Hope Charter gets warning, permission to continue operating

State leaders gave a high-poverty Raleigh charter school an ultimatum Wednesday: Improve the school’s slumping scores or face losing control.

The N.C. Charter Schools Advisory Board rejected Hope Charter Leadership Academy’s plan to improve academic performance. Board members said the plan’s goals were not aggressive enough.

The board threatened that if scores don’t drastically improve, then the state could try to find another group to take over. If no group volunteers, the school could be shut down.

“Not enough is being done to grow these children,” advisory board member Hilda Parlér said during a meeting Wednesday.

Hope Charter is an almost all-minority school that serves 123 students at a site near downtown Raleigh.

Earlier this year, the State Board of Education accepted the advisory board’s recommendation to give the school a three-year renewal on its charter, which was set to expire last June. But the renewal came with a stipulation that Hope had to meet annual growth targets on state exams.

However, the school fell short. It had a passing rate on state exams last year of 26.5 percent, didn’t meet growth and received a “F” school performance grade.

In October, the advisory board ordered Hope Charter’s leaders to create a comprehensive plan to improve academic performance.

During the school’s presentation to the board on Wednesday, Hope Charter principal Clarissa Fleming said leaders have gotten new assessment tools to gauge student performance.

The school has also increased pay to retain and hire good teachers, she said. School staff visited neighboring schools with similar demographics, hired a consultant and provided after-school development that many students attend.

“We have taken a hard, deep look at our school performance,” Fleming said.

She told the board Wednesday the school will increase its end-of-grade reading and math scores by 20 percent, and increase science scores by 100 percent.

Some board members said the goals were too low, since only a few more students in each grade level would have to pass to reach a 20 percent increase.

“I think these goals lack ambition,” said board member Cheryl Turner.

Advisory board member Steven Walker, who recommended last month revoking Hope’s charter, said the board will continue to hold the school’s feet to the fire when academic scores for this school year are reported.

“I’m going to have my eyes on this school like a hawk,” Walker said.

Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi