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Charter Schools Likely To Remain Under NC Board Of Ed; New Study Looks At NC Charters

A move to create a panel separate from the North Carolina Board of Education to oversee charter schools is not moving forward.  Instead, the House Education committee supported a bill Tuesday that creates a new advisory board.  Basically, it would reduce the size of the advisory council from fifteen to eleven members and allow the governor only three appointments as opposed to eight.  The advisory council recommends to the state board of education which charter schools should open and close. 

Democrat Rick Glazier of Fayetteville says the negotiations considerably strengthened the bill. 

"I was not going to vote for the original bill, but I really do think the changes have been made that make this what it’s supposed to be, an advisory process," said Glazier.  "Actually a number of the amendments, I think, help as well to make sure that there’s more accountability and legitimacy to what we’re doing."

The bill got bi-partisan support. 

Under the new version, charter schools would still have to run criminal background checks on new employees, assuming that’s the policy in the districts in which they’re located.  It would not make teaching licenses completely optional for charter schools.  Although it would only require 50 percent of teachers at a school to have them. 

Representative Paul Luebke of Durham opposed the bill.  He said there’s nothing wrong with how the current advisory council works. 

The bill now moves to the House appropriations committee.

Also on the topic of charter schools….

Many parents choose charter schools to escape traditional public education.  But a new study finds that only about a quarter of charter schools outperform traditional public schools.  Stanford University’s CREDO Center conducted the study.  It’s a follow-up to its 2009 study which showed that to be the case with one in five charter schools.   WFAE’s Lisa Miller joins Marshall Terry to talk about those results. 

MT: So, how do North Carolina charter schools compare to traditional public schools here?

LM: The study looks at this in terms of days, so based on that North Carolina charter schools did well in reading on average.  For example, the study found students attending charter schools got in an extra 22 days of learning.   Now, that’s not actual days, just that the instruction they received during the year put them 22 days further ahead.  But in math, charter schools students received seven fewer days worth of learning, compared to students at traditional schools. You could see that same gap between reading and math across most of the states the study looked at.

MT: Now, North Carolina lifted the cap on charter schools.  Does this study take into account the new schools that have since opened?

LM: No, it doesn’t.  The most recent data it uses is from the 2010-11 school year.  There were only 100 schools then.  A few charter schools opened last year, but there 23 scheduled to open in the fall and another 70 want to open the year after.  I asked the study’s research manager Dev Davis how all these new schools could change the results and she says it all comes down to how thoroughly those charters are vetted.

MT:  In other words, it comes down to the people in charge of granting the charter.

LM: Yes, which brings us back to that charter school advisory group, you mentioned before.  When states first began opening charters, the push was to open as many schools as possible.  The idea was competition would weed the good ones out from the bad ones.  That hasn’t proved to be the case.  So now some charter groups are pushing states to be more selective.  This year the current advisory council recommended about a third of the schools that applied for charters to the state board of education for approval.  If this new bill goes through, it’s not clear what philosophy the new advisory council would take. 

MT: Thanks, Lisa

LM: Thank you.