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I’m a single mom of two and cannot afford to enroll my children in a private school without the Opportunity Scholarship Program. Though I am economically challenged and the primary caregiver to my children, I’m not a statistic. I, too, care deeply about my children’s future in this world. This Program has made all the difference in the world for our family. Kaylan McCaskill, Gastonia Opportunity Scholarship Parent

ACADEMIC OUTCOMES IN NORTH CAROLINA AND THE CASE FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

Publicly-funded programs created to expand educational opportunity for students should, without a doubt, be accountable to the public. Lawmakers establishing North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program understood this, and codified provisions in statute to require schools enrolling more than 25 scholarship recipients to report aggregate standardized test scores to the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA). This information is a public record. Statute allows school administrators to choose which test to administer, but specifies that it must be “a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent measurement.”2 To date, schools have reported scores for two academic years: 2014-15 and 2015-16; 2016-17 test scores are due in July 2017. The first year (2014-15), just six schools met the threshold required for data reporting. Of these six schools, two reported that half or more of their scholarship students were at or above the 50th National Percentile Rank (NPR) in reading, language, and mathematics. A third school reported verbal and nonverbal reasoning scores, showing that half or more of students were at or above the 50th NPR in those areas. Schools reporting aggregate data used two different standardized assessments: the Iowa Tests and the TerraNova Achievement Test.3 The next year, in 2015-16, 34 schools enrolled more than 25 Opportunity Scholarship students. Of these 34 schools, 13 schools indicated that half or more of their scholarship students were at or above the 50th NPR in reading and mathematics. Eleven of 34 schools reported that half or more of Opportunity Scholarship students were at or above the 50th NPR in reading, language, and mathematics. Schools reporting aggregate data administered at least five different tests: the Iowa Assessments/Tests, the TerraNova Achievement Test, the Stanford Achievement Test, the California Achievement Test, and a test from the Northwest Evaluation Association.4 What do these data tell us? Not much. We still do not know how Opportunity Scholarship students perform relative to public school students from similar backgrounds. We do not know how

North Carolina Opportunity Scholarships: Countering a Flawed Duke Report and Setting the Record Straight

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OSP White Paper  

NORTH CAROLINA OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIPS: Countering a Flawed Duke Report and Setting the Record Straight