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Lawmakers in Virginia’s General Assembly are advancing a bipartisan effort to abolish their A-F school grading system, according to WBDJ7 in Roanoke.

The A-F scale for schools was adopted in 2013 at the urging of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, as a public measure of school quality based on student test scores.

But the law was never implemented. The 2014 legislature delayed it two years.

On a 3-2 vote Monday, a Senate subcommittee endorsed Sen. Richard Black’s bill to abolish the A-F scale entirely. A similar measure is pending in the House of Delegates.

Black, a Loudoun County Republican, said he initially supported the grading scale but has become convinced that an F grade would stigmatize a school’s students and make it hard to recruit teachers. Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration supports repeal.

At a live taping of the weekly talk show NC SPIN this morning, panelists expressed concern with North Carolina’s own A-F school grading system, which assesses schools largely on the basis of how students perform on a single test given on one day, rather than the improvement a school makes over time.

Proponents of the A-F grading system, a policy initially launched in Florida under then-Governor Jeb Bush, say the grades allow parents to better understand how their children’s schools are performing. But critics say grading a school based on its students’ performance on a single test is not a good measure of success and worry that low-marked schools will experience negative long-term effects that include difficulty in attracting high quality teachers.

Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union) said this morning he endorses the grading system, but acknowledged that there are problems with its formula. Other panelists promoted changing the formula so that it was more heavily weighted toward improved student performance on assessments over time.

North Carolina will release A-F grades for its schools for the first time on February 5.

 

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As has already been reported, the Charter Day School group of public charter schools run by a private company has turned over much of the salary information.

Both the Wilmington Star-News and ProPublica, a national investigative journalism non-profit, have reports out about what was missing from the disclosures.

Roger Bacon Academies, the company owned by conservative charter school founder Baker Mitchell Jr., has received millions in public funds as part of the company’s exclusive contracts to run four Wilmington-area charter schools — Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, South Brunswick High School in Southport and Douglass Academy in Wilmington.

The State Board of Education, as part of an effort to increase transparency in charter schools, had asked for detailed salary information from all 148 charter schools operating in the state, including those who have contracts with education management companies. The quartet of schools run by Roger Bacon Academies were the only schools to not respond to the state’s request. The schools provided the information after it was put on a financial noncompliance status earlier this month.

The Wilmington paper reported this week that the salaries of Charter Day School administrators seem to lag their traditional public school counterparts, but note that details about bonuses or other financial benefits were not disclosed to the N.C. Department of Instruction.

Nor was salary information about Mitchell’s son, who works at the schools as an information technology director, provided, according to this report from ProPublica. The group published an extensive article looking into the North Carolina charter schools earlier this fall.

From ProPublica:

Nick Mitchell, Baker Mitchell’s son, is on the payroll of Roger Bacon Academy, his father’s for-profit management company, according to both his LinkedIn profile and the schools’ own organizational charts. The younger Mitchell is the only management firm employee listed on the schools’ organizational charts whose salary is not on the list turned over to regulators.

The North Carolina State Board of Education last week took Mitchell’s charter schools off financial probation after finally receiving the salary list. After ProPublica flagged the missing salary to the state board, an agency attorney, Katie Cornetto, said the state has “asked the school to clarify” and is awaiting a response.

And what does the non-profit board of directors that employs Roger Bacon Academies have to say? Apparently not much, at least to ProPublica.

From the article:

We also requested comment from Baker Mitchell and John Ferrante, the chair of the nonprofit board that oversees the schools. In an email reply ending with a smiley-face emoticon, Ferrante declined to answer ProPublica’s question about the missing salary.

You can read the entire exchange here.

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A group of charter schools in the Southeastern part of the state will face disciplinary action if they don’t soon provide the salaries of school personnel hired by a private contractor to work in the schools.

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to place the four schools run by Charter Day Schools, Inc. – Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, South Brunswick High School in Southport and Douglass Academy in Wilmington – under financial noncompliance.

The designation means that the charter school group will have 10 business days to comply with the request for information. After those ten days, the schools will be held under a financial disciplinary status, and will have another 10 days before any fines or sanctions go into effect.

The state board would decide what sanctions to take against the charter schools, and could decide to levy fines against the schools, freeze public funding or seek revocation of the charter schools ability to operate in the state, said Alexis Schauss, the school business division at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Roger Bacon Academies, the company owned by conservative charter school founder Baker Mitchell Jr., has received millions in public funds as part of the company’s exclusive contracts to run four Wilmington-area charter schools.

Nearly 2,000 students enrolled at the four tuition-free schools this year, which draw down federal, state and local education funds. Mitchell also owns a company that leases land and school supplies to the public charter schools. Close to $9 million has gone to Mitchell’s companies over the last two years, according to the Wilmington Star-News.

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The standoff between Baker Mitchell Jr, whose company runs four Wilmington-area charter schools, and North Carolina’s education agency is continuing.

Baker Mitchell of Roger Bacon Adademies, with students.

Baker Mitchell of Roger Bacon Adademies, with students.

The state has demanded – but has yet to receive— details from Charter Day Schools, Inc. about the salaries paid out to Roger Bacon Academy employees who work in the four public charter schools run by the company.

Owned by Mitchell, Roger Bacon Academy has exclusive contracts to manage and run four schools in Southeastern North Carolina — Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, South Brunswick School in Bolivia and Douglass Academy in Wilmington.

The board chair of the non-profit in charge of the schools recently claimed that the private company owned by Mitchell won’t give the salary information to the schools’ board of directors.

John Ferrante, a Wilmington lawyer and chair of the non-profit Charter Day Schools, Inc., told Phillip Price of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction last week that the non-profit board of directors can’t get detailed salary information of headmasters and assistant headmasters from Roger Bacon Academy.

Price, DPI’s chief financial officer, summarized his Oct. 17 conversation with Ferrante in an email to State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey and several DPI employees. N.C. Policy Watch received a copy of that email through a standing public records request it has with DPI.

“He [Ferrante] indicated that he had requested that information and they had responded that it was confidential and not available,” wrote Price in the Oct. 17 email. “Mr. Ferrante was concerned that his schools would be punished for something that was out of their control (and parents were expressing concern).”

The Charter Day Schools, Inc. board of directors governs the four charter schools –– and has the ability to hire and fire Roger Bacon Academy, Mitchell’s private company. Mitchell also owns another company that leases land and buildings to the charter school group.

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Will Huntsberry has a great article in this week’s issue of INDY Week that takes a close look at all of the education reform bills being rammed through by mostly Republican lawmakers.

In particular, Huntsberry’s piece focuses in on how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has served as a playbook for ed reform in North Carolina, highlighting which bills are “ALEC approved.”

Take a minute, it’s worth a read…

The GOP’s free-market reforms are aimed at public education