SOCA 15 Major Findings: Evolving Charter Sector

Large authorizers are increasingly using recommended tools to ensure that quality existing charter school operators are expanding; for example,

  • 70 percent have explicit and different criteria for applications that have a network or are affiliated with a management organization;
  • 50 percent have policies promoting the replication/expansion of quality operators;
  • 76 percent use external experts to evaluate each application they receive; and
  • 92 percent interview all qualified applicants.

There is no evidence that large authorizers are lowering their application approval standards. In fact, evidence collected over the last four years for NACSA’s State of Charter Authorizing reports suggests that, if anything, they continue to increase expectations and standards for new schools. However, growth with quality will not be achieved if the increasing application approval rate is associated with expansion of mediocre- or low-performing operators. Overall, charter school sector performance bears watching in the future, and more data is warranted on which existing operators are expanding and their track records.

App_Approval_Rate-revisedNACSA data, combined with findings from other recent research, support the notion that the national charter school community is shifting to a higher proportion of network-affiliated schools. This year’s data suggests that while independent charter schools remain the majority of charters in the country, the shift to more network-affiliated schools may be due in part to the type of applications authorizers are receiving.

  • Authorizers are receiving fewer applications overall, but more authorizers are receiving applications to replicate existing charter school models.
  • Nationally, data shows higher approval rates of charter school applications.


Consistent with data from NACSA’s survey, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reports that management organization-affiliated schools comprised approximately 16 percent of new charter schools in 2010; by 2015, the proportion of new schools affiliated with a management organization had jumped to 41 percent.

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