The state advisory council which monitors charter schools has decided to give Kennedy Charter in south Charlotte another chance, despite the school’s low test scores. That decision hinges on a plan to move the school to the campus of Johnson C. Smith University.
Every few years, charter schools in North Carolina have to go before a group of charter school administrators, board members, and educators. They have to make their case for why they should be allowed to continue to operate.
That was what Kennedy Charter had to do Monday and it wasn’t an easy case to make. Only 42 percent of the school’s students perform at grade level. But that’s a marked improvement over three years ago, when only 20 percent of students were at grade-level.
Kennedy’s superintendent, Fred Grosse, assured the advisory council scores will continue to rise. The school has a new principal and has replaced most of its teachers.
“The administration and faculty in the school itself are unbelievably good. This is our best faculty we’ve ever had. It is dramatically changed. As someone said earlier, we have teachers who want to teach and students who want to learn,” said Grosse.
A lot of the students are completely different, too. Until a few years ago, most of Kennedy’s students were part of Elon Homes’ foster care program. But as new federal rules guiding foster children took hold, Kennedy lost nearly all of those students and opened its doors to everyone. Still, it has a challenging student body. More than 90 percent of kids are from low-income homes.
The low scores were a sticking point for the advisory council, including the group’s chairman John Betterton.
“It’s been there for a number of years. To be no higher than 42 percent proficiency, that really bothers me,” said Betterton.
But what swayed the council was Kennedy’s plans to move the charter to the campus of Johnson C. Smith University. The university’s president supports the move. Grosse told the council that would be a big help to students.
“That would include mentoring for every child in our school, interventions, and exposures to academics, athletics, the arts and even STEM programming,” said Grosse.
The council recommended Kennedy’s charter be renewed for three years, instead of five. However, the school has to bring its proficiency rate up from 42 to 60 percent this school year. If it doesn't, North Carolina law allows the state board of education to revoke the school's charter.