North Carolina officials choose struggling Wayne County elementary for controversial takeover program

Officials in North Carolina’s controversial takeover initiative, the Innovative School District, have selected a struggling Wayne County school — Carver Heights Elementary — to be the second addition to the program in 2019.

A spokesman for the ISD, David Prickett, confirmed the news Tuesday morning, adding that an official announcement was forthcoming. Leaders in the Wayne County school system were notified Monday, Prickett said.

The Goldsboro elementary school earned an “F” grade and did not meet state growth expectations in 2016-2017, according to its N.C. report card.  But the school serves an extraordinarily high level of economically disadvantaged students — about 90 percent — a population that tends to struggle academically.

Carver Heights was one of six schools that made a final list for consideration this fall, chosen because of their academic marks.

The selection will require the approval of the State Board of Education.

Leaders and supporters of the takeover program held a town hall with Wayne County residents last week and received a rocky reception from some vocal opponents.

Critics say the unproven program, which allows for charters and other private groups to seize control of a struggling public school, amounts to experimenting with predominantly low-income, students of color.

Similar models have been met with lackluster results and public outcry in states like Tennessee and Michigan.

But supporters say it’s an innovative approach for schools that have long struggled. Republican lawmakers advanced the takeover model, once called the “achievement school district,” in 2016, with support from a wealthy school choice backer behind a growing charter network.

Officials with the ISD tapped a Robeson County school, Southside-Ashpole Elementary, for the program last year. Ethical questions about the nonprofit established to run the school have troubled the initiative.

The program is expected to select up to five schools over the next few years, although Carver Heights will be the only recommended addition in 2019, Prickett said.

Leadership with the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), which advocates for teachers across the state, have been openly critical of the state-run district.

Indeed, NCAE President Mark Jewell slammed the news in a statement Tuesday.

“The Innovation School District is an unproven and unaccountable takeover scheme that does nothing to improve student achievement,” Jewell said. “Having for-profit companies take over public schools will do nothing but rip our communities apart.  I was just in Wayne County last week and parents, educators, and our communities have been making it loud and clear that they do not want this.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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