Expect very little to change in the state’s controversial demographic assessment of North Carolina’s burgeoning charter school population if N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has her way.
Atkinson told Policy Watch Friday that, despite Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s objections this week to a report on the increasingly white charter population, her office has a responsibility to avoid massaging the data.
“I don’t see how (the report) could be different,” said Atkinson. “We have used the facts.”
During this week’s monthly State Board of Education meeting, Forest pulled a draft of an annual report on charter schools due for the N.C. General Assembly that included population statistics he deemed overly “negative.”
Included in the report, authored by DPI’s Office of Charter Schools, state staff noted that, while the charter student population is relatively similar to traditional public schools, they differ in a few major ways.
Most importantly, while traditional schools are becoming increasingly more diverse, charters are bucking the trend in North Carolina. More than 57 percent of the students in the state’s 158 charters are white, the report states, compared to more than 49 percent in traditional schools.
Additionally, only about 8 percent of charter students are Hispanic, about half the percentage reported in traditional schools.
Also, over the last 15 years, North Carolina charters’ share of minority students has declined. In traditional schools, it’s the opposite, the report said.
This week, Adam Levinson, interim director of the state’s Office of Charter Schools, attempted to assure state board members that the report is purely data-driven, but Forest, a charter advocate, worried aloud that the media and charter critics would use the numbers to fuel opposition.
Atkinson, however, tells Policy Watch that the report used data pulled from the system’s accountability statistics, numbers used to report students’ academic growth rate and proficiency.
So what should we expect from a Forest-approved version of the charter report? Atkinson says she’s not sure.
She says Forest has yet to relay any information to her office about what he would like to see changed. However, she pointed out, state board member Becky Taylor, chairwoman of the board’s Education Innovation and Charter Schools Committee, has asked each board member to send her their revisions for review next week, something certainly worth following.
Atkinson said she may suggest adding copies of the school systems’ accountability forms to the report in order to provide further confirmation of the data.
“We go the second mile of asking our schools to affirm that the information is true to the best of their knowledge,” said Atkinson. “That’s the way it is. In the report our goal was actually to not have much of a narrative other than stating the facts. There are no policy recommendations.”
One other interesting point from the state report. Since the state lifted its 100-school cap on charters in 2011, North Carolina has added another 58 operating charters, including two hotly-debated virtual charters, which seem to be facing a troubling dropout problem.
DPI staff expect to have a rewrite of their annual charter report prepared for the state board in February.