How Authorizers and a CSO Collaborate to Ensure the Best Possible Schools

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How Authorizers and a CSO Collaborate to Ensure the Best Possible Schools

This piece is part of our interactive, Authorizer Showcases, which highlight how authorizers around the country are tackling obstacles related to access and accountability.

The New York City Charter School Center (Charter Center) and the state’s authorizers have a healthy relationship, centered on the ultimate aim of ensuring a high-quality charter sector in New York.

The Charter Center and authorizers (State University of New York Charter School Institute [SUNY]; New York State Education Department [SED]; and New York City Department of Education [DOE]) work together to prepare applicants, ensuring they’re much more likely to open schools that succeed. This collaboration takes dedication and communication.

Randall Iserman, Director of School Supports, describes an example of this partnership with state authorizers: the Apply Right Program, which walks potential applicants through every aspect of New York’s two charter applications in preparation for successful submissions.

“Apply Right is a two-day, intensive boot camp for potential applicants,” Randall describes. “Our goal is to make sure planning teams understand the gravity of the work of starting a charter and heed the lessons learned and best practices for not only developing a strong application but, more importantly, a well-designed school model,” he said. “We want applicants to understand what the authorizers require and have come to prioritize 20 years into great charter schooling in New York. Without addressing these things, there is little chance their applications will be approved.”

What kind of things do authorizers require? Extensive community engagement, for one. NYC charter starters must demonstrate community need and desire for their school based on evidence of meetings, conversations, and surveys with everyone from community leaders, local elected officials, families, even the local district superintendent. And, they will be asked to demonstrate that they have been engaged in this work long before they even submit a Letter of Intent to apply.

“In the Apply Right program, we help potential applicants move their vision from best intentions and theory to the actual nuts and bolts of what will go into making their school unique and successful,” Randall explained. “The conversation starts with community engagement and extends into Board construction, short and long-term budget planning, curriculum and assessment development, and facilities access, to name a few.”

How does the Charter Center ensure they are sharing the most accurate and up-to-date information with potential charter starters with regard to what the state’s authorizers are actually seeking and requiring?

That’s where the healthy relationships lead the way:

  • They have standing calls to share updates and strategize on emerging issues, changing policies, etc.
  • They co-host events including annual renewal kick-off meetings to prepare schools for what to expect during the process. They also partner on a professional development series for charter board members to strengthen the sector’s governance capacity.
  • With its on-the-ground vantage point, the Charter Center serves as a conduit for schools’ feedback as well as offers its own insights and recommendations when authorizers seek input on policy and practice.
  • They pick up the phone when something unexpected lurches on the scene.

This collaboration is productive because it stays focused on their shared goal, Randall emphasizes. “We all want more, great public school options for the City’s children. If an applicant team has high capacity, a strong concept, and receives good guidance on how to strengthen their school design and application, their vision has a better chance of becoming a reality. New York City students are the ones who will ultimately benefit.”

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