At CarolinaCAN, we set our priorities by policies that research suggests are the most powerful for moving the needle on student achievement, particularly for disadvantaged kids.
So why, of all the possible solutions we could focus on to raise student achievement, do we care about charter schools?
After all, charter schools only serve roughly 3 percent of North Carolina’s public school students—a growing but still quite small slice of our total student population. More importantly, neither national nor local data suggest that charter schools consistently outperform traditional district schools. As the graph below shows, overall, charter schools in North Carolina are a mixed bag.
For the most part, we see in NC what sophisticated research studies in have shown about charter schools in other states for years – on average, they’re average.And yet, at CarolinaCAN, we do care about charter schools. Why?
We care because these same nationwide studies have shown time after time that charter schools are having remarkable success with a particular student group core to our mission: students from low-income backgrounds.
This is the same group of students that many of North Carolina’s traditional public schools are struggling to serve well. Statewide, North Carolina’s low-income students fall behind their more affluent peers by 30 points in math and 28 points in reading by the eighth grade.
These students should not have to wait the year or years it can take to turn around their local traditional public school to have access to an excellent education. Top-notch, mission-driven public charter schools give disadvantaged students that option today. And they prove to all of us what is possible for disadvantaged students in public schools.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been fortunate to visit and learn more about the top-performing charter schools in North Carolina serving high percentages of at-risk students. Next month, I look forward to sharing the stories of their success, what sets them apart from other charter schools, and the state policies that enable them to prove that all students can succeed–no matter their zip code, background, or household income.