An online public charter school that serves more than 2,400 students across North Carolina will be allowed to end its contract with its for-profit management company. On Monday, state board of education members approved the North Carolina Connections Academy’s request to sever ties with its management company Pearson Online and Blended Learning.
NCCA has received a "D" grade from the state for the past three years. School officials blame Pearson’s curriculum for the poor academic performance, saying it is not aligned with state standards and does not allow teachers to make changes to meet students’ individual needs.
NCCA’s school board president Bridget Phifer says they have a new contract with Edgenuity, a company that works throughout the state and offers teachers more flexibility in the classroom.
“If they find that a particular student needs additional help with something they can put those things in, they can take things out and allows teachers to teach students to mastery as opposed to passing the test. So we’re excited about the opportunity for our teachers now to show what they are capable of doing,” Phifer said.
In March, officials with Pearson defended their curriculum before the state charter board saying their courses were approved and found to be rigorous by the North Carolina Virtual Public School. They say they provide education management services to more than 70,000 students and have not received the kind of complaints launched by NCCA officials.
Phifer says they plan to change the school’s name to North Carolina Cyber Academy and will negotiate contracts with additional vendors for enrollment, financial and marketing services. They will also do some of the things that Pearson provided for them in house, requiring additional hires, all Phifer says at a savings of several million dollars.
“The services we paid to Pearson cost us over $10 million and it went out of state to them. With some of the vendors, we will contract with as well as those we are looking to contract with, those same services will cost us $7 million — giving us $3 million to reinvest,” Phifer said. “That will allow us to use that money to reduce average class sizes, improve students’ academic performance, for higher teacher salaries and more technology for students.”
Along with state officials approving the severing of NCCA’s contract with Pearson, comes additional monitoring from state officials, which Phifer says they welcome.
“It will be a great opportunity for the charter advisory board and state education board to learn more about us and see what’s working and what we have found that our students need, so we welcome working closely with them,” Phifer said.
Phifer says currently most of their students live in Charlotte and Durham.