Good charter school policy must be part of the solution to address our public education system’s greatest problem: too many children lack access to a transformative school. When done well, authorizing is a catalyst for charter school quality and growth. Yet the quality of charter laws and authorizing institutions varies across the country, which can lead to uneven charter quality and authorizing that creates barriers to access, innovation, and growth. Getting authorizing policy right is critical because good authorizing has the power to transform the lives of not just a few children, but millions.
- Authorizer Capacity: Authorizers are responsible for, have the capacity to manage, and are held accountable for the overall quality of their portfolio of schools.
- Accountability: Schools are closed when they fail to meet performance standards or do not uphold the interest of students and the public. High-performing schools are encouraged to expand and replicate.
- Access & Equity: All students, regardless of personal and/or social circumstances, receive an excellent education that helps them achieve their potential. Authorizers have legal ability and are required to ensure equitable and broad access to charter schools.
- Autonomy: Schools are held accountable for outcomes rather than process.
NACSA’s policy resources provide information that helps stakeholders overcome common authorizing issues and increase the number of high-quality schools available to their students.
- Multiple Authorizers: Creating multiple authorizer options is one way state policy can improve authorizing and create great charter schools for more kids.
- Authorizer Accountability: When done well, multiple charter school authorizers can be part of a powerful education system by promoting professional authorizing practices and providing checks and balances to charter oversight, but with multiple authorizers comes the need for accountability that ensures all authorizers are aware of and prepared for the requirements of the job and are doing the job well.
- Authorizer Shopping: When clear policies are not in place, there is a risk that some struggling charter schools may try to evade closure by transferring to a new authorizer to avoid accountability, also known as authorizer shopping.
- High Performing Charters: One policy solution to help meet the demand for more quality public schools is to grow more of what is already working.
- Expanding What Works: Enabling growth among high-performers requires both policy solutions and improved authorizer practices. Our Expanding What Works series explores practices and policies for quality growth across the charter school landscape.
- Virtual Charter Schools: Online learning can provide educational opportunities for children in need of better options; however, well-documented academic and management related problems continue to plague virtual charter schools. As a result, it is critical for states with virtual charter schools to adopt policies that ensure this unique model is serving children well.
Access and Equity Matter in Authorizing
When done well, charter school authorizing has the power to transform children’s lives. This starts with authorizers’ integral role ensuring every charter school is accessible and equitable for all. Good charter school policy is essential to support authorizers in implementing practices that promote this equity and accessibility. That’s why NACSA provides guidance on a variety of equity and access policy issues that can impact children’s and families’ experiences with charter schools. Different working definitions of terms like access and equity can lead to confusion as well as disparate visions and actions. NACSA uses these definitions:
- Educational Access: The ways in which educational institutions and policies strive to remove any barriers that might prevent some students from equitable participation in certain courses or academic programs.
- Educational Equity: Raising the achievement of all students, while narrowing the gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing students and eliminating the racial predictability and disproportionality of which student groups occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories.
- Food Services: Authorizers should be aware of the benefits, as well as the unique challenges charter schools face, especially when the absence of food services can limit access to charter schools for low-income families.
- Transportation: Families that lack personal access to reliable transportation face a barrier when attempting to access a charter school that does not provide transportation. This may lead to inequities: transportation usually comes at a cost that can pose a significant burden for low-income families and impact their choice of school.