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Senators passed a House bill on Thursday that allows the state to continue the practice for two more years of awarding schools A-F letter grades on a 15 point scale—but they failed to act on a proposal to adjust the school grading formula so that the letter grades no longer serve as a simple indicator of whether a school serves rich students or poor students.

Beginning with data from the 2013-14 school year that was first unveiled this past February, North Carolina’s public schools began receiving letter grades that are intended to gauge how well schools are educating students. In the accountability system’s first year, a school had to score 85-100 points to get an A, 70-84 points to get a B, and so on.

With 2014-15 data, schools would have had to score 90-100 points to get an A, 80-89 points to get a B, etc according to current law. The switch would mean many schools would drop a letter grade—even if they had been making good academic progress with their students. Today’s passage of HB 358 will delay that switch for two years.

The bill does not fix the more contentious part of the A-F school grading model, an accountability system that is the brain child of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. That issue is the formula for how the A-F grades are calculated for schools.

Currently, 80 percent of a school’s grade is based on how well its students perform on standardized tests on a given day, referred to as ‘achievement.’ Twenty percent of the grade is based on how well students “grow” over time – whether or not their test scores improve year to year, which many education advocates say is a better measure of how well a school is doing to educate kids.

Senator Josh Stein attempted to amend HB 358 on the Senate floor on Thursday to change the A-F school grading formula to 50 percent achievement, 50 percent growth – but his amendment was tabled by fellow lawmakers.

“Achievement is entirely correlated to income,” said Stein. “Schools do well when they come from a well to do community…growth is not correlated to income. Kids learn from wherever they are, whether they are poor or whether they are rich—if they are taught well.” Read More

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charterschoolsMembers of the State Board of Education were presented Wednesday with the latest crop of charter school applicants that hope to open up shop in North Carolina in fall 2016 — but the director of the state’s charter school office offered words of caution to State Board members about several of the prospective schools.

“There are some [applicants] I need to bring to your attention specifically,” said Dr. Joel Medley, Director of the NC Office of Charter Schools, about several schools that were green-lighted by reviewers in close votes over concerns they may not have the capacity to carry out their missions or have questionable track records in other states.

One of the 18 applicants, Capital City Charter School (Wake County), was recommended as a “delayed decision” by the Charter School Advisory Council (the body tasked with reviewing charter school applications) thanks to concerns about the ability of the school’s education management organization (EMO) to provide services. Their recommendation would have the State Board delay its  final vote on the school’s application until next January, which is not typical.

Capital City’s EMO, Accelerated Learning Solutions, Inc. (ALS, Inc.), also plans to open Town Center Charter High School in Gaston County in 2016, which was recommended by the advisory board, but barely—reviewers voted 6-5 in favor of opening the school in 2016. With that application, reviewers also cited concerns about the EMO’s ability to supervise all of the schools ALS, Inc. is planning to open and whether they have the capacity to manage them all.

The company also plans to open Central Wake Charter High School in 2016, which received a more favorable recommendation by the advisory board with a vote of 10-1.

ALS, Inc., which currently operates one charter school in Charlotte and was supposed to open another last fall but was unable to do so thanks to problems finding a facility, also operates 23 alternative high schools focusing on drop-out recovery in seven school districts across the state of Florida, according to a due diligence report provided at Wednesday’s State Board meeting and compiled by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

According to that report, ALS, Inc., which is owned by another organization that previously ran alternative schools sometimes characterized as “prison-lite,” has come under intense scrutiny for unrealistic enrollment projections and poor academic progress of its students. Read More

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One out of eight teachers in this country is a bad one—and that’s because teachers have failed to safeguard their profession.

So says the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess, an expert in education policy at the conservative think tank who spoke on Monday to a group of North Carolina school leaders at NC State’s Friday Institute about how to empower teachers and principals.

Hess, who was also in Raleigh to promote his new book, The Cage-Busting Teacher, explained that too many teachers are hiding in a ‘classroom cage’ and are not participating in the governance of their schools in ways to make the environment better.

“Teachers…have not done a good job of safeguarding their profession,” said Hess. “When you survey teachers, they will tell you themselves that five percent of their fellow teachers in their district deserve an F and another eight percent of the teachers in their district deserve a D.”

“That is failing to police your profession,” Hess said. “That’s failing to wield that moral authority.” Read More

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Charter schools could soon receive more public funds thanks to a measure moving through the General Assembly that would siphon dollars away from traditional public schools to charters’ coffers.lw-501

A provision in Senate bill 456 would not only force public school districts to share as much as an additional $11 million worth of their sales tax revenue with charter schools, which are also public schools but function independently of local school boards and are not beholden to the same accountability measures —the bill would also require districts to create an additional layer of administrative bureaucracy in their accounting practices. Read More

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Lawmakers moved a bill Tuesday that would improve the formula for how the state’s schools are now awarded A-F letter grades to make them more reflective of how a school helps its students grow academically over time.

There are a number of bills floating around the General Assembly that would change how schools receive letter grades — but the one that would change the formula to 50 percent growth, 50 percent performance, sponsored by Reps. Glazier, Johnson, Lucas and Horn, seems to have gained the most traction.

First unveiled earlier this year, North Carolina’s A-F school grades are, to a large extent, a reflection of how well a school’s student population does on standardized tests on a given day. The formula is currently weighted 80 percent “performance” (how students perform on those tests on one day), and 20 percent “growth” (how students perform on those tests over time).

When the grades were first released in February, a public outcry ensued as they largely tracked the demographics of a school’s population. High poverty schools received mostly Ds and Fs; more affluent-serving schools scored higher.

A-F school grades are the brain child of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Versions of the system have been implemented around the country.

Rep. Glazier (D-Cumberland), a sponsor of HB 803 that moved forward Tuesday, noted that Florida has already tweaked its school grading formula at least 34 times since its inception.

Virginia recently repealed the A-F school grading system.

At least one lawmaker is skeptical that the Senate will take up a fix for the A-F school grades. Stay tuned as the bill makes its way through the General Assembly.