Principles and Standards

Practices that guide authorizing across the country.

The Principles & Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing, first established in 2004, reflect the lessons learned by experienced authorizers. This foundational resource for NACSA has been used to guide authorizing practices across the country and is referenced in state statutes. It focuses on the ends that authorizers should aim to attain in creating and upholding high expectations for the schools they charter while recognizing there are many means of getting there. The Principles articulate a set of beliefs about quality charter school authorizing. The Standards identify core authorizer responsibilities and describe how the principles are upheld within each responsibility. Consult this resource often as a guide to understanding and fulfilling the critical responsibilities of charter school authorizers.

Principles for Quality Charter School Authorizing

A quality authorizer engages in responsible oversight of charter schools by ensuring that schools have both the autonomy to which they are entitled and the public accountability for which they are responsible. The following three responsibilities lie at the heart of the authorizing endeavor, and authorizers should be guided by and fulfill these Core Principles in all aspects of their work:

Maintain high standards for schools

Uphold school autonomy

Protect student and public interests

Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing

Each standard is categorized within the following five categories:

Agency Commitment and Capacity
A quality authorizer engages in chartering as a means to foster excellent schools that meet identified needs, clearly prioritizes a commitment to excellence in education and in authorizing practices, and creates organizational structures and commits human and financial resources necessary to conduct its authorizing duties effectively and efficiently.

Application Process and Decision Making
A quality authorizer implements a comprehensive application process that includes clear application questions and guidance; follows fair, transparent procedures and rigorous criteria; and grants charters only to applicants who demonstrate strong capacity to establish and operate a quality charter school.

Performance Contracting
A quality authorizer executes contracts with charter schools that articulate the rights and responsibilities of each party regarding school autonomy, funding, administration and oversight, outcomes, measures for evaluating success or failure, performance consequences, and other material terms. The contract is an essential document, separate from the charter application, that establishes the legally binding agreement and terms under which the school will operate and be held accountable.

Ongoing Oversight and Evaluation
A quality authorizer conducts contract oversight that competently evaluates performance and monitors compliance; ensures schools’ legally entitled autonomy; protects student rights; informs intervention, revocation, and renewal decisions; and provides annual public reports on school performance.

Revocation and Renewal Decision Making
A quality authorizer designs and implements a transparent and rigorous process that uses comprehensive academic, financial, and operational performance data to make merit-based renewal decisions, and revokes charters when necessary to protect student and public interests.

The 2012 revision of Principles & Standards was drafted with considerable input from a National Advisory Panel of diverse, experienced practitioners. This edition identifies three Core Principles and includes new standards and practical guidance in the five key areas of agency capacity and commitment; application process and decision making; performance contracting; ongoing oversight and evaluation; and revocation and renewal decision making. This publication is updated periodically.

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