Education

Veteran educator James Ellerbe appointed superintendent of state’s Innovative Schools District

James Ellerbe

Superintendent Mark Johnson didn’t waste much time naming a new superintendent for the state’s Innovative School District (ISD).

On Thursday, Johnson announced that James Ellerbe will replace LaTeesa Allen as superintendent of the school district created to help turnaround low-performing schools.

Allen’s last day on the job was June 28. N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) officials have not shared any details about her departure. She was appointed to the post only nine months ago.

One of Ellerbe’s first task will be to find a principal for the ISD’s only school, Southside-Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County.

Bruce Major abruptly resigned July 1 after a year on the job.

Ellerbe comes to NCDPI from the Center for Responsive Schools where he served as director of administration and Strategy.

Ellerbe has been a teacher and a principal in North Carolina public schools. He’s served at NCDPI in numerous roles including interim director of district and regional support and as a district transformation coach.

Johnson also named Robert “Bo” Trumbo director of the Center for Safer Schools.

According to the press release, Trumbo comes to NCDPI after a distinguished career as a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

His duties included investigative responsibilities as well as protective assignments; a 5-year tour with the Presidential Protective Division and Counter Assault Team.

Trumbo also held numerous supervisory assignments during his stint with the Secret Service.

On Thursday, Trumbo emphasized the importance of working in partnership with local school districts.

“Hopefully, we can become a clearinghouse, a resource to support districts,” Trumbo said.

He replaces Kym Martin, the wife of former North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin.  Judge Martin resigned in February to become dean of Regent University law school in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“I am pleased that we are able to add both of these individuals to our team here at DPI,” Johnson said in a statement. “They are uniquely qualified and bring valuable experience to these two important positions. I look forward to working with each of them in their new roles.”

Commentary, Education

Teacher identifies 10 “reforms” that have damaged NC’s public schools

In case you missed it, veteran Forsyth County schoolteacher and regular Policy Watch contributor Stuart Egan has a fine new post on his blog Caffeinated Rage entitled “These Ten Educational ‘Reforms’ In North Carolina Have Intentionally Hurt Our Public Schools.” Here are his first five:

1. Opportunity Grants (Vouchers) –

There has never been any empirical evidence that the vouchers actually work. Maybe voucher proponents would like to point to NC State’s study last year, but that study ultimately did not make conclusions on the veracity of the vouchers. In fact, it said that the Opportunity Grants need much more research as it is hard to assess the program.

Or they might point to “satisfaction surveys” like Joel Ford of PEFNC did in an op-ed on EdNC.org. If that is the only variable by which they can measure the effectiveness of the grants, then that is absolutely weak.

And it has been shown that Opportunity Grants have heavily been used in nontransparent religious private schools. Furthermore, not even half of the funds for the vouchers have been awarded, yet the NCGA keeps putting more money into this reform.

From Public School First NC.org:

In the 2017-18 school year, 7001 students attended 405 private schools at a cost of $20.3 million. The largest cohort of Opportunity Scholarship recipients attended a single religious school in Fayetteville, with those 201 students making up more than half of its student population. The largest dollar amount, $451,442, went to Liberty Christian Academy in Richlands, NC where 122 of the 145 students are voucher recipients. The 2018-2019 Budget Adjustments bill increased funding for the Opportunity Scholarship program from $45 to $55 million.

voucheroverfunded2

2. Innovative School District –

North Carolina’s ISD is run by an out-of-state for-profit charter chain. To date it has only  school and it just got its third superintendent and its second principal – after only one full year in operation.

It is not a success by any stretch of the imagination.

Here is the most recent growth rates and grades for subsets for that ISD school.

reforms4

Southside Ashpole Elementary:

  • 4 – F’s
  • Everything else is an “I” which stands for “Insufficient Data.”
  • 1 – Not Met’s
  • 2 – Met

The current ISD here in NC has been in existence for over three years. It has not worked.

At all.

3. Charter School Cap Removed –

This past January, Kris Nordstrom published an article that openly showed this data.

The cap was removed beginning in 2012-2013.

And there is substantial evidence that charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools.

The Excel spreadsheet in the previous post lined to above is a list of every charter school that exists now in this state that had a school performance grade attached to it for the 2018-2019 school year. It is cross-referenced to the last full school report card it has on record from the 2017-2018 school year.

According to that data table in that post which includes 173 charter schools,

  • 81 of them had a student population that was at least 65% white.
  • 40 of them had a student population that was at least 80%  white.
  • 100 of them had at least 50% of the students classified as white.
  • 31 of them had a student population that was at least 65%  black.
  • 17 of them had a student population that was at least 80% black.
  • 43 of them had at least 50% of the students classified as black.

To put in perspective, that means:

  • Over 110 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 65% one race/ethnic group.
  • 150 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 50% one race/ethnic group.
  • Over 50 of the 173 charter schools had a student population that was at least 80% one race/ethnic group.
  • 132 of the 173 schools listed had a 2017-2018 student population that was lower than  40% Economically Disadvantaged.

4. School Performance Grades –

16 states

NC is the only state that puts more emphasis on proficiency than growth and counts proficiency for 80% for a school performance grade. NC weighs proficiency at least 30% more than the next ranking state.

And North Carolina’s school performance grades are a confirmation that student poverty levels have so much to do with how schools perform.

graph

5. Virtual Charter Schools –

There are two virtual charter schools that have not very well in the past, but were renewed by the state for another four years and championed by Mark Johnson.

Here are their grades and growth by subset groups.

reforms3reforms2

reforms1

NC Virtual Academy:

1 – F
6 – D’s
2- C’s
5 – Not Met’s
1- Met

NC Cyber Academy:

4 – F’s
4 – D’s
1- B
6 – Not Met’s
0- Met

Click here to see the other five.

Education, News

Test scores, staff turnover show rocky start for controversial school takeover program

Shortly after the school year ended at Southside-Ashpole Elementary School, Bruce Major, principal of the only school in the state’s Innovative School District (ISD) resigned abruptly after one year.

Major wouldn’t be the only ISD departure over the summer. He was followed by ISD superintendent LaTeesa Allen and Tony Helton, who directed Achievement for All Students (AAC), the firm selected by the state to manage Southside-Ashpole.

ISD leaders have revealed little about the departures. It’s not clear whether Major and Allen left on their own or were forced to leave.

And the only thing we know about the Helton situation is that he resigned as southeastern regional director of Team CFA, the firm that created AAC to manage Southside-Ashpole, on Aug. 12 and was replaced by Tricia Cotham, a former Democratic lawmaker from Charlotte.

Still, the picture of the first year at Southside-Ashpole is slowly coming into focus as a result of the release of state test scores and a report evaluating the school’s first year.

State test reports show the Robeson County school made little academic progress, ending its first year under ISD with a state letter grade of “F” and not meeting growth expectations. The percentage of students passing state exams also dipped, although there was some improvement in third-grade math scores.

“We wish it were a glowing report,” said state School Board (SBE) member Amy White. “You can see the glass half full or you can see it half empty. We can see it as an opportunity for improvement, advancement for the betterment of students at that school.”

Lawmakers created the ISD (under which management of struggling schools is turned over to private, charter school operators) in 2016 with the stated objective of helping to improve academic achievement in the state’s lowest-performing elementary schools, but the plan has sparked great controversy and met significant opposition from parents, teachers and school district leaders.

So, critics of the ISD are watching closely to see if the experiment will work as promised, particularly after several schools initially considered for the district along with Southside-Ashpole, but not selected, performed better.

Trip Stallings, director of policy research at the Friday Institute at N.C. State University, who conducted the evaluation of Southside-Ashpole

Dr. Trip Stallings – Image: NC State

for the SBE, said it’s not a referendum on ISD.

“When we have one school for one year, it’s really hard to say that this is an evaluation of ISD,” Stallings said. “That’s going to be hard to say when there are five schools, frankly, but it’s going to be a little more legitimate at that point.”

Stallings said the report shows the “things we learned on the ground at one school” that can help to improve that school and others that might be brought into the ISD later.

Specifically, Stallings was asked to look at academic growth and achievement, learning conditions and student behavior, school-community engagement and school culture.

Stallings found little improvement in school culture. And a “significant division” between staff and leadership had emerged by the end of the school year. Read more

Education

Veteran educator chosen to lead state’s only ISD school

Kenneth Bowen

North Carolina educator Kenneth Bowen has been named principal of Southside-Ashpole Elementary School, the lone school in the state’s Innovative School District (ISD).

The ISD was created in 2016 through legislation enacted to improve student outcomes in low-performing schools across North Carolina.

Thursday was Bowen’s first day on the job at Southside-Ashpole, which is located in Robeson County. He replaces Bruce Major who abruptly resigned July 1 after a year on the job.

Bowen, a Scotland County native, is a UNC-Pembroke alumnus. He earned a doctorate in educational leadership from East Carolina University.

Bowen comes to Southside-Ashpole from UNCP, where he was coordinator for grants and leadership in the School of Education.

Before that, Bowen worked for 15 years in public schools in North Carolina and South Carolina. He served as an assistant superintendent, a teacher and a high school principal.

The Bowen hire caps a busy summer for the state’s ISD.

In addition to losing the principal of its only school, the ISD was also forced to replace Superintendent LaTeesa Allen whose last day on the job was June 28.

N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) officials have not released any details about Allen’s departure. She was appointed to the post about nine months ago.

Veteran educator James Ellerbe has replaced Allen as superintendent of the ISD.

Education, News

Two charter schools opposed by Wake County Board of Education are moving toward 2020 opening date

The State Board of Education (SBE) on Thursday gave final approval to two controversial charter schools opposed by the state’s largest school district.

Despite opposition by the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), the SBE approved 2020 openings for Wake County Preparatory Academy and North Raleigh Charter Academy on separate 7-3 votes.

The Wake Prep charter was approved with the provision that the school only enroll 915 students the first year instead of the planned 1,605. In the second year, the enrollment is projected at 1,420 the second year and 1,620 the third.

The school will operate as a K-10 school the first year before expanding to a k-12 school the second year.

Meanwhile, North Raleigh will operate as a K-6 and add grades 7-9 over the next two years. The school will project an enrollment of 615 students but can accommodate 765.

Both schools will conduct a weighted lottery as a strategy to increase diversity. One big criticism of charters schools is that they lead to school segregation.

SBE Chairman Eric Davis and board members JB Buxton and Jill Camnitz cast the three votes against approving the school’s charter applications.

Before the vote, Buxton asked if the schools plan to offer “quality” programs not offered by existing schools in the area.

He said the schools’ program offerings don’t appear to be innovative.

“That feels like something I’d find in schools, not only in that community but across the state,” Buxton said. “This is why I grappling with these two. It doesn’t feel like they’re adding quality seats to the community. I believe they’re adding options, but relative to the education being offered, they don’t seem to be bringing anything different.”

Dave Machado, director of the state Office of Charter Schools, disagreed, pointing out that Wake Prep’s management firm Charter One has a long record of success in Arizona bring innovation to school settings.

He noted that Charter One requires service projects, participation in learning communities and an entrepreneurial course that high school students must take.

“I think they’re very innovative in the things they’re doing outside of the regular curriculum North Carolina requires,” Machado said.

Turning to North Raleigh, Machado noted the school’s Board of Directors also oversee Cardinal Charter Academy, which carries a perennial “B” state performance grade.

Last month, in what amounted to an impact statement, leaders of the WCPSS urged the SBE to not approve the schools’ charters.

“In all these applications, it is not difficult to see how the proposed charters would increase de facto segregation, decrease efficient utilization of public facilities and add no significant variety or innovative instructional programs in a county where parents already understand and strongly support traditional schools,” Wake County Board of Education Chairman Jim Martin and Wake County Superintendent Cathy Moore wrote in a June 3 letter to the SBE. “Charter saturation is an appropriate way to describe this situation.”

Martin and Moore noted that there are 10 schools within five miles of the sites in northeastern Wake County that are proposed for Wake Prep. And five of the 10 schools are charters, which enroll a combined 4,000 pupils.

Wake Prep officials make a case for the school on its website.

They contend WCPSS has more than 20 schools with capped enrollments, more than 19,000 students in trailers, 9,000 students on charter school waitlists and more than 3,000 students on Wake Prep’s interest list.

Last month, members of the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) pushed back against WCPSS officials, contending their concerns reflect “philosophical” differences about the value of charters, rather than fear of school re-segregation or charter saturation.

The CSAB recommended the SBE approve the two schools.

Steven Walker, vice chairman of the CSAB, said at the time Wake officials have taken the position that if “parents aren’t making the choice we like, maybe we shouldn’t let them have the choice.”

The impact of charter schools is being felt throughout the state. The number of charters in North Carolina has swelled to nearly 200 since state lawmakers lifted the 100-school cap in 2011.