This report from Public Impact considers how U.S. school districts increasingly create autonomous district schools to give their schools the flexibility afforded to charter schools, in an effort to provide high-quality, innovative, and diverse public schools at scale. Like charter schools, autonomous district schools are exempt from some policies governing state-funded schools, and they have autonomy over some staffing, curriculum, budget, and operational decisions. They may be operated or supported by external school management organizations, but they remain part of the school district, which holds them accountable for their performance through contracts or alternative governance structures. This report, developed with the support of the Walton Family Foundation, examines autonomous district school models, how they differ from traditional district and charter schools, and design and implementation elements that districts should consider when creating autonomous district schools.
Charter School Authorizing
In this report with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Public Impact presents a framework for considering the issues that arise as charter enrollment grows in a city and how those issues affect students’ access to great schools. The report then examines how two top authorizers—District of Columbia Public Charter School Board and Denver Public Schools—have responded to some of those issues, and draws lessons from those examples for other authorizers.
Authorizers and support organizations can use the School Restart Authorization Process Guide and related database to increase the success and sustainability of restart interventions in low-performing schools, with step-by-step guidance for designing or refining the restart process. The guide’s recommendations are based on the experiences of authorizers, school operators, education support organizations, and community leaders with experience in restarts nationwide. The process guide is complemented by the Restart Authorizer Resource database, with searchable tools and resources collected from authorizers and support organizations. These resources offer practical examples of the materials that support each step of the restart process. The restart process guide and authorizer resources are available at www.schoolrestarts.org.
As charter school authorizers and states have increased performance expectations and grown less hesitant to close failing schools, “authorizer shopping” has emerged as a growing threat to overall charter school quality. Authorizer shopping happens when a charter school chooses or changes its authorizer specifically to avoid accountability. A low-performing school may shop for a new authorizer to avoid closure, or reopen under a new authorizer after closure. This report considers five examples of authorizer shopping in action and provides specific guidance to authorizers, policymakers, and advocates to address authorizer shopping.
Charter schools identified for closure do not always shut their doors. Instead, some charter schools identify and “hop” to a new authorizer willing to work with them to avoid accountability and remain open. This brief for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers explores how and why authorizer hopping happens and offers recommendations to stop it.
The Indiana Charter School Board (ICSB) released its first annual report on March 20, 2014, highlighting the ICSB’s five-year strategic plan, focus on innovation, processes for applicant evaluation and accountability, and school performance. The annual report includes a history of the ICSB, an overview of the Indiana charter landscape, and biographies of current and former board members and staff. It also provides detailed “Authorized School Reports” for all of the ICSB’s authorized schools.
All schools present significant challenges for states and other entities charged with holding them accountable for their effects on student learning outcomes. However, virtual schools—full-time schools that provide most, if not all, instruction online—raise unique challenges and opportunities for accountability. This report, written for the National Charter School Resource Center, presents five recommendations, with multiple means to implement each, for facing the challenges of adequately assessing virtual schools.