Tools For Your State

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Each state’s two-page profile contains the following:1

  • Points (A), score (B), and rank (C), plus some brief data points (D) describing the charter school landscape
  • Comparison of points in 2016 vs. 2015 (A) and any noteworthy developments (E)
  • NACSA’s recommendations to boost quality charter school oversight (F)
  • A table with details and context for each policy and the points received (G)

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Conversation Starters:

Look at your state’s policy points, score, rank, and details. Then you and other stakeholders can begin to map the changes needed and adapt them to your state, so your journey on the road to public charter school excellence will be safer, more predictable, and ultimately more successful.

  1. What is your authorizing structure? (School district authorizers? Many overlapping authorizers? One or two non-district authorizers?)
  2. What entities currently oversee other public agencies? Is there an agency or other entity that routinely handles guidance, accountability, and oversight in the education arena? To streamline this work, could you piggyback on activities already happening in your state, such as reporting, technical assistance, or professional development?
  3. What are some strengths to build upon and challenges to address in your state’s charter school sector in the areas of academics, access, autonomy, and accountability?

Getting Started: The Road Map to Improved Access, Autonomy, and Accountability

  • Every state can benefit from all eight of NACSA’s policy recommendations. These eight policies encourage the kind of behavior you want; these policies also discourage problems in the beginning and address those that may arise.
  • These policies fit together. School accountability is not separate from authorizer quality—it is a loop of positive reinforcement when all policies are adopted.
  • Policies need to be adapted to fit your state and coordinated with other aspects of charter school and general public education policy. Policies should minimize duplication and work towards a cohesive system of oversight for charter schools.

Which Policies, Which States?

WHERE TO START

1

SCENARIO: My state has school district authorizers. What policies should I prioritize to make these authorizers the best?

 

SOLUTION

2

SCENARIO: My state has many authorizers operating in overlapping jurisdictions. What policies should I put in place to make these authorizers the best?

 

SOLUTION

3

SCENARIO: My state has only one or two non-district authorizers, who are (a) doing a great job;
(b) not doing a great job. They don’t seem to know how to handle something that is not a traditional public school.

SOLUTION

TOP FIVE PROBLEMS POLICY CAN HELP SOLVE

1

COMMON PROBLEM

I have a hard time figuring out how the charter schools in my state are doing. How can I bring more transparency to the work of the authorizers and the charter schools?

Start here:

Reports on performance make sure the public knows how charter schools are doing each and every year.

Performance contracts and frameworks publicly detail the responsibilities of charter schools and authorizers. This includes setting performance goals as well as policies that ensure fairness and transparency for all families and students.

Also consider:

Authorizer standards make authorizer practices consistent, and those practices reinforce academic, operational, and financial transparency for authorizers and charter schools.

Authorizer evaluations publicize the practices used by authorizers and whether those practices meet national standards.

2

COMMON PROBLEM

My authorizers are all over the place, with big differences in the quality of their schools and the quality of their practices. How do I make these authorizers and their practices reasonably consistent?

Start here:

 Authorizer standards define what good authorizing looks like and require authorizers to employ those practices.

 Authorizer evaluations highlight which authorizers are models and which may need to change their practices.

Also consider:

 Default closure sets a statewide minimum threshold for charter school performance, ensuring that failing charter schools are closed regardless of the identity of their authorizer.

 Authorizer sanctions create consequences for bad authorizers, removing them from the authorizing sector.

3

COMMON PROBLEM

I have great charter schools that I want to grow.

Start here:

 Reports on performance objectively identify which schools have great academic performance and may be candidates for replication.

 Performance management policies set operational and financial parameters for school health that help authorizers judge if a school is ready to replicate.

Replication policies make it easier for a high-quality school to gain approval to replicate or to manage the logistics of multi-campus operation.

Also consider:

Alternative authorizers have only one responsibility: to be a high-quality authorizer of high-quality schools. This lets them bring a laser-like focus to charter schools that is often defined in their mission. As such, they often have more capacity and experience to identify and replicate great charter schools.

Authorizer standards give authorizers the tools to differentiate practices and the confidence to evaluate if a school is prepared to replicate.

Also see NACSA and Charter School Growth Fund’s report on Replicating Quality.

4

COMMON PROBLEM

My state has many low-performing charter schools that no one is trying to close.

Start here:

 Default closure sets a statewide minimum threshold for charter school performance, ensuring that failing charter schools are closed.

Reports on performance identify which schools are failing and who their authorizer is, identifying which authorizers are letting failing schools stay open.

Also consider:

 Authorizer standards require authorizers to enforce charter contracts and give them policy and practice tools to enforce school accountability.

Renewal standards make achieving goals the bar for renewal, making it easier for authorizers to close schools that don’t fulfill their promises.

5

COMMON PROBLEM

How can I get a reluctant authorizer to do better?

Start here:

Authorizer standards enumerate an authorizer’s responsibilities and require authorizers to fulfill them.

Performance contracts and frameworks place authorizer responsibilities in an enforceable contract that protects the rights of charter schools and the authorizer and sets standards for regular oversight of academic, financial, and operational benchmarks.

Reports on performance ensure an authorizer is annually assessing its charter schools and providing that information to schools and the public.

Also consider:

Alternative authorizers are designed solely to authorize charter schools and have no competing priorities.

Default closure makes it easier to close failing charter schools, giving authorizers additional statutory support to fulfill a core accountability function.

Authorizer evaluations identify areas of strength and weakness and can encourage authorizers to change their behaviors.

1 Data in the state profiles comes from NACSA’s currently unpublished State of Charter Authorizing 2016, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ Data Dashboard, state laws, and at times, regulations in each of the 44 states. Data on the number of authorizers and charter schools reflects the 2015-16 academic year, while data on the number of students reflects the 2014-15 academic year.


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