Top scoring local elementary and middle schools are classical public charters, not Common Core
09/04/2015 Education | Local News | News
Leland, Whiteville— Wednesday, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released End-of-Grade (EOG) testing results for the most recent 2014-2015 school year. EOGs are standardized tests taken in grades 3-8 by all public schools in the state to provide a system of uniform achievement measuring and comparison of all NC public schools, whether district public school or public charter.
The released data reveal that in southeast NC, public charter schools are producing the highest student outcomes on EOG tests. What’s more? These top-scoring schools do not use the state-mandated Common Core curriculum which the EOG tests are specifically designed to measure.
Charter Day School (CDS) is a K-8 public charter school with over 900 students in Brunswick County. Public charter schools are free and any NC student may opt to attend. They are not part of traditional school districts, as they accept less public funding in exchange for the freedom to offer innovative or alternative curricula to that mandated by the state. CDS uses a classical curriculum void of Common Core, and its elementary and middle schools are each consistently the highest performing in their county, a distinction that was maintained with Wednesday’s release of 2014-2015 test scores
CDS’ elementary school’s percentage of all students who passed both the Reading and Math EOG—a figure known as the “composite score”— is 74.3%. For comparison, the state average is 56.6%, and surrounding Brunswick County district’s score is 54.6%. CDS middle school’s composite score is 67.9%, with the next highest district middle school performing at 56.5% — a difference of 11.4 percentage points. The average composite score for all CDS students, grades 3-8, is 71.3% — a full 16.7 percentage points higher than the demographically-similar surrounding district.
CDS’ “school performance grade” is a “B”, which was also achieved by the district’s Union Elementary.
Columbus, Whiteville City, Bladen
Columbus Charter School (CCS) is a replicate, sister K-8 campus of CDS, above, established in Columbus County in 2007 to expand parent access to the successful educational model. It, too, consistently provides the highest performing elementary and middle schools in Columbus County, Whiteville City, and Bladen County school districts. Because CCS serves significant populations of students from each of these three districts, all were used in this comparison.
CCS’s elementary school composite score is 64.5%. Its middle school composite score is 63.6%. For comparison, the state average is 56.6% and surrounding district scores are 44.4% (Columbus), 54.7% (Whiteville City), and 39.5% (Bladen). The average composite score for all CCS students, grades 3-8, is 64.2% — a difference in district scores of 19.8 percentage points in Columbus, 9.5 percentage points in Whiteville City, and full 24.7 percentage points in Bladen.
CCS is the only school— elementary, middle or high— that achieved a school performance grade of “B” in any of these districts.
Douglass Academy is the second replicate campus of CDS, established in 2013 in downtown Wilmington. Replicate campuses begin as K-2 schools and add a grade level each year until achieving K-5 or K-8 maturity. EOG testing begins in third grade.
In 2014-2015, Douglass Academy’s first class of third graders took the EOG tests. 100% of their third grade students passed, all with scores in the highest-designated “College and Career Readiness” standard. Because the size of the sample was fewer than five students in this first testing year, DPI did not report these results. They are, however, further evidence of the consistent success of the educational model in place at the family of schools.
No Common Core
Let’s recap. The top two elementary and top two middle schools in a span of FOUR local districts:
1.) Outperformed Common Core-using district schools on a Common Core test by margins up to 24.7 percentage points.
2.) Are identical sister-campuses using the same classical curriculum and instructional methods.
So, what is this classical curriculum?
CDS and CCS are the eldest members of a family of four public charter schools spanning the southeast region, all identically operated by the non-profit Charter Day School, Inc. The non-profit founded its first school, CDS, in 1999, with the goal of finding the most effective method for educating children. They chose to open a charter school rather than a private school so that any NC student, regardless of socioeconomic status or ability, could attend the school for free.
CDS, Inc. partnered with the educational management company, The Roger Bacon Academy, Inc. (RBA) to select the most effective curriculum and most proven instructional methods. This yielded an educational model using a classical curriculum that is delivered with the Direct Instruction teaching method.
Classical education is the basis of university education. It’s traditional; it requires cursive and memorization. Schools in the family begin grammar in Kindergarten, and by second grade, students are diagramming sentences into their parts and clauses. Cursive begins in third grade and Latin in fourth. Literature and electives are integrated with History courses. RBA employs content-area specialists in all core subjects to assess or formulate curriculum, lesson plans, and support teachers in their respective subjects.
Students at the schools also receive instruction on their unique performance levels on a subject-by-subject basis. For example, a third grader who can read on a fourth grade level is promoted to a fourth grade reading block. Promotion or remediation is fluid and determined on a quarterly basis, a unique service made possible by RBA’s student data department.
“Our students’ performance-based placements are in stark contrast with Common Core practices, which aim to maintain and even encourage status quo student performance,” stated RBA President and former university department head, Baker Mitchell.
“I heard this week from a parent who has been discouraged by her district school from working with her children outside of class to prevent them from getting ‘too far ahead’. That is a terrifying request from the state’s public education system,” he continued. “Our client schools allow our students to excel as quickly and as fully as they can.”
CDS parent, Shirley Stefanakis, states that, “There is no curriculum that can even compare to what they’re doing, so we’re really thrilled for my middle school student. They focus a lot more on building up the basics in children and giving them a strong foundation, particularly in mathematics and subjects that have been lost, such as handwriting and composition. Math skills are superior here.”
This parent sentiment is mirrored in an August 2015 poll by national education organization EdNext, which saw only 28% of parents express that Common Core was having a “positive” effect on education. Only 32% of teachers responded that Common Core was affecting their students positively. 53% of parents expressed that Common Core was having a negative effect on their child’s education.
“As a profession, teachers are the most dedicated and hard working group that you can find –whether in traditional or charter schools. However, if they are forced to use curricula and methods that are unproven and often counter-productive, all their good efforts are in vain,” explained Mitchell.
Thus, Mitchell continued, “Charter schools give both parents and teachers public options. To the 68% of teachers who do not feel positively about Common Core, our schools provide an escape from the mandate to teach it, while still allowing them to work in a public school. We provide a curriculum and teacher support department so that a teacher used to teaching Common Core would be extensively trained and supported in our curriculum if they chose to switch.”
“The same free, public option applies to the majority of parents who feel that Common Core is negatively affecting their child. Any NC student can enroll in a public charter school,” he continued.
In addition to Charter Day School, Columbus Charter School, and Douglass Academy, this family of schools opened its fourth campus, South Brunswick Charter School, in 2014 in Southport. The open enrollment period for each of the schools for the 2016-2017 year will run the month of January, 2016. For more information, please visit www.rogerbacon.net.