The State Board of Education will consider a revised report on North Carolina charter schools that includes a new section highlighting their successes, plus some other edits an advisory board suggested.
The revision comes after Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a member of the board, halted approval of a draft last month, saying it was misleading and not positive enough. The edited report is up for a vote at next week’s board meeting.
The report includes changes suggested by the Charter School Advisory Board. A list of nine charter schools that received special state or national recognition last year has been added, as well as two lists of charters with high percentages of low-income students that exceeded student growth expectations.
There’s also new information about waiting lists for charters, added at the advisory board’s request.
The report includes available information on students on charter waiting lists. Nearly 38,500 students were on a wait list in December, according to the report. The information comes from the 92 of 158 charters that responded to a charter school office survey. The report also notes that the wait lists could include duplicate names.
“The revised report presents a much more fair picture of the status of public charter schools in North Carolina by including more data and necessary qualifications,” Forest said in a statement. “This revision shows the importance of why I asked that the report go through the normal State Board process.”
The legislature requires the state board to send it a report on charters each year.
Charter schools are public schools that are free of some of the laws and rules that govern traditional schools. For example, they do not have to pay teachers according to the state salary scale, they do not have to adhere to the school calendar law and they do not have to provide transportation or lunch to low-income students.
For years, the state had a limit of 100 charters. Charter enrollment has boomed since that cap was removed in 2011, while enrollment in traditional schools has stagnated. Charter enrollment has about doubled in the last six years, with more than 80,000 students attending 158 charter schools.
Charters have a higher proportion of white students than do traditional public schools, and proportionally lower Hispanic enrollment.
The information on family income continues to show that, as a proportion, charter schools enroll more children from wealthier families than do traditional schools. But the information now comes with an explanation that the data are self-reported and that some charters may be reporting fewer low-income students than they enroll.
The report also expands on performance measures the state has for charters that traditional schools do not have to meet. A higher percentage of charter schools have 60 percent or more of their students proficient at reading and math.
Lee Teague, spokesman for the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association, approved of the qualifiers attached to the section on students’ family income. He had criticized the first version for not saying that schools may under-report enrollment of low-income students.
“All we were saying earlier is that the data was not completely reliable,” he said. “The decision-makers need to know that. That’s what the report now says.”
Still, Teague is not completely satisfied with how the report presents the percentages of charters and traditional schools with good grades and poor grades. He said he planned to talk to a charter advisory board member about it.