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Education

Small Charlotte charter-school group announces big expansion plans

Movement School class3 from MS.jpeg
Movement Schools

The Charlotte-based Movement Mortgage announced plans Friday to expand its small local charter school network to other states. The plan calls for opening 100 more schools in the next 10 years.

The announcement of a $100 million expansion comes just over four years after the Movement Foundation opened its first Movement School on Freedom Drive in west Charlotte. Movement Eastland opened in east Charlotte in 2020, and two more Charlotte schools have been approved by the state.

“If all goes as planned Atlanta will be the next stop, and then after that Houston, then Dallas. So far currently these are the cities that we are looking into as it relates to expansion,” said Movement Schools CEO Kerri-Ann T. Thomas.

The Movement School model targets areas that lack high-performing traditional public schools. The foundation also invests in neighborhood services such as affordable housing and health clinics.

“We are ensuring that underserved communities are getting access to a quality education, they are getting access to strong partnerships in health care and housing,” Thomas said.

For the schools, the foundation buys buildings and equips the schools. Federal, state and local money covering operating costs for charter schools.

Movement Schools are new enough that there isn’t much public data on academic success. The Freedom Drive school is the only one with test scores on the record. In 2019, the last year North Carolina issued ratings, the Freedom Drive school earned a D. That year Movement School had an overall proficiency rate of 49% for reading, math and science exams, and it did not meet the state’s target for student growth.

Schools that serve large numbers of children of color from low-income families often get low ratings based on test scores, whether they’re charter or district schools.

Last year Movement’s test scores dropped significantly, as did almost everyone’s during a pandemic-disrupted year. For 2021 the overall proficiency score for Movement School was 26%.

But Movement School students outperformed comparable groups in CMS last year. For instance, 36% of Movement School’s Black and economically disadvantaged third-graders passed their 2021 reading exams, compared with 28% of CMS Black third-graders and 21.5% of those who were economically disadvantaged.

At Ashley Park PreK-8 School, a CMS neighborhood school close to the Freedom Drive Movement School, only 10% of Black third-graders and 11% of economically disadvantaged third-graders passed the reading exam.

Movement Schools plans to open a new school in southwest Charlotte in August and another in northwest Charlotte in 2024.

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