State school board approves revised charter schools report

Posted February 4

Charter school report now includes positive details
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— The State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to approve a revised annual charter schools report, one month after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest called the original draft "too negative."

The required report to the Legislature, prepared by the charter school office of the state Department of Public Instruction, noted that while black and white children attend charter schools and traditional public schools in similar proportions overall, individual charter schools are more racially segmented.

The State Board of Education was to have approved the annual report on Jan. 7 and send it on to state lawmakers. But Forest, who sits on the education board, demanded changes that would highlight the accomplishments of charters and, he said, put the data in better context.

Office of Charter Schools director Adam Levinson, who wrote the original report, made the requested changes, but said the data in it hasn't changed.

"We added maybe some additional figures, additional explanation," Levinson said. "It was simply a way to enhance the recognition of some of the accomplishments of charter schools this year. All of the accomplishments that are listed are just facts, as the rest of the report is facts."

Forest objected to a portion of the earlier version that cited a 2015 study by Duke University researchers who wrote that "the charter schools in North Carolina are increasingly serving the interests of relatively able white students in racially imbalanced schools."

That detail remains in the revised report.

The report now lists the seven charters that had high percentages of students in poverty and still achieved high academic growth, as well as six other schools that exceeded student growth expectations despite having a greater-than-average number of poor students.

The revision also adds that about 38,000 students were on waiting lists for admission to the roughly half of the 158 operating charter schools that responded to a December survey. The report notes that it's not known how many students were on lists for multiple schools.

The revised report also notes that while charters and traditional schools have about the same proportion of students who are American Indian, Asian and black, charter schools are about 15 percent more white and half as Hispanic.

Charter schools, created in North Carolina almost two decades ago, now enroll nearly 78,000 students. Their state funding has grown from just over $16 million in 1997 to more than $366 million last year, the report said.

Enrollment in traditional public schools has stayed steady at about 1.5 million students.


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