Ascend Leadership Academy

North Carolina’s newest segregation academy is in Lee County

Back in January of this year, I wrote a post warning public education advocates to look at the record of politicians instead of just their political party. This was in part due to the fact that the Mayor of Sanford, North Carolina is a Democrat who took part in a photo op at the first charter school in Lee County, Ascend Leadership Academy (ALA). Having worked in Lee County Schools for two years I was confident that I knew the demographic breakdown of the school district, approximately 33% Black, 33% White, 33% Latinx with upwards of 66% of those students dealing with poverty at home.

So naturally, I found it suspicious when much of the promotions that ALA put out featured majority white students. I specifically remember making the remark to a friend, “The only classes that we have that are that white are our AIG classes.” Yes, I recognize how problematic that statement is, the truth of that statement was undeniable then, and it would not surprise me if it was still true this school year.

Luckily for us, but unluckily for the segregationists, it is easy to test that hypothesis because they have to report demographic data to the state. The data is quite appalling.

Of the 163 students that attended Ascend Leadership Academy in grades 6-8 last year,

  • 32 (19.6%) were Black
  • 25 (15.3%) were Latinx
  • 1 (0.6%) were Indian
  • 1 (0.6%) were Asian
  • 4 (2.45%) were 2 or more races
  • 100 (61. 3%) were White

61.3%. That should be considered insane. But are we truly surprised?

Just for kicks, after this I went and looked at the data for students classified as EC. There were 12 students in total. A grand total of 7.36%.

Charter schools, as described to us, are supposed to represent the communities that they exist in. ALA certainly does not do this, not even close.

Charter schools are supposed to perform higher on standardized tests correct?

Let’s compare ALA to the rest of the schools in the county looking at that incredibly flawed measurement from the state.

  • East Lee – D (53 reading, 51 math and did not meet growth)
  • West Lee – D (59 reading, 50 math and did not meet growth)
  • Sanlee – C (62 reading, 59 math and met growth)
  • Ascend – D (58 reading, 52 math and did not meet growth)

Even by the flawed measurement from the state of North Carolina, Ascend Leadership Academy has shown no ability to outperform the other schools in Lee County.

Seems to me the only thing it is truly doing is making sure that white parents can send their kids to school with less students of color.

What Can We Learn From West Virginia?

We cannot allow this latest defeat get us down, instead we must look for lessons we can take from this latest battle.

As I type this, the West Virginia Senate has just finished debating and voting on an education bill that will allow charter schools to enter the state. The famously independent West Virginia had been one of six states that did not have charter school legislation.

This means we are now at a point in this country where only five states: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Vermont are still without charter school legislation.

The legislation passed today is similar to the bills that caused the educators of West Virginia to go on strike twice, once each year for the past two year. It is telling that this time, the West Virginia legislature sought to pass the bill when school was not in session. How best to get around a teacher strike by bringing the legislation up for a vote when school is not in session? Charter schools are particularly unpopular in West Virginia with 88% of West Virginian’s disagreeing with creating charter schools. It should not surprise anyone then that a proposed amendment to the bill when it was in the West Virginia House to allow the people in individual counties to vote on whether to allow charter schools in their counties was defeated.

Public education supervillain, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos even got in on the action tweeting:

West Virginia has an opportunity to improve education for all & put the needs of students first. Looking forward to seeing bold moves to offer robust options like charter schools & ESAs and support great teachers. Let’s get it done @WVGovernor, @SenCarmichaelWV & @SpeakerHanshaw!— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) May 31, 2019

It should be noted that all Democrats serving in the West Virginia Senate voted against the bill and that they were joined by two Republicans. So it goes that the privatizers of education win another battle in another state. As educators, it is easy for us to grow despondent over the continue attacks on our profession and the lives of our students, especially as the advocacy that we do, we do in addition to our full-time job.

We cannot allow this latest defeat get us down, instead we must look for a lesson or lessons that we can take from this latest battle. Truly speaking, the easiest lesson is this. In order to beat the privatizers we must beat them at the ballot box.

We need to continue to fight for all of our students and explain to their families why and how our fight is also their fight. That what we do, we do for them.

We are committed to making sure ALL our students are successful, in 2020 we need to make sure that our legislators are dedicated to the same commitment.