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Media Release

NC Charter Schools Study: Focus on Quality and Diversity

Joint Report also Recommends that Charter and Traditional Public Schools Work More Closely Together

Jul 1, 2014

David Beck, Self-Help, 919-956-4495 or
Shannon Ritchie, A.J. Fletcher Foundation, 919-322-2580,
Bryan Hassel, Public Impact, 919-967-5102,

Durham, NC – North Carolina must do more to ensure that charter schools focus on quality and diversity as well as increase collaboration with traditional public schools, according to a new report released today. 

Titled North Carolina Charter Schools: Excellence and Equity through Collaboration, the report stems from a convening of education leaders by Self-Help and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. The convening focused on the challenges and opportunities presented by North Carolina’s expanding charter school sector, and was precipitated by the 2011 removal of the state’s 100 charter school cap.  

Key findings of the report include the need to:

  • Emphasize quality over competition
  • Bridge the divide between charters and school districts
  • Improve charter authorizing and oversight practices
  • Ensure all students have fair access to all public school options

The findings are timely, given increased concerns that the state’s current public education path risks leaving low-income, minority, and special needs students behind. Further, charter schools are regularly viewed in extremes: as either a panacea or a drain on public school systems. The report encourages stakeholders across public education to engage with one another and work together to strengthen traditional public schools as well as charters. 

The report was produced by Self-Help, a leading community development financial institution, and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation.  It also includes significant input from Public Impact, a national education organization based in Chapel Hill. 

“Self-Help is a long-time leader in helping charter schools succeed financially and educationally, and their convening of North Carolina educators reflects that commitment,” said Public Impact Co-Director Bryan Hassel. “This report helps clarify that, as charters grow in North Carolina, we must ensure high quality, commit to serving students of all backgrounds and form better relationships with traditional public school systems.”

Self-Help has financed or developed 61 schools for $226 million in 15 states plus Washington, D.C., since 1997. Self-Help’s charter school initiative focuses on serving low-income children who lack alternatives when they are not succeeding at traditional public school. Self-Help has provided technical assistance on charter school policies in 19 states. It also contracts with Public Impact to assess the academic performance and curriculum strength of charter school borrowers.

The A.J. Fletcher Foundation, based in Raleigh, is a longstanding supporter of public education in North Carolina and believes it is critical to increase charter and traditional public school collaborations.

“Charter schools must be held to high standards, foster innovation, and be strong partners with traditional public schools,” said Damon Circosta, Executive Director of the Fletcher Foundation. “The Fletcher Foundation is proud to partner with Self-Help to conduct meaningful dialogue, research and collaboration to help inform North Carolina education leaders in moving forward with charter school policies and practices.”

Nearly 40 North Carolina leaders attended the convening, exploring how the state and local school districts can help charters become a stronger asset to the North Carolina public school system.  The group heard a presentation on best practices from a successful collaboration between charter and traditional public schools in Denver, Colorado.  Denver charter and district schools have a written “compact” based upon shared values that foster communication and collaboration.  The report details the Denver compact’s principles and how North Carolina might apply some of its methods and values.

Over the past year, the State Board of Education, Charter School Advisory Board, and Office of Charter Schools have taken positive steps to improve the quality and consistency of the approval process for new charters and the renewal process for existing schools.  The Office of Charter Schools is also developing a performance framework to better facilitate oversight of academic, financial, and operational accountability.  A commitment to continue these efforts will strengthen the caliber of charter schools in North Carolina.

“As North Carolina’s charters grow, we must make sure quality and collaboration are top priorities,” said Self-Help’s Director of Charter School Lending Jane Ellis. “Like all public schools, charters are accountable to all of us.  I hope this report helps advance the conversation on how charters can best help not just their students, but all public school students.

A two page summary of the report is available at: The full 14 page report can be found at:  


About Self-Help

Self-Help is a community development lender headquartered in Durham, NC. Founded in 1980, Self-Help has provided over $6.4 billion in financing to nearly 87,000 families, individuals and businesses underserved by traditional financial institutions. It strengthens communities by financing hundreds of homebuyers each year, as well as nonprofits, child care centers, community health facilities, public charter schools, and residential and commercial real estate projects. Through its credit union network, Self-Help serves over 100,000 families in North Carolina, California and Chicago and offers a full range of financial products and services. Learn more at

About A.J. Fletcher Foundation

The mission of The A.J. Fletcher Foundation is to support nonprofit organizations that enrich the lives and well-being of people in North Carolina. To achieve this, Fletcher Foundation partners with nonprofit organizations to recognize and solve social and civic problems, providing necessary resources to advance big, bold ideas. To learn more, visit

About Public Impact

Public Impact’s mission is to dramatically improve learning outcomes for all children in the U.S., with a special focus on students who are not served well. We are a team of professionals from many backgrounds, including former teachers. We are researchers, thought leaders, tool-builders, and on-the-ground consultants who work with leading education reformers. For more on Public Impact, please visit