This is the third in a series of letters from NACSA President and CEO Greg Richmond to Michigan authorizers, operators, policymakers and advocates highlighting the importance of quality authorizing practices.
As promised, I am writing again to share some of the principles and practices that define quality authorizing and that are important to keep in focus as we consider ways to address the legitimate concerns raised by the series in the Free Press. Today, I would like to highlight standards related to making decisions to renew or not renew a charter.
NACSA’s Principles & Standards state, “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.” Specifically, a quality authorizer:
- Clearly communicates to schools the criteria for charter revocation, renewal, and non-renewal decisions that are consistent with the charter contract.
- Grants renewal only to schools that have achieved the standards and targets stated in the charter contract, are organizationally and fiscally viable, and have been faithful to the terms of the contract and applicable law
- Does not make renewal decisions, including granting probationary or short-term renewals, on the basis of political or community pressure or solely on promises of future improvement.
The charter school renewal process is intended to be a summative evaluation leading to a high-stakes decision. It should not be a formative, school improvement process.
Two years ago, NACSA looked at performance data from across the country and saw many high performing schools. Unfortunately, we also found roughly 1000 charter schools performing in the bottom 15th percentile of all public schools in their state. While it is true that many charter schools serve a high proportion of at risk students, the charter school idea is supposed to be about providing those students better schools, not more failing schools. We launched our One Million Lives campaign to open 2000 more great charter schools and to close 1000 failing charter schools.
Michigan authorizers are an important part of this work. Without doubt, Michigan authorizers have closed dozens of failing schools over the years, but too many failing schools remain open. Working together, by improving our policies and practices in the weeks ahead, we can deliver on the charter school promise to provide better schools to more children.
President and CEO