Charter school quality has become a mixed bag: Despite some great schools across the country, most are on par with traditional district schools, and too many underperform. Given the increasing evidence showing that schools that start strong, stay strong, it’s time for policymakers and authorizers to implement the policies and practices needed to grow the great schools and shutter the worst.
Replicating Quality: Policy Recommendations to Support the Replication and Growth of High-Performing Charter Schools and Networks, a new report by Public Impact for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and the Charter School Growth Fund, argues that these changes could pave the way for a dramatic shift in K–12 quality, creating excellent opportunities for a million more students over the next decade.
The report offers detailed recommendations that legislators, authorizers, and state education agencies can use to build a policy environment that will substantially increase the prevalence and impact of high-quality charter schools—and set an example for how public school systems could be run.
The report organizes its 10 policy proposals around four interconnected sector strategies:
- Differentiate among charter operators based on performance levels (a necessary precondition for many of the subsequent policy recommendations).
- Build system capacity to cultivate and support high-performing individual schools and networks.
- Facilitate replication of high performers by reducing obstacles and adding supports.
- Accelerate closure of low performers.
Specific policy proposals are:
- Adopt authorization policies that differentiate among charter school operators by performance.
- Build a statewide community of authorizers committed to scaling quality.
- Remove or modify charter caps that limit replication of high-performing charter schools within a state or locality.
- Invest in charter network incubation and accelerator funds to promote the creation and replication of high-performing charter schools and networks.
- Differentiate and streamline application, renewal, and replication processes for high-quality charter schools and networks.
- Establish policies that allow authorizers to approve high-performing charter schools and networks to open multiple schools over time.
- Facilitate charter school governance structures that can efficiently and effectively operate multiple schools or campuses and fulfill public accountability functions.
- Prioritize additional resources and reduce administrative burdens for high-performing charter schools and networks.
- Adopt legislation that establishes a process for automatic (default) closure of underperforming charter schools.
- Establish policies and processes that allow high-performing charter schools and networks to replicate as part of a charter “restart” strategy. Authorizers can accelerate improvement in the overall quality of the charter sector by “restarting” low-performing charter schools: that is, transitioning the charter—and responsibility for governance and school management—to a high-performing charter school or network, while maintaining the existing population of students.
Replicating Quality was written by Public Impact’s Tim Field, Christen Holly, Bryan C. Hassel, and Joe Ableidinger.