Today, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) released its annual State of Charter Authorizing (SOCA) report through an interactive website featuring the largest amount of data about authorizing trends in its history.
“National and individual authorizing trends stemming from our analysis of the nation’s only survey of authorizers is an essential tool for education decision makers, foundations, legislators, and researchers to inform their understanding of charter school authorizing,” said Greg Richmond, president and CEO of NACSA.
Most notably, the survey revealed significant growth in the number of authorizers over the last five years, driven almost exclusively by an increase in local school district authorizers. Local districts make up 90 percent of the 1,050 authorizers in the nation. District authorizers also constitute about 50 percent of the nation’s largest authorizers.
“Contrary to popular perception, most authorizers by far are local school districts, a number that is growing,” said M. Karega Rausch, vice president of Research and Evaluation at NACSA. “This could be troublesome or beneficial for students across the country. We know many districts have not developed the capacity to effectively oversee charter schools in addition to their other duties. However, we also know there can be great outcomes when district officials work together to manage a great portfolio of both traditional and charter schools to meet community needs. Denver Public Schools is one strong example of this kind of partnership.”
One of the most important roles of an authorizer is the decision to renew or revoke a charter for academic or other reasons. Survey data points to an increase in the number of charter school closures: while the rate of charter school closures has remained steady—nearly 3.8 percent over the past four years among authorizers managing 10 or more schools—the total number of charter schools has grown. This is supported by findings recently released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools which find the overall number of closures is increasing.
The report finds that closures outside the renewal process are increasingly overtaking the planned accountability schedule, a finding that bears watching and merits further research.
This increase could be a signal that authorizers are taking more aggressive, early action to close underperforming schools before or between renewal timeframes (typically once every five years). This increase could also mean that state closure laws are forcing the closure of academically failing schools outside renewal. This increase could also signal a growing number of schools should not have been allowed to open in the first place.
“It is still too soon to make conclusions from this data,” Rausch continued. “But it appears closures outside the renewal process—when a school closes for financial reasons, egregious student outcomes, or real issues of management capacity in the first year or two—are increasing in frequency. It is a trend we will continue to watch. This is a good reminder to authorizers to take a close look at their application processes to make sure they’ve got the foundational practices in place so that only schools fully prepared to serve students are allowed to open.”
The report includes other extensive longitudinal data, including trends in approval and closure rates, demographics of the field, authorizer staffing compositions, and data on changes in the size of authorizer portfolios. During the next two months, NACSA will release issue briefs with new data on critical topics within the charter school sector such as special education and school discipline policies.
NACSA has also released self-reported data about individual authorizing practices in a separate report, the Index of Essential Practices. The Index examines how well individual authorizers are implementing the 12 fundamental practices of authorizing and is an important tool for authorizer self-evaluation. Overall, the percentage of authorizers adopting these now stands at 61 percent, up from 23 percent in 2012.
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) is an independent voice for effective charter school policy and thoughtful charter authorizing practices that lead to more great public schools. Our research, policy, and consultation work advances excellence and accountability in the charter school sector. With authorizers and other partners, we have built the gold standard for charter school authorizing. Through smart charter school growth, these authorizers will give hundreds of thousands of children an opportunity for a better education each year. More at www.qualitycharters.org
ABOUT THE SURVEY
Since 2008, NACSA has annually surveyed our nation’s authorizers. NACSA documents its national findings in an annual report, the State of Charter Authorizing. NACSA also documents how well authorizers are implementing the 12 fundamental practices of authorizing in its Index of Essential Practices, an important tool for authorizer self-evaluation. Both reports provide a timely measuring stick for those in the field of authorizing and help education decision makers, foundations, legislators, and researchers inform their understanding of charter school authorizing at the national, state, and individual level.