Vouchers, Privately-Run Charters, And an ISD – Using Systemic Poverty to Privatize Public Education in North Carolina

If one thing is for certain, North Carolina’s school performance grades are a confirmation that student poverty levels have so much to do with how schools perform.

Those performance grades also help to fuel “reform” efforts.

EdNC.org released a new version of its Data Dashboard that allows users to filter for different variables when viewing data pertaining to NC’s school performance grades.

This is what this year’s performance grades look like when viewing them as plotted on a map of the state.


Look at that more closely.


And look at the numbers of student body percentages that received free & reduced lunches as correlated with the school performance grades.


No school that had 0 – 25% free and reduced lunch (low poverty) received a score of “D” of “F”. The other bars explain themselves.

The default settings are set at how the current grades are calculated: 15 point scale and 20% growth / 80% “achievement”. But that grading point scale will be changing soon.

Budget fact

That will seismically change things and the interactive map shows that.



Just changing the grading scale to a ten point scale would increase the number of students in “low performing” and failing schools nearly threefold.

Those school performance grades are based on a model developed by Jeb Bush when he was in Florida. It’s disastrous and places a lot of emphasis on achievement scores of amorphous, one-time testing rather than student growth throughout the entire year.

It’s part of the “proficiency versus growth” debate that really came to the forefront during the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings when she could not delineate between whether test scores are used to measure student “achievement” or student “growth.”

The people who made the decision to change the school performance grading system formula next year, expand vouchers, create an ISD school district, and deregulate charter school growth ABSOLUTELY UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROFICIENCY AND GROWTH. IT HELPS TO VALIDATE THEIR WANT OF REFORMS THAT ACTUALLY PRIVATIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION.

Imagine if more emphasis was placed on “growth” than achievement as measured by amorphous standardizes tests. Here is what the scores would look like on a 15 point scale if growth and achievement were equally balanced.


But the current NCGA will not allow that to happen. Those test scores mean too much to a plan.

It is no wonder the most recent school chosen to be taken over by the Innovative School District is a “high poverty” school: Carver Heights Elementary School in Wayne County.

It is a school that has a 90% free & reduced lunch population.

And just recently, DPI under Mark Johnson (who is all in for these “reforms”) received a grant to open up more charter schools for “economically disadvantaged” students.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools will receive $23.6 million over five years to help the state’s charter schools meet the needs of economically disadvantaged students. North Carolina is one of eight states to receive the Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter School Program grants from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The funding, which totals $10.4 million for the federal fiscal year that began Monday, will be used for sub-grants to new and existing charter schools to:

  • Assist new charter schools that will serve a large economically disadvantaged student population in their planning year 
  • Assist charter schools in their first three years of operation that serve a large, economically disadvantaged student population
  • Assist high-quality charter schools that serve a large economically disadvantaged population and want to replicate
  • Assist high-quality charter schools that want to expand to serve a larger economically disadvantaged population

“North Carolina’s charter schools should be laboratories of innovation, proving grounds for ideas that can be scaled across all our schools and all student populations,” said State Superintendent Mark Johnson. “This funding will allow schools to better serve our students in the most need and increase the diversity of students served by charter schools(https://www.ednc.org/2018/10/03/department-of-public-instruction-wins-federal-grant-to-expand-charter-school-opportunities-for-traditionally-underserved-students/).”

Makes one want to look at the districts that were redrawn by the current powers that be to help make the political landscape remain intact; that is what gerrymandering is supposed to do.

Makes one want to see what schools were most affected by the hurricanes that forced many to close for a while and while being allowed to “forgive” missed days, the NCGA did not allow for much in the way for calendar flexibility. Will that affect  “achievement”scores? That’s not a rhetorical question.

What this really shows is that in a state that did not expand Medicaid, gave huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy but not to the average North Carolinian, runs on a supposed surplus, and chooses not invest fully in its public schools, systemic poverty becomes a reason to enact “reforms” that profit a few and not the state as a whole.