Education

NC allows 19 struggling schools to operate more like charters

From left, Kelly Morales, 7, Leslye Monterroza, 6, and Joselynne Serrano, 6, read through books donated through the WAKE Up and Read Book Drive during a book fair at Fox Road Elementary School in Raleigh on May 2, 2016. The State Board of Education voted Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, to allow Fox Road and 18 other struggling schools to operate more like charter schools.
From left, Kelly Morales, 7, Leslye Monterroza, 6, and Joselynne Serrano, 6, read through books donated through the WAKE Up and Read Book Drive during a book fair at Fox Road Elementary School in Raleigh on May 2, 2016. The State Board of Education voted Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, to allow Fox Road and 18 other struggling schools to operate more like charter schools. jhknight@newsobserver.com

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to allow 19 low-performing traditional public schools, including 10 in Wake County, to operate more like charter schools in an effort to boost their student achievement.

The 19 schools will receive the same flexibility that charter schools now get to set their school calendars and to spend state money. Leaders at those schools are considering potential changes for the 2017-18 school year such as longer school years, longer school days and new programs to reduce class sizes and provide more training and other resources.

The state board had been scheduled to vote on the “restart model” requests in January but moved up the decision to give the schools more planning time. Thursday’s approval is contingent upon a review of the financial components of the requests not producing any funding issues.

The Wake County schools that will get the extra flexibility are Bugg, Fox Road, Millbrook and Poe elementary schools and Carroll and East Millbrook middle schools in Raleigh; East Garner Elementary and East Garner Middle in Garner; East Wake Middle near Knightdale and Wendell Middle School.

Requests were also approved at five schools in Cabarrus County and four schools in Warren County.

Charter schools receive exemptions because they are taxpayer-funded public schools that are meant to be laboratories for innovation. Traditional public schools have long clamored for the same flexibility as charter schools, but state lawmakers have only been willing to offer it to struggling schools.

A state policy, based on a 2010 state law, lets school districts ask for permission from the state board to give charter-like flexibility to schools that have been low-performing for two of the past three years.

Last year, the state board approved requests from 10 schools to use the restart model, including Barwell Road and Walnut Creek elementary schools in Raleigh. It’s led to changes at Barwell and Walnut Creek, such as an extra 10 days of classes and a longer school day on Thursdays for extracurricular clubs.

While the 19 schools will have the same flexibility as charter schools, they will still be expected to do things that charters are not required to offer such as school meals and bus service.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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