Multi-State Analysis of Charter School Proposals and Approvals Reveals a Diverse Sector Shaped by Authorizers

Report uncovers increased share of freestanding school proposals, decrease in for-profit and “No Excuses” proposalsand few proposals receive philanthropic support. 

CHICAGO — A new report released today by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) offers a never-before-seen look at trends in charter school applications, approvals, and denials. The report, Reinvigorating the Pipeline: Insights into Proposed and Approved Charter Schools, reveals a diverse charter sector with a tremendous variety of applicants, educational models, and operator types, as well as the integral role authorizers play in shaping the public education landscape across the country. 

“More than three million students attend charter schools across the country, but up until now, we knew very little about who and what was being proposed,” said Greg Richmond, NACSA President and CEO. “The data reveals a much more diverse school pipeline than the charter sector is often credited forWe simply don’t see the homogenous sector driven by billionaires and for-profit schools that gets talked about so often.”  

The report includes analysis of nearly 3,000 charter school applications submitted to authorizers in 20 states (including Washington, D.C.) that oversee nearly two-thirds of all charter schools nationally. Key findings include:  

  • School Models: A wide variety of educational models are being proposed and approved. Authorizers were more likely to approve some proposals (classical schools, 57 percent) than others (single sex models, 21 percent). Proposals for “No Excuses” schools fell sharply, and now account for just 7 percent of proposals. They are also less likely to be approved by authorizers, as the approval rate fell 40 percent over the five years studied. 
  • Operator Types: Most new school proposals are unaffiliated with a charter school network of any kind, a share that increased to 55 percent in 2017-18. The proportion of proposals from for-profit operators declined sharply (50 percent since 2013-14), and represents a significant proportion of approved schools in only four of the states studied. 
  • External Support: Very few applicants identified support from an incubator or philanthropy, but those that did had higher approval rates. Only 15 percent of proposals described outside philanthropic support, and fewer named support from an incubator (9 percent). 

The analysis also revealed substantial variation from state to state, a finding that refutes a common misperception that there is a typical charter school proposal or charter school state.  

“While this variety is a strength, there are opportunities for education leaders to do better as they work to provide all children with a school that prepares them for success in life,” Richmond continued. “Our findings highlight the need for more charter school applicants, better prepared applicants, and stronger authorizing, so we can grow more of the charter schools that communities want.” 

New charter schools don’t pop up in a community; we get the schools that authorizers approve. Equipped with facts, not anecdotes, authorizers and other education leaders can take new actions to reinvigorate our public schools.  

Read more at www.qualitycharters.org 

WHY AUTHORIZING MATTERS 

Charter schools don’t just pop up in a community. Behind every charter school is an authorizer. An authorizer’s core responsibilities—approving new schools, monitoring performance, and closing failing schools—determine the overall quality of charter schools in a community. When done well, authorizing is a catalyst for charter school quality and growth. Unfortunately, the quality of charter laws and authorizing institutions varies across the country, which has led to uneven charter school quality and availability. Find out more about how good authorizing leads to great charter schools at www.authorizingmatters.org  

ABOUT NACSA 

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 sector. With authorizers and other partners, we have built the gold standard for authorizing. Through smart charter school growth, these authorizers give hundreds of thousands of children an opportunity for a better education each year.          

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