Education, News

Diversity improves as more students enrolled in charters

Enrollment has climbed to 109,389  students in North Carolina’s 184 charter schools, which is an 8 percent increase over the previous school year, according to the state’s annual report on charter schools.

The State Board of Education will discuss the report on Wednesday during its first meeting of the new year.

The enrollment increase is sure to get the attention of charter school critics who contend the publicly-funded schools siphon valuable resources for the state’s traditional public schools.

And it’s a safe bet that supporters of the schools will see enrollment growth as a healthy sign for charters, which they contend give parents choice when traditional public schools aren’t working for their children.

Academically, 68 percent of the state’s charters met or exceeded growth while 73 percent of traditional public schools did so.

Meanwhile, 40.5 percent of charters received a letter grade of either “A” or “B.” The percentage was 33.7 percent for traditional public schools.

One interesting tidbit in the report shows the percentage of students of color enrolled in charters has increased each of the last four school years.

From 2014-15 school year to the 2017-18 school years, the percentage of students of color enrolled in charters rose slightly, from 41.5 percent to 45 percent.

During that same span, the percentage of students identified as economically disadvantaged dipped slightly from roughly 35 percent during the 2014-15 school year to approximately 33 percent.

Another tidbit: The percentage of Latino students enrolled in charters ticked up slightly from 9.2 percent to 9.9 percent, the second consecutive increase following the creation of a task force by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to examine charter school outreach to Hispanic families.

Yet that number still lags behind traditional schools, where Latino students accounted for more than 16 percent of overall enrollment as of 2015-2016.

The task force recommend that North Carolina officials consult with states such as Florida that have large enrollments of Hispanic students for solutions to improving outreach. The task force also suggested that more charters provide applications in Spanish and begin to refer to charters as “public charter schools” to minimize confusion because there is no English to Spanish translation for charter school.

Here’s a quick overview of the state of charter schools in North Carolina:
• 184 currently operating charter schools
• More than 109,000 students enrolled in charter schools – 7.3% of state’s total ADM
• 22 charter schools currently in Planning Year/Ready-to-Open process – 10 are acceleration applicants
• 35 charter applications received in 2018
• Eleven charter schools considered for renewal in 2018 – Nine (9) received 10-year renewals – Two (2) received 3-year renewals with stipulations
• One charter school was assumed
• One charter school was closed due to low enrollment

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