. That’s going to be a benefit for DPI in making sure there’s that security. It comes down to the schools ensuring they follow best practices and that they’re in compliance.

Each organization needs to be aware and progressive in using resources to ensure data security is always there. DPI has that goal. I’ve absolutely seen it from Infinite Campus. I’m confident in our organization. It’s going to be up to the schools to make sure they uphold their side of it.

You’ve been involved in the recent Phase One implementation of Infinite Campus, which launched in February. Could you share your experience with Phase One and your key takeaways as schools prepare for SIS conversion?

Nielsen: A third of the state is moving in Phase One, which will involve a lot of learning for everyone. Phase Two will have some improvements that would have been done in Phase One, had people known. This is a big lift moving an entire state from one system to another. The preparation that schools really need to process through is this: Now is the time to be perfect and accurate with your data. That will make transitioning from one system to another much cleaner and easier to sift through. Trying to clean it up at the last minute or not paying attention to certain data points will bog the process down.

In addition, we can put any system in, but if we don’t utilize training, it won’t matter what system we have. People don’t need to understand the entire system; they need to be very proficient in the area they manage. That’s a big focus. We’ve worked with Infinite Campus over 10 years; they are very knowledgeable on their product and care about the end user experience. They’ve got a lot of great programs and training material, which will help schools prepare. Training will play a huge part in helping to alleviate people’s fears about a new system.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is an important part of this conversation about student data?

 Nielsen: This is such a huge transition. The state has everything from a little charter school—that has to do this on its own, without the backing of a district or education management organization—all the way to a major district or EMO with incredible talent within its teams. DPI is doing its best to keep everything coordinated and keep lines of communication open.

So, take advantage of that and the resources DPI is putting together, in addition to what Infinite Campus has always done really well. Be open-minded and unafraid. That will make it a better experience. Charters—all the way up to district schools—are going to benefit. I am really excited to see this change for North Carolina!

Charter Review Board Hears Update from 2023 Annual Report

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The North Carolina Charter Schools Review Board (CSRB) met yesterday, hearing a presentation on the state’s new 2023 Annual Charter Schools Report. State numbers show a growing and diversifying charter sector–with demand that continues to exceed capacity. Ashley Baquero, the executive director of the Office of Charter Schools, provided the update to CSRB on the new annual report.

Some key takeaways for 2023-24:

  • 210 charter schools are operating across the state during this school year.
  • Charter schools are currently serving 145,975 students, over 10% of the state’s public K-12 enrollment.
  • Charter schools are reporting 85,551 students are on their waitlists.
  • Demographic data reveal a diversifying charter sector, with charter schools enrolling higher percentages of Black and Asian students, as well as students of two or more races, compared to district schools.

Here’s a deeper dive on that charter waitlist data:

  • Over 80% of the state’s charter schools (169 schools) reported waitlists in 2023-24.
  • Nearly 40% of charter schools (83 schools) had waitlists of 200 or more students.
  • Around 18% of charter schools (37 schools) had waitlists of more than 700 students.

Bottom line: More and more North Carolina families are embracing public charter schools for their children. This is an affirmation of the decision lawmakers made over 25 years ago to authorize a system of public charter schools in our state.



United Community School Joins the Coalition

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We’re delighted to welcome United Community School to the Coalition! Located in Charlotte’s university area, the K-8 charter school has just signed on as our newest member.

UCS, which is led by Erika Hedgepeth, focuses on hands-on learning, evidence-based instructional practices, and arts integration. Since 2016, UCS has been a member of North Carolina’s A+ Schools network, which emphasizes the critical role of the arts in teaching and learning. UCS’s mission and philosophy coalesce around the “Four Cs”: Communication, Curriculum, Climate, and Character.

Welcome to the Coalition, United Community School! We’re so glad to partner with you in the year ahead.

Learn more about UCS! Click on the screenshot image below to watch a video on the school’s homepage.