Quality Practice Project

Leadership, Commitment, Judgment

Elements of Successful Charter School Authorizing

Quality Practice Project (QPP)

Great authorizers—those with strong portfolios of charter schools—are moving the needle for their communities. But what exactly do these authorizers do differently to achieve stellar outcomes? NACSA set out to answer this question three years ago, and we’re proud to share our findings below.  This first-of-its-kind research is an important step toward developing a more evidence-informed connection between practices and outcomes.

Introduction Letter

“Our still young profession has the humbling and exciting responsibility of determining the quality of charter schools in every city and state…”

Practices that Matter

See what our nation’s top authorizers are doing to create positive outcomes for students and their communities.

What Authorizers are Saying

“Authorizers are the gatekeepers—they are responsible for the quality, quantity, and variety of schools families have available to them…”

Key Findings

Great authorizers implement foundational best practices that NACSA has promoted for years. But to achieve outstanding outcomes, more is needed. When compared to others nationally, great authorizers also share certain additional unmistakable characteristics:

Case Studies

At the heart of our research is the close-up study of a small group of stellar authorizers, chosen for the strong outcomes of their portfolios of schools. By spending significant time on the ground with these five authorizers—studying, observing, questioning, learning, cataloging—NACSA has significantly expanded knowledge about what great authorizing looks like.

The process involved document reviews, artifact reviews, multi-day on-site visits, interviews with authorizing institution members, and interviews with other key stakeholders in the authorizer’s context (e.g., charter associations, school leaders). The result is tangible examples of the authorizer practices associated with high-quality charter school portfolios.

What follows are thumbnail sketches of each of the five case studies, which are available in full-length, detailed form in the appendices. Each sketch highlights examples of three essential elements in action in that particular authorizer’s office: leadership, commitment, and judgment.

District of Columbia Public Charter School Board, Case Study on Authorizing

Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Case Study on Charter School Authorizing

Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Case Study on Charter School Authorizing

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, case study on charter school authorizing

The State University of New York, Case study on charter school authorizing

Additional Resources

Notable Commentaries