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Education
An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Lt. Gov. Finds NC Charter Schools Report 'Misleading'

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NC.gov

The North Carolina Board of Education got some notice this week for something it didn’t do. The board decided to delay forwarding a report on charter schools to state lawmakers. WFAE’s Lisa Worf joins All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey in the studio to discuss.

MR: Lisa, what kind of report are we talking about?

LW: It’s a pretty routine one. Every year, state lawmakers ask for a rundown of academic progress at these schools, their impact on traditional public schools and best practices that other schools might try. Here’s Adam Levinson’s description of it to the state board of education. He’s the interim director of the office that oversees the state’s charters.  

LEVINSON: It’s a very factual report.  It updates you on statistics about the charter schools.

LW: But Lt. Gov. Dan Forest doesn’t see it the same way.  Here he is:

FOREST: I felt like in reading through it, some of the information in there, statistics, data, was a little bit misleading, almost even a bit negative about the charter situation in North Carolina. The report to me did not have a lot of positive things to say. 

LW: He asked the state board of education to delay approving it for a month. And they agreed. 

MR: What did Lt. Gov. Forest find so objectionable about it?

LW: He didn’t say. It includes a bunch of data and comparisons to traditional public schools. For example, a higher percentage of charter schools receive A and B ratings compared to district schools. But a higher percentage also receive F ratings. It shows the percentage of charter schools meeting or exceeding growth on student test scores is about the same as their traditional public school counterparts. It also points out the charter school population has a higher percentage of white students. White students compose 57 percent of the charter school population. At district schools across the state, it’s 50 percent. The percentage of African American students is about the same in charter schools and district schools at 26 percent. District schools do have about double the percentage of Latino students compared to charters. 

MR: Is any of this new information?

LW: It’s the most recent compilation of a lot of charter school data. But it’s not particularly surprising. The academic performance is not a departure from past years and there’s already been a lot of information about the racial composition of charter schools. The report cites a Duke University study that says most charter schools are more than 80 percent white, or more than 80 percent African American and Latino students. And that the share of minority students in charter schools has declined. 

UPDATE: Lt. Gov. Forest told WWNC's Pete Kaliner his problems with the report include a reference to the Duke University study, the idea that charter schools take money away from school districts, and no mention of the success of some charters.