State News

Charter School Surge Slows as State Tightens Scrutiny for 2017

The surge of charter schools across North Carolina will slow in 2017, as the state Board of Education Thursday rejected several applications that members feared could end in school failure.
The result: Only eight of 28 charter school applications for 2017-18 won approval.
In a break with tradition, the Board of Education denied five applications that had won approval from the Charter School Advisory Board, which reviewed applications and interviewed board members earlier this year. Members of both boards voiced concern about schools that have opened and quickly failed, including three Charlotte schools that collapsed under academic and financial problems in their first year.
Alex Quigley of Durham, a charter school leader who chairs the advisory board, said he wasn’t sold on some of the applications that won the endorsement of his board. He said he believes it’s “very important that we have a high bar” in exchange for risking millions of dollars of public money.
“This appears to be a major change in state policy,” said Lee Teague, executive director of the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association. He said if the Board of Education overrides the advisory board’s recommendations it should give applicants a hearing.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.

5 Things to Know About NC’s New Achievement School District

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. View the complete article here for five takeaways from Levinson’s presentation.
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UNC System Drafting Ideas for Implementing Tuition Plan

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UNC Board of Governors Chairman Lou Bissette and UNC President Margaret Spellings discuss plans for implementing tuition plan approved in the state budget. Photo Credit: Bryan Anderson, The News & Observer.
UNC System President Margaret Spellings told attendees at last Friday’s Board of Governors meeting that implementation strategies for the state’s changes to college tuition are being explored.
Tuition prices will drop at three schools: Elizabeth City State University, UNC-Pembroke and Western Carolina University. This year’s state budget approved by the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory sets tuition at $500 per semester for North Carolina residents beginning with the fall 2018 academic semester.
N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville initially proposed $500 tuition at five schools in May, a plan that drew backlash from advocates for historically black colleges and universities.
The legislature’s changes will immediately impact more than 40,000 incoming state-resident students with a UNC system-wide tuition freeze starting this fall. Incoming students will pay a fixed tuition rate over at least four years.
“We will further develop an implementation plan to make sure it meets our shared goals,” Spellings said.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
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Wake County School Board Delays Votes on Budget Cuts

The Wake County school board delayed voting on proposed budget cuts because two board members were absent from Tuesday’s meeting. Board chairman Tom Benton and Zora Felton were not at the meeting. So the other seven board members decided to hold off on discussing proposed cuts, including a controversial plan to reduce custodial services.
Administrators have made several recommendations to close a $17.5 million budget gap. Among them is a plan to clean schools two days a week instead of three, which would bring a savings of $3.6 million.
Some parents have said they worry a reduction in vacuuming and sweeping would lead to health concerns and put an extra burden on busy teachers.
Other recommended cuts include adjusting school temperatures by one degree to save $405,000 and reducing instructional supplies by $3.04 per student to save $481,000.
“The balancing and cutting was distributed across multiple areas,” said David Neter, chief operating officer for Wake schools. School board member Bill Fletcher said leaders are trying to “distribute the pain” of budget cuts by spreading them throughout several different areas.
To read the complete article, click here.
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National News

Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio’s Virtual Charter Schools

Fordham’s latest study, conducted by learning technology researcher June Ahn from NYU, dives into one of the most promising—and contentious—issues in education today: virtual schools. What type of students choose them? Which online courses do students take? Do virtual schools lead to improved outcomes for kids?
With over thirty-five thousand students enrolled in its fully online charter schools (“e-schools”), Ohio boasts one of the country’s largest populations of full-time virtual students. The sector has also grown tremendously, with a 60 percent increase in enrollment over the past four years—more than any other type of public school. Using four years of comprehensive student-level data to examine Ohio’s e-schools, the study finds: 
  • E-school students are mostly similar in race and ethnicity to students in brick-and-mortar district schools. But e-school students are lower-achieving (and more likely to have repeated the prior grade), more likely to participate in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, and less likely to participate in gifted education.
  • Students taking online math courses are more likely to enroll in basic classes relative to students taking face-to-face courses. Almost no students take advanced math courses (like AP Statistics, Calculus, or Algebra II) online, especially compared to students who take face-to-face classes.
  • Across all grades and subjects, students who attend e-schools perform worse on state tests than otherwise-similar students who attend brick-and-mortar district schools, even accounting for prior achievement. In contrast, students in grades 4–8 who attend brick-and-mortar charter schools perform slightly better than their district school counterparts in both reading and math. Results are mixed but modest for students in grade ten.
  • Findings also suggest that e-schools drag down the performance of the entire charter sector.
Online schools offer an efficient way to diversify—and even democratize—education in a connected world. Yet they have received negative, but well-deserved, attention concerning their poor academic performance, attrition rates, and ill capacity to educate the types of students who enroll in them. This is especially true in Ohio, where virtual schools have failed (as yet) to realize their potential.
Using a slightly different analytical approach than CREDO’s Online Charter School Study (2015), Dr. Ahn’s results corroborate the disappointing findings on Ohio’s online schools. Bold changes in policy and practice are needed to ensure that these schools better serve their students. For advocates of online learning and educational choice, the work has just begun.
The complete report can be accessed here.

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SAT Subject Tests See Steep Decline in Participation

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Lots of attention has been heaped on the fact that more and more students are taking the SAT or ACT. But little notice has been given to an opposite trend: the quiet slipping-away of the SAT Subject Tests.
Once known as the SAT II, and, before that, the SAT Achievement Tests, these single-subject multiple-choice exams were long a staple of many high school students’ applications to college, especially to the more selective set of institutions. But an examination of the College Board’s own reports shows a steep decline in the number of students taking those tests, especially in the last five years.
FairTest, a group that opposes high-stakes standardized testing, drew attention to the decline earlier this week by examining the data for the most recent five graduating classes. Intrigued, article author Catherine Gewertz looked at the College Board’s “college-bound seniors” reports for the 10 most recent graduating classes that it has published data about. Here’s what she found:
Number of SAT Subject Tests Given
  • A 25.7 percent drop between the class of 2011 and the class of 2015 (the most recent five years).
  • An 18.5 percent drop between the class of 2006 and the class of 2015 (the most recent 10 years).
Number of Students Taking SAT Subject Tests
  • A 22.6 percent drop between the class of 2011 and the class of 2015 (the most recent five years).
  • A 13.5 percent drop between the class of 2006 and the class of 2015 (the most recent 10 years).
By contrast, 1.7 million students in the class of 2015 took the SAT, up from 1.65 million four years earlier. About 1.9 million students took the ACT, a 19 percent increase from 2011.
To continue reading the complete article, click here.
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Some California Charter Schools Discriminate in Admissions, ACLU Report Says

Tom Brown was scrolling through his news feed on Monday afternoon when he found the school he runs on a list that made him gasp.
Ceiba College Preparatory Academy in Watsonville, south of Santa Cruz, was one of 253 California charter schools flagged for discriminatory admissions practices in a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates. The school was one of just 22 the report singled out for discriminating based on “academic performance.”
The report, released Monday, was the latest in the ongoing research back-and-forth over charter schools, which are publicly funded but can be privately run. 
California state law requires charter schools to take in all students. ACLU and Public Advocates started investigating the schools’ admissions policies after hearing from parents that they might not be doing so. 
Researchers used a rubric to grade the schools’ policies, as expressed on their websites. They looked for different types of discrimination: bias against English language learners; requirements for essays, interviews, auditions or academic performance; mandates for parents; and practices that could drive away students who are in the U.S. illegally. 
“We thought it was pretty concerning,” said Victor Leung, an ACLU of Southern California attorney who worked on the project. “There’s no central authority for charter schools so we wanted to shine a light on it.”
Many of the schools on the report’s list asked for essays or required parents to pitch in or used language that might discourage some immigrant students. Coding the violations can be complex, Leung said, so researchers did not include schools they deemed close calls on the list. 
To continue reading the complete article, click here.

Opportunities

Public School Forum Seeking Fall 2016 Interns

The Public School Forum is seeking undergraduate interns for the Fall 2016 semester. Applications are being accepted for a Education Policy & Research Intern, as well as a Communication & Development Intern.
Position descriptions and application details can be found hereInterested candidates should send a resume and cover letter to Lauren Bock at lbock@ncforum.org.
Women in Education Leadership Symposium
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Registration is open for the inaugural Women in Educational Leadership Symposium (WIELS), scheduled for September 30 – October 2, 2016 at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
Presenters, Participants, and Attendees are all required to register. Register online here or visit the WIELS website for details at https://wiels.appstate.edu/. Online registration ends September 27! Register early as space is limited!
Regular Registration is $149 per person beginning August 2 through September 27. On Site Registration is $159 per person. Registration for ASU Students is $75 per person (Must show AppCard at registration).
There is something for everyone: Critical conversations, Research papers, performance and practice sessions, Ignite sessions, Panel sessions, Poster sessions, Roundtables, etc. Therefore, don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn, share, grow and lead. Even if you are not presenting, come and hone your own leadership skills by learning from mentors, practitioners, and leaders in education.

RFP for Principal Preparation Programs

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The North Carolina Alliance for School Leadership Development (NCASLD) is issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for principal preparation programs (PPP) as authorized by the State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA) in NC Session Law 2015-241, Section 11.9 and supplemented by House Bill 1030, ratified on July 1, 2016.
In 2015 the North Carolina General Assembly established a competitive grant program to “elevate educators in North Carolina public schools by transforming the preparation of principals across the State.” The goal of the program is to provide funds for the preparation and support of highly effective school principals in North Carolina. 
The North Carolina General Assembly has allocated $4,500,000 per fiscal year to award grants to selected recipients, designated as PPP Providers in the RFP. This is the second RFP issued under this allocation. Funds are committed for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Funding for future years will be contingent upon continued appropriations from the North Carolina General Assembly. Final authority for making awards rests with SEAA.
NCASLD estimates that it will recommend to the SEAA 3-5 grant recipients, each receiving $750,000 to $1,000,000 per year for 2 years (contingent upon the continued availability of funds.)
RFP applications can be found at http://www.ncasld.org/principalpreparation.html. Proposals are due to the NCASLD office by 5:00 PM on August 26, 2016. Additional information can be obtained on the NCASLD website.

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Accepting Applications for Career Awards for Science & Math Teachers

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is currently accepting applications for the Career Award for Science and Mathematics Teachers (CASMT). CASMT is a five-year award available to outstanding science and/or mathematics teachers in the North Carolina public primary and secondary schools. The purpose of this award is to recognize teachers who have demonstrated solid knowledge of science and/or mathematics content and have outstanding performance records in educating children. This five-year award presents opportunities for professional development and collaboration with other master science and/or mathematics teachers who will help to ensure their success as teachers and their satisfaction with the field of teaching. Special consideration will be given to teachers working in hard-to-staff, economically deprived classrooms in North Carolina. The award also offers schools and school districts the opportunity to fully develop teachers as leaders in the field.

Career Awards for Science and Mathematics Teachers provide $175,000 over a period of five years ($35,000 per year) to eligible teachers in the North Carolina public school system.
The application deadline is September 25, 2016.

The Friday Report is published weekly by the Public School Forum of NC and is distributed to Forum members, policymakers, donors, media, and Forum subscribers. Archived editions can be found at www.ncforum.org.

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