Under the Dome

Charter advocate calls report’s poverty numbers ‘garbage’

A state report on charter schools is probably wrong about the wealth disparities between charter school students and traditional school students, a charter advocacy group said Thursday.

The report likely overstates the difference, said Lee Teague, spokesman for the N.C. Public Charter Schools Association. It’s hard to say definitively because the charters self-report the percentages of economically disadvantaged students at their schools, Teague said. The problem is that the state Department of Public Instruction can’t say for sure either, he said.

Not all charters offer free or reduced price lunch and don’t know how many low-income students they have, Teague said.

Some estimate or purposefully under-report the numbers, he said.

The report says that nearly 55 percent of students at traditional public schools last year were economically disadvantaged, while 36 percent of students at charter schools were. Seven charters said they had no poor students, according to the report.

Similar numbers have been reported for years, Teague said in an email. “They all suffer from the same ‘garbage in, garbage out’ problem,” he wrote.

Adam Levinson, interim director of the state charter school office, said it has started using a different system to improve data collection.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest convinced the State Board of Education on Wednesday to delay a vote sending the report to the legislature, saying it was too negative.

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