We anticipate this analysis will launch a broad conversation about how to reinvigorate the charter school pipeline. There is much more to learn before we can definitively say whether communities are getting the schools they want and need. In order to inform future solutions in authorizing practice and policy, NACSA has identified areas for action and further research:
Support data-driven change at the local level.
While understanding national trends is important, the real power of this data is how it can be used to make change at the state and city levels. NACSA will work with authorizers and advocacy partners to identify local pipeline trends and create policy recommendations, improvements in authorizing practices, and advocacy strategies based on what is needed in their communities. The work of reinvigorating the pipeline requires authorizers to authentically engage their communities to produce meaningful change. NACSA is committed to advancing community engagement, working in partnership with authorizers.
Strengthen authorizing practices through the development of new tools, resources, and best practices.
Good authorizing is a catalyst for charter school growth and innovation. To help authorizers assess community needs and evaluate diverse proposals, NACSA will be updating our model resources and providing new kinds of support to practitioners. As a first step, we’ll be working to improve our capacity interview guidance, a critical step in the application process. Not all authorizers have adequate resources and staffing to do this work well, so we are creating more tools specifically for smaller authorizers as part of NACSA’s work under a new federal grant.
Conduct deeper analysis that explores the following:
- The relationship between proposals and eventual school quality. We must learn more about the eventual quality of the schools proposed to make clear recommendations for the field. We want to return to the data and examine the relationship between each application and the school’s performance, as well as explore whether there are application components that predict a strong start in the first years after opening.
- The policy and ecosystem drivers of the pipeline. To increase the number of promising school proposals, we must understand the causes of the quality and quantity of applications and approvals. Is it driven by a state’s policy conditions (e.g., types of authorizers allowed, per-pupil funding allocation, position on performance frameworks)? Is it the availability of talent and facilities? The presence of an incubator? Authorizing practices? Or some combination of multiple factors?
- Equity and access issues. While we know a bit about who is proposing new schools, we need to know more about the race, ethnicity, and backgrounds of school applicants, proposed board members, and leaders. We must also examine student demographics. Are applicants serving the students they intended to serve? Are schools locating in the areas of most need? Do applicants have equitable access to resources? More knowledge will position us to work with authorizers to identify and address blind spots on equity and access issues in their authorizing processes.
Ultimately, we hope the findings will challenge everyone to question assumptions and take new actions that will lead to more great schools for children. Our work is stronger together: join us for this important work.