Charter school authorizers play a crucial role in shaping the quality and availability of charter schools throughout Georgia. In partnership with the State Board of Education, state law allows local school districts and the State Charter Schools Commission to approve and oversee charter schools. Currently, there are 111 charter schools in the state: local school districts authorize 78 schools and the Commission oversees 33 charter schools.
While much is known about existing charter schools in the state, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) recently conducted a first-ever analysis of the state’s charter school pipeline—what schools are being proposed and by whom. Our data highlights the state’s varied sector, focused on innovation and a diversity of models and operator types. It also reveals the significant impact the Commission is playing in shaping the state’s public education landscape.
The report is the first local analysis of data collected for NACSA’s national report, Reinvigorating the Pipeline: Insights into Proposed and Approved Charter Schools. Working with Public Impact, NACSA collected and analyzed nearly 3,000 charter school applications submitted to authorizers between 2013-14 and 2017-18, located in 20 states, that oversee nearly two-thirds of all charter schools nationally.
Georgia’s Unique Charter Sector Is Rich with a Variety of School Models and Approaches That Are Being Proposed by Various Leaders and Independent Groups.
Georgia is attracting a diverse pool of charter school applicants, with STEM (35 percent) and inquiry-based (32 percent) models proposed most frequently.
When compared to our previously reported 20-state sample, Georgia is attracting many more proposals for STEM (+23 points), Inquiry-based (+18 points) and Arts (+9 points). The state receives fewer General (-18 points) and “No Excuses” (-8 points) than our 20-state sample. For this study, applications that did not fit into any specialized category were coded as “General”(see Glossary of Terms for additional definitions).
How to Read This Chart: Lines to the right illustrate where Georgia received a higher share of proposals for a particular school model compared to our 20-state sample, and lines to the left show where Georgia received a lower share of proposals. The magnitude of each line is the percentage point difference between the 20-state sample and the state of Georgia. For example, across the 20-state sample 12 percent of all proposals were coded as STEM schools, compared to 35 percent in Georgia, resulting in a difference of +23 percentage points.
Over the last five years, more than four in five charter approvals (84 percent) in the state were “freestanding,” or unaffiliated with a charter school network—a nonprofit Charter Management Organization (CMO) or a for-profit Education Management Organization (EMO). Georgia had the highest proportion of freestanding approvals of any state in the study.
Georgia’s Charter School Growth Is Increasingly Being Driven by Its Independent Statewide Authorizer, Not by Its School Districts.
Over the last five years, three out of every four new charter schools in the state (72 percent) were approved by the State Charter Schools Commission, Georgia’s independent chartering board (ICB).
School district authorizers are increasingly approving a smaller share of new charter schools across the state. In 2013-14, 43 percent of all new charter schools were approved by school districts, but by 2017-18 no new charter schools were approved by school districts.
NACSA Takeaway: Good authorizers make it their mission to give more students access to great schools. Doing authorizing well requires an institutional commitment to the work, adequate funding and staffing, and strong leadership. There are likely many reasons school districts in Georgia are not approving charter schools as they once were. These reasons should be explored and discussed. Since its creation in 2012, the Commission has become Georgia’s primary driver of charter school growth. This momentum, combined with 2018 legislation that increases funding for state charter schools, means it is likely the Commission will continue to see an uptick in the number of charter school proposals it receives each year.
Applications That Identify a Leader Are Much More Likely to Be Approved.
Having a school leader identified in the application was the strongest predictor of approval in Georgia. Applications that identified a school leader were seven times more likely to be approved than those that did not. Nationally, whether a school leader was identified or not had no effect on an application’s likelihood of approval.
NACSA Takeaway: Our findings suggest Georgia’s authorizers see an identified school leader as a signal that the applicant group is likely to successfully open and run its program. Those providing external support to applicants can maximize their work by encouraging applicants to come to the table with an identified school leader, increasing their odds of success.
Only One in Ten Applications Describe Support from an Incubator or Philanthropy, but Those That Did Were Approved at Higher Rates.
The vast majority of Georgia’s charter school proposals did not identify support from an incubator, philanthropy, or community partnership; however those that did were approved at higher rates. For instance, while only 11 percent of Georgia’s submitted proposals documented the support of an incubator, those that did had a very high approval rate (67 percent).
NACSA Takeaway: The data underscores the need for ecosystems where authorizers, school leaders, community leaders, incubators, and philanthropists work together to identify and address the needs of students. Our findings suggest Georgia’s authorizers see an identified school leader as a signal that the applicant group is likely to successfully open and run its program. Those providing external support to applicants can maximize their work by encouraging applicants to come to the table with an identified school leader, increasing their odds of success. The state’s authorizers are also approving applicants with external support at higher rates than those without. Since not all applicants have equitable access to funding and philanthropy, this is worth a closer look. While there are many reasons these applicants are being approved at higher rates, more could be done to provide more applicants with access to external support.Download: Full Report, Overview of Methods and Sample, and Glossary of Terms