5 things to know about NC's new Achievement School District

Posted August 4, 2016 5:00 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina lawmakers recently approved a bill that will take five of the state's lowest-performing public schools and put them under new management as part of the newly formed Achievement School District.

Outside entities, such as charter school operators, will take control of the five schools and supervise, manage and operate them with the goal of improving their performance.

Since the bill passed in June, many have questioned how the five schools will be chosen, when the takeover will occur and what happens if a school district doesn't want to relinquish control of its school.

Adam Levinson, North Carolina public schools' chief performance officer, answered those and other questions at the State Board of Education's meeting on Wednesday. Here are five takeaways from his presentation:

1) How will the five schools be chosen?

The state has not released an official list of the schools that will be considered for inclusion in the Achievement School District. However, the law states that for a school to be considered, it must meet certain qualifications, such as:

  • Include some or all of grades K-5
  • Have a school performance score in the lowest 5 to 10 percent of all schools in the past year
  • Did not exceed or meet growth on test scores in at least one of the past three years
  • Has not adopted one of the state's school turnaround plans

The five schools that are chosen must come from five different school districts.

WRAL News requested a list of public schools in North Carolina that have been deemed "recurring low-performing schools," meaning they have not met performance standards for two of the past three years. Some of the 400-plus schools on this list may be considered for inclusion in the Achievement School District.

NC's recurring low-performing public schools

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Source: NC Department of Public Instruction (Information current as of March 2016)

2) Who will choose the five schools?

The State Board of Education will make the final decision about what five schools are chosen. Before that happens, the board will hire a superintendent to lead the new Achievement School District. That superintendent will make recommendations about what five schools should be included. School districts can also recommend one of their own schools.

To help aid in the search for a superintendent, the lieutenant governor will appoint a selection advisory committee made up of three members of the state school board, a teacher, principal, superintendent and parent of a student in a low-performing school.

3) When will this take effect, and how long will it last?

The State Board of Education can launch the Achievement School District as early as next school year for 2017-18. Or, it can wait until the 2018-19 school year. The board has not made a decision yet.

If the board waits to launch until 2018-19, it must have at least two of the five schools selected. The full Achievement School District, with all five schools, must be operating by the 2019-20 school year.

North Carolina lawmakers set up the Achievement School District as a pilot program. It's designed to last five years with a possible three-year extension if a school needs more time to make improvement.

4) Will the local school systems lose all control of the schools?

Yes and no. The local school boards will no longer have a say in the staffing, instruction or other educational matters at the schools chosen for the Achievement School District. However, the local school boards will still be responsible for maintaining the buildings, making sure they have the appropriate furniture and equipment and continuing to provide transportation for the students.

5) What if a local school district doesn't want to give up control of its school?

Once the state board selects a school for inclusion in the Achievement School District, the local board of education that runs the school has two options – agree to relinquish control of the school or close it down.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest told state school board members Wednesday that he expects "some turf wars" but that the state needed to take this "calculated risk" to help low-performing schools.