Archives

School testsAt the risk of committing education policy world heresy by saying something positive about the Department of Public Instruction and the federal Department of Education, let’s hear three cheers for the following announcement from the NC Public Schools website:

“Thanks to a grant and supplemental funds from the U.S. Department of Education, every eligible North Carolina high school student who took an Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exam last year will have his or her test fees covered.

As a part of the federal Advanced Placement Test Fee Program, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) will receive more than $880,000 to cover AP and IB exam fees for all low-income students who qualify. The Department will use the funds to reimburse districts for the IB exam fees and pay College Board directly on behalf of districts to cover outstanding balances they incurred for eligible students. Read More

Since publishing our investigation about a Winston-Salem public charter’s school’s international basketball team earlier this week, Quality Education Academy has added another person to its basketball staff.

Felix Taylor is listed as a “recruiting coordinator” for the basketball team on the team’s website, which was updated after the publication of our investigation Monday.

The N.C. Policy Watch investigation,  “’A factory of excellence’?” , found that QEA recruits nationally and internationally for a basketball team subsidized by North Carolina taxpayers that have sent $13 million in education dollars to the school. The investment appears to have paid off for the team – they’ve won national championships in recent year, sent more than a dozen players on to play for Division 1 schools and are ranked the 11th best team in the state by Maxpreps.com, a CBS Sports website that tracks players for at the preparatory level.

The investigation also found that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction failed to follow up on its own concerns about the school’s unusual athletics program, and and granted the school’s chief executive officer Simon Johnson permission to open a new charter this last fall.

The state agency began looking at the charter school’s basketball program when three Serbian students wrote state officials saying they had been put demoted a grade level and were told to pay basketball coach Isaac Pitts $4,000 each. The state found the school was taking in students from all over the world, and used taxpayer dollars to educate them. But the N.C. Department of Public Instruction dropped its investigation when it slipped through the crack as the state agency dealt with a crush of charter school applications that came in 2011 after the cap on the publicly-financed, privately-run schools was lifted.

QEA’s revamped website shows that Taylor has worked for the public charter school for two years, but his name did not appear on a payroll provided to N.C. Policy Watch on Jan. 16 as part of a public records request. He joins four basketball coaches for the high school team, compared with only five high school teachers the public charter has for the less than 100 students enrolled in high school there.

Johnson, the school’s CEO, did not respond to a request for comment made Wednesday afternoon. The school has yet to respond to requests made Tuesday for Taylor’s date of hire and salary.

To read our investigation, click here.

A Winston-Salem public charter school has agreed to pay back $52,000 after state education officials accused the school of mishandling federal lunch program funds last year.

Quality Education Academy, which opened as one of the state’s first charter schools in 1997, had initially denied any wrongdoing but agreed to a settlement Thursday to repay the funds.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction had initially asked the school to repay more than $94,000 stemming from breakfast, lunches and snacks that the staff at Quality Education Academy served from August 2011 to February 2012 to students at the school, where approximately 80 percent of students qualified for free and reduced lunches last year.

The state, in a July 2 letter sent to QEA director Simon Johnson, said the school was not counting how many meals it actually served, and relied on outdated school rosters to estimate that meant that the school may have been over-claiming how much it should be compensated in federal funds.

N.C. Policy Watch obtained a copy of the letter through a public records request. Read More

A swarm of 61 applications came into the N.C. Department of Public Instruction before its Friday deadline for charter school applicants hoping to open schools for the 2013-14 school year.

A list of most of the applicants, with links to their applications, can be seen here, or you can scroll down to the end of this post to see them.

One note, I haven’t had time to comb through the applications yet, but let me know in comments if any stand out to you.

The N.C. State Board of Education will make a final decision later this year on how many of the 61 applicants will get a green light to open up in the fall of 2013, after a year-long training period. Earlier this year, the state board gave approval for nine “fast-track” charter schools to open this fall, following the state legislature’s lifting of a 100-school cap the state had had on charter schools.

The state board is also trying to figure out how to balance objections and impact statements from public school districts.

Read More