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NC charter board works to reduce low-performing schools, honors strong ones

Students at Charlotte's American Leadership Academy on a recent field trip to the Schiele Museum.
American Leadership Academy Charlotte Facebook page
Students at Charlotte's American Leadership Academy on a recent field trip to the Schiele Museum.

Last year 62 of North Carolina’s 211 charter schools were rated as low performing or continuously low performing. State officials want to bring that number down. This week the state’s Charter School Review Board heard from leaders of several of those schools about their efforts to improve.

Among the first batch to present was Charlotte’s American Leadership Academy, which used to be Aristotle Prep. This school year it hired Charter One to manage the schooland became part of an American Leadership Academy chain that has schools in Arizona, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Director Carmi Green told the board her school moved into a new building in east Charlotte, and it’s more or less making a fresh start, with 72% turnover in staff and a new leadership team. Most of the students are also new, she said, because the new building, on Robinson Church Road, is a 30 to 40-minute commute for most of the students who attended before.

Green talked about reading and math programs designed to boost performance and about building a new culture.

“With all of this new, we did have the chance to re-establish that student and adult culture within our building, and that was very important for us,” she said.

The Office of Charter Schools has also been sending staff to observe classes in low-performing schools, many of which are clustered in the Charlotte region.

Map of North Carolina's low-performing and continuously low-performing schools.
North Carolina Office of Charter Schools
Map of North Carolina's low-performing and continuously low-performing schools.

One of those, Ridgeview Charter School in Gastonia, was originally up for a vote this week on cutting off its public funding because of low test scores. But the board delayed that vote until March.

Review and renewal of charters is one way the state holds schools accountable for results. Charter schools are run by private boards that have to win state authorization to get public money.

The state voted to renew 14 charters Tuesday. Schools with the best record on academics, finances and compliance get the longest terms, while those with problems have to come back sooner for review. Those in the Charlotte region were:

Movement School Eastland in Charlotte was also deferred for a March vote. The state had recommended it for a five-year renewal but said staff had turned up information about its finances that might require a shorter term.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.