The State Board of Education has approved a policy that allows struggling charter schools to stay open if they are less than five years old.
The old policy required the board to begin procedures to close any charter school that didn't meet certain standards for student performance. Charters had to have at least 60 percent of students rated proficient on state standardized tests and meet or exceed growth for at least two out of three consecutive years.
Now, if a struggling charter is less than five years old, the board can direct the school to come up with an improvement plan, rather than start the closing process.
Lee Teague with the North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association calls the policy a step forward. He says new charter schools face greater challenges and need more time to get academic growth up to par.
"It's a struggle the first three years," Teague said.
Office of Charter Schools Director Adam Levinson said the new policy gives the board of education and the Charter School Advisory Board many options besides closure dealing with new and struggling charters.
"They could discuss any other type of agreement with the charter school," Levinson said.
Levinson said the new policy does not prohibit the board from closing new charters that are failing.
"Though the policy strongly suggests that the course of action for a school less than five years old be the strategic plan/implementation, the board would not be limited to following that course of action," Levinson wrote in an email.
The General Assembly directed the state board to create the policy in 2014. It could allow two charters on academic notice to stay open: North East Carolina Preparatory in Tarboro, and Oxford Preparatory School.
Rep. Larry Hall (D-Durham), an outspoken critic of charter schools, denounced the new policy in an email. Hall said the policy tells charters "they can be even less responsive and even less responsible than they were before–despite many instances of proven financial impropriety and academic failure."
Around 30 of the state's charter schools have closed their doors since 2000 for academic, financial or governance problems. However, none of them would have been eligible to stay open under the newly created policy.