News: Quick Takes

State Board of Education meeting agenda includes Read to Achieve, charter schools

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, pictured here in his office. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, pictured here in his office. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

The N.C. State Board of Education is starting the new year with a discussion on Read to Achieve standards and the annual charter school report.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson will lead a presentation Wednesday, Jan. 8, on Read to Achieve. The state board is in charge of implementing the program. 

Things could get tense. Read to Achieve is a state program aimed at boosting reading scores for young students. The state superintendent will likely bring up previous claims that 70,000 third-graders were promoted to the fourth grade because of age, not because they had met standards under Read to Achieve. 

“Read to Achieve specifically directed the State Board of Education to end social promotion of third-graders — promoting students from one grade level to the next on the basis of age rather than academic ability,” Johnson said in a December memo. “Sadly, the State Board’s policy aggressively avoided that directive.”

Eric Davis, chairman of the state education board, has denied Johnson’s statement. 

“The Superintendent claims that the State Board enacted policy that violated state law about one of the General Assembly leadership’s most important education priorities,” Davis said in a statement obtained by the News & Observer. “If the State Board had enacted policy contrary to law, the General Assembly would surely have taken action of which there is no evidence.”

Johnson and the education board have clashed often since he was elected in 2016.  

The State Board of Education was embroiled in a lawsuit with Johnson over control of the public school system. Soon after Johnson was elected, the Republican-led General Assembly passed a law giving him greater control over public schools. The education board argued the law was unconstitutional. The board sued, but the court favored Johnson. 

In other business Wednesday, the board is set to discuss the 2020 Annual Charter School Report, which includes a breakdown of charter school operations, performance, student population. 

On Jan. 2, the Charter School Advisory Board asked the Office of Charter Schools to rework the report. The advisory board wanted the report to detail how charter schools get less funding than traditional public schools and pay for their own facility costs, WRAL reported. 

CSAB members want more context around charter school performance grades and how student demographics are portrayed. The charter school report looks at demographic makeup of individual charter schools, so it shouldn’t be compared to entire school districts, advisory board members said. 

The state education board will discuss the report and any additions at the January meeting, but the board won’t vote to finalize it until February. 

Updates on the Innovative School District, the Digital Learning Initiative, and MyFuture NC are also on the board’s agenda.

A discussion about K-3 literacy is expected, J.B. Buxton, a member of the state board, said in an email to Carolina Journal

Buxton said he expects, “significant board engagement.”