State charter school board recommends changes to annual report
Posted January 12, 2016
Updated January 13, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — The state Charter Schools Advisory Board recommended several changes to a draft of the annual charter schools report Tuesday, saying it needs to highlight more positives about the schools and better explain some of the technical issues with the data included in the report.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest criticized the report at last week's State Board of Education meeting, calling it too "negative" and said he wanted the advisory board to review it before it was sent to the legislature. The state board agreed to delay voting on the report until February.
Adam Levinson, interim director of the State Office of Charter Schools, presented the draft report to the advisory board Tuesday and said he was glad to have more time to work on it and get input. However, he said, the original draft of the report was "straightforward, somewhat dry" and "not intended to be an advocacy piece or critique."
"We took great pains to streamline the report and to make sure this draft did not contain judgments," he said.
During the meeting, advisory board members suggested several changes to the report, including:
- Highlight more positives about charter schools. "Start with the positive, always, and then do the negative," said board member Phyllis Gibbs.
- Include a list of accolades the charter schools have received.
- Include data about charter schools' wait lists, with the caveat that individual students may be on wait lists at several schools.
- Expand and clarify footnotes below the data to explain that some of the statistics are not easily verified or are compiled differently among schools.
One of the board's main concerns with the report was the section on economically disadvantaged students in charter schools versus traditional public schools. The report found that charter schools serve fewer poor students than traditional schools.
Board members said it's not easy to compare them, explaining that some charters don't have accurate data because they don't participate in federal programs, which require that information to be verified, or because some parents don't want to provide income information, which affects the results.
Lee Teague, director of public relations and grassroots development for the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association, emailed the board members before Tuesday's meeting with a list of seven questions and concerns about the report, many of which were brought up during the meeting.
"We’ve had problems with this report for years, that the data is not reliable," Teague said. "I think (the Department of Public Instruction) does the best job they can in collecting this data. I think the report needs to state clearly that this data is as accurate as we can get but is not 100 percent reliable."
Levinson, whose office authored the report, said the advisory board's requests are "relatively minor additions" and "reasonable" changes. He will update the report and send it to the state school board for a vote at its next meeting in February. If approved, it will be sent to the legislature.