Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Could new exams close N.C. charters?

North Carolina charter schools will get a one-year reprieve from academic standards that could lead the state to revoke charters. But the tougher new tests that debuted last year,  leading to a dramatic plunge in pass rates across the state,  could spell trouble for many schools moving forward.

Seventy-five of 108 charter schools that reported scores for 2013 fell below the 60 percent composite pass rate that can trigger a label of  "academically inadequate." That's not a surprise,  given that fewer than half of all public-school students (including traditional public schools and charters,  which are operated by independent boards) passed last year's math and reading exams.  And it's actually better than schools run by local districts:  By my tally, 86 percent of North Carolina's district schools and 69 percent of charters had pass rates below 60 percent.  (See results for Mecklenburg schools in the school data listing at right.)

Charlotte's Sugar Creek Charter had low proficiency but high growth
State law defines charter schools as academically inadequate if they have composite pass rates below 60 percent on state exams and  "no growth in student performance"  for two out of three consecutive years.  One charter has been closed since those standards were set in 2011 and several others have been  "put on notice"  that they're at risk,  Joel Medley,  director of the N.C. Office of Charter Schools,  said in a recent letter to charter operators.

But a 60 percent pass rate on the old tests isn't the same as 60 percent on the new exams,  which are designed to test the more complex skills demanded by national Common Core academic standards.  In fact,  I'm still puzzling over how anyone can accurately calculate year-to-year student growth,  given that the testing has changed so much. School growth ratings are now tallied by the Cary-based SAS, a private company that uses a secret formula to determine whether N.C. schools met, exceeded or fell short of acceptable progress.

The state Board of Education decided not to penalize anyone for 2012-13 scores,  Medley said,  but this year's results will count and could combine with earlier years to label a school inadequate.  By Dec. 19,  Medley said,  he'll notify operators if their school is at risk.

Eighteen of the charters that fell below 60 percent also failed to meet the state growth targets.  Those included four in the Charlotte area:  American Renaissance School in Statesville (38.7 percent overall proficiency),  Carolina International School in Harrisburg  (50.2 percent),  Community Charter in Charlotte  (17.8 percent)  and Crossroads Charter High in Charlotte (less than 5 percent).

Closing of  inadequate charters is not automatic. Update/correction: Medley called Monday and said under the current system, revocation is automatic for schools that fail to meet the standards for two of the most recent three years (which will not include 2012-13).

My guess is there's going to be a lot of discussion among charter advocates, state education officials and lawmakers about the definition of the label.   After all,  if falling below 60 percent proficiency and failing to make growth targets are indicators of academic failure ,  many traditional public schools also fell short last year,  including Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Hopewell  (33.7 percent),  Independence  (45.3 percent)  and Myers Park  (58.5 percent) high schools.


Anonymous said...

Common Core makes me sore.

Wiley Coyote said...

The status quo will always be allowed to go on, so there will never be any public school closings.

Excuses will be made and technicalities implemented to keep closings from happening.

Anonymous said...

Ann, How about the state test all the students equally. Same test same time and day of the year. Do you think their would be a major difference between Charter,Private and public systems? I certainly do and I think the results would be dramatic. Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

Keith Hurley, are you that much of a simpleton? Child, please.....

Anonymous said...

Keith, I agree it would be interesting to see that data. And Heath Morrison has argued that at least the private schools that take voucher students should face the same testing requirements. But I don't think private schools are eager to see that happen. I've heard from some that they wouldn't accept Opportunity Scholarships if they came with state mandates.

Larry said...

Strange Anne since a fifth of Private School Students receive some type of financial aid.

So keep that in mind folks when you think about sending your kids to any where but the drop out factories of CMS.

You may want to look at what you can get to get your child in these schools.

Reggie Mantle said...

What people fail to understand about charter schools (and something Ann doesn't seem willing to write about) is that many charters including some of those listed above serve students who did not function well in CMS. They have social and/or learning issues that the school district could not manage properly.

Charter schools are not simply suburban whites trying to escape CMS as the Observer insists on portraying them. Many are serving underprivileged youth who have been failed by the district system.

As a result, the outcomes of any standardized testing conducted on charter schools will vary widely just as they do in the larger district. Neither side should use these results to attack or exalt charter schools. Most of all, the Observer and Ann in particular should resist their knee-jerk inclination to inflame the issue.

Anonymous said...

Please stop saying the Common Core is demanding more. It simply is not true! I am a teacher and I know. They are milk toast but they are also " shots in the dark". The essential standards cover a ridiculous amount of ambiguous material and actually phrased questions for my 9th graders that looked more like AP questions for my 12th graders! Common Core is common crap. It's full of errors, non-sensical language, and incompetent administrators and bureaucrats! It's a farce! It is purely punitive - designed to punish teachers. Period.

Anonymous said...


I think that many people are aware of that since that is usually included in charter marketing materials. If the argument is that charters can yield better results, then shouldn't we expect them to do so or at least match that of the school they would normally attend? Your argument seems to suggest that we should not.

Anonymous said...

As 10:18 said - the problem with Common Core is that it is an inch deep and a mile wide. Teachers really have no clue what will be on the test. You can work yourself into exhaustion and still get bad scores because of baggage the student bring into the classroom. A teacher cannot close learning gaps AND teach all the content in a few weeks and then expect great test results. They are unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Test scores mean nothing. Tests show how well someone tests. I know a lot more than tests let on. I know the material, but have trouble getting it down on paper.

Anonymous said...

Some of these Charters, jn particular Community Charter, should have been closed YEARS AGO. DPI does a really poor job of monitoring the charters and without better oversight there these poor performing schools have nothing to worry about.

Anonymous said...

No matter the results of the standardized tests Principals and top level administrators will continue to push students through high school who do not meet minimum standards simply to improve the graduation rate.

Why have you not followed up on the piece WSOC did which exposed South Meck High schools Principal bullying teachers into giving failing students a grade of "D" when they clearly failed the class. I have spoken with several teachers at South Meck and they confirmed this practice and have also stated that Dr. Furr's response was simply her back tracking via blatant lies and by no means smoothed things over with the faculty.

Ann, these are the real stories you should be pursuing. How can parents make educated judgments on where to send their kids to school when these issues are being hidden from the public. How about a story on how the central administration is preventing high school administrations from suspending students and even enforcing basic rules like arriving on time to class. Parents should be aware of the fact that their child is sharing a classroom with felons and 19 year old students who have ankle monitoring bracelets.

Shamash said...
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Shamash said...

From what I can tell you need to distinguish between at least two things when looking at Common Core.

First, the "standards".

Second, the "tests".

For some states (in fact, most) the standards are higher than prior standards, for some they are lower.

Apparently, the tests are totally screwy. Especially for the lower grades.

There's also that little matter of what "proficient" means.

I suspect that they are swapping levels and moving the standard for "passing" UP from "basic" to "proficient" while not explaining that very clearly.

And that's why so many people are doing worse.

It's a combination of being held to a higher level to "pass", say from a D to a B, and also getting some poorly designed tests to measure those grades.

Just my uninformed, amateur opinion of course...

Anonymous said...

Common Core is garbage. It's nothing more than a government-ran curriculum that's sole purpose is to indoctrinate our youths.

Anonymous said...

Another problem with the transition to Common Core and testing in the lower grades is the fact that certain skills were moved from one grade level to another, creating the potential for "holes" in students' learning. For instance if a particular skill had previously been taught in 4th grade and it is now taught in 3rd grade, those students who are in 4th grade now were not taught that skill.

Also, this past year there were things on the test that were not part of the standards for our grade level. Why are students being tested on something they were not taught?

Wiley Coyote said...


This is nothing new.

In the first decade of forced busing, it was common for kids who were attending one school and uprooted and sent to another school to take classes they already had that year or the prior year.

My father faced that issue with my brother who sat around in 9th and 10th grade going over some of the same course he had in junior high.

Your point is right on and will lead to further erosion of "gains" for the next few years.

Shamash said...

Personally, I'm just glad we don't TOTALLY DEPEND on the schools to give our kids "skills".

So, personally, I don't worry so much about these kinds of tests.

They just help me convince my kids they need to work harder.

Because I know they can do the work and do well on the tests if they try.

I'm sure some kids at some schools will have more to overcome, but it's always been that way.

Better to find out while they're still in school than later on in life when they have to get re-educated on their own time and dime.

But, hey, that's just me.

Shamash said...


In the first decade of forced busing I had to read History tests to several HS Freshmen.

Because they couldn't.

I hope we're doing a bit better now, but I kinda doubt it because we seem to be up to the same old tricks.

Better to nip it in the bud and keep them in the third grade until they learn to read.

It should make Elementary School basketball more exciting, too, when the six footers take the court.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:37- it's Keith W. Hurley so please focus next time. Use your name as well so we can improve your educational needs going forward. Happy Holidays to all! Keith W. Hurley

Anonymous said...

It's good to read some real educators postings ! They are speaking from facts.

Anonymous said...

The only thing Common Core is doing is allowing CMeS and the NC Legislature the data not to ever pay the teachers the ABC money that was promised over 5 years ago. It also will allow the state to NEVER pay the teachers dental and vison benefits ever again. It is a farse and a sham. MOrrison can plead all he wants but he knows how to follow the money and where his bread is buttered.

Anonymous said...

Many states are withdrawing from Come Core. Wake up North Carolina!

Anonymous said...

Good article in EDUCATION magazine on the state of Mass. giving up on common core.

Shamash said...

Another good article in Education Week:

U.S. Achievement Stalls as Other Nations Make Gains...

In mathematics, 29 nations and other jurisdictions outperformed the United States by a statistically significant margin, up from 23 three years ago, the results released Tuesday show. The nations that eclipsed the U.S. average included not only traditional high fliers like South Korea and Singapore, but also Austria, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average, up from 18 in 2009.

“While we’re standing still, other countries are making progress,” said Jack Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which issued the U.S. report on PISA.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully schools will find a way to move forward somehow. I would not want to see lots of charter schools getting closed. Like I said this many times already: we are not ready to accept common core and currently it does more damage than good to schools, kids, their parents and teachers as a matter of fact. As for the test results…yes, they will be dramatic and the level of education is different in these schools.
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Anonymous said...

Community Charter does an excellent job of addressing the specific needs of its students. It cannot compare to the achievements of white flight schools but it does produce impressive gains and must be respected. Charter schools are not all meant to be "private" schools funded by the taxpayers.