Monday numbers: A closer look at the academic performance of North Carolina’s charter schools

By: - October 17, 2022 6:00 am

Last month, school accountability data from 2020-21 showed lower graduation rates, lower rates of proficiency on state tests and more schools designated as low-performing under North Carolina’s A-F school grade performance model.

While traditional public schools get lots of attention when annual testing data is released, it’s also worth noting the performance of the state’s 204 charter schools that enroll more than 130,000 students.

Ashley Baquero, the new director of the Office of Charter Schools, shared 2021-22 school performance data for those schools with the Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) last week. The data show that charters, like many traditional public schools, struggled to make the grade on the latest round of testing. Because of the pandemic the data were the first since the 2018-2019 school year.

Baquero’s first “academic data review” to CSAB focused on the academic growth of students from one school year to the next, but with little attention to proficiency or how well students performed on tests.

There is a growing sentiment among state conservatives that standardized test scores tell us little about what happens in classrooms over the course of a year. They join progressive educators and politicians who have long held that the academic growth of a student from one year to the next paints a truer picture of the teaching and learning that has taken place.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt is leading the effort to change the method of determining school performance grades.

“School performance grades are really about school quality, but right now the model overemphasizes student test scores while not accounting for the other ways schools are preparing students for post-secondary success,” Truitt said last month. The grades are mainly determined by student scores on state end-of-grade and end-of-course tests. Eighty percent of the grade is based on student proficiency on state tests and 20 percent on the academic growth students experience from one year to the next

Baquero, for example, touted Henderson Collegiate Public Charter School as the top performer among charter schools in terms of growth. The school exceeded expectations by 18.77 points. Roughly 42% of students at the K-12 school were proficient on exams, which is below the state average of 51%.

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the academic performance of the state’s 204 charter schools for the 2021-22 school year:

76 – Number of charter schools — or 38%– that did not meet academic growth goals

88 – Number of charters (44%) that met academic growth goals

37 – Number (18%) that exceeded academic growth goals

2 – Number in the top 5 five-highest performing led by current or former members of the Charter School Advisory Board

129 – Number (63%) that met of exceeded growth with economically disadvantaged students

5 – Number (24.5%) that met of exceeded growth with English learners

106 – Number that met or exceeded growth with students with disabilities

7 – Number that earned an A school performance grade

46 – Number that earned a B

65 –Number that earned a C

59 – Number that earned a D

19 – Number that earned an F

8 –Number of charters with insufficient data to earn a school performance grade or that used an alternative grading model

67 – Number of low-performing and continually low-performing charter schools during the 2021-22 school year; there are 66 this school year, as one was closed due to its poor performance

35 – Number of low-performing charter schools that are considered continually low-performing

32.8% –Percentage of the state’s 204 charter schools that are low-performing or continually low performing

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Greg Childress
Greg Childress

Education Reporter Greg Childress covers all aspects of public education in North Carolina, including debates over school funding, curricula, privatization, and teacher pay and licensing.