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Report: N.C. drops seven from list of schools eligible for charter takeover

Seven North Carolina schools are off North Carolina’s list of 48 eligible for the state’s controversial charter takeover model, WRAL reported Monday [1].

According to the news station, state officials with the Innovative School District [2] (ISD) removed those schools because they are receiving federal grants aimed at turning around academic performance.

From WRAL:

“Those (federal) funds would likely be lost if they were transferred into the Innovative School District,” (ISD Superintendent Eric) Hall said. “We would not want to see resources like that diminished in a school that we already know has significant needs.”

Those seven schools are: Brogden Middle and Carver Heights Elementary in Wayne County; Eastway Elementary in Durham County; Vick Elementary in Wilson County; Ashley Academy and Kimberly Park Elementary in Forsyth County; and Bruns Academy in Mecklenburg County.

WRAL’s report comes several days after Policy Watch reported on lingering concerns about the school reform model [3] among some leaders in local districts with schools named on the state’s list of eligible schools.   [4]

North Carolina leaders are hoping to boost performance in some of the state’s chronically underachieving public schools. The ISD model, once dubbed the Achievement School District, would allow charter operators to assume control of operations, including staffing, at two such elementary schools in 2018-2019. Another three schools would follow in 2019-2020.

Charter schools are publicly-funded institutions with greater flexibility in staffing, curriculum and calendar, something many traditional public schools have been advocating for with state lawmakers.

However, the takeover model’s spurred opposition from some who question whether local, public schools should be turned over to potentially for-profit charter management organizations. They also point to mixed results in other states [5] as reason for pause.

ISD Superintendent Eric Hall

Indeed, WRAL’s report notes at least two North Carolina school districts that are officially calling upon state officials to remove them from consideration.

From WRAL:

Several Durham County schools and one Johnston County school are among the 48 schools being considered, but leaders in those two districts say they “take issue with this plan of action” and don’t want to be included “in this experiment.” Their schools are being considered because their performance scores are among the lowest 5 percent in the state.

In a letter to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction [6] last week, Durham’s Board of Education chairman said the district is already working “to design and pursue innovative strategies” to improve their low-performing schools and asked that they not be included in the ISD.

“(W)e strongly request that the targeted initiatives to transform these schools not be derailed by including them in this experiment,” DPS board Chairman Mike Lee wrote, adding that Durham County residents would not support the “loss of local control” if the ISD took over any of their schools.

Johnston County Public Schools shared similar concerns last week after discovering that one of its schools, Selma Middle, was being considered for the ISD. A district spokeswoman emailed the media to say the district “takes issue with this plan of action, which essentially mirrors receivership.”1

“Our school district has the fullest confidence that our current principal will continue making the upward shift begun by our previous principal,” according to the district’s statement [7]. “We ask that the state consider allowing Johnston County Public Schools to continue working and show our results.”

But, as Policy Watch reported last week, complaints from local district leaders aren’t likely to deter ISD officials from choosing a potential school.

“My lens is going to be about the kids,” Hall said. “My lens can’t necessarily be about what adults want.”

Hall is expected to whittle down his list of prospective charter takeovers by October. Members of the State Board of Education are slated to choose the first two schools in the district in December.