Could adoption of judicious policies and practices in the charter sector create a million more excellent opportunities for students over the next decade? This report, prepared by Public Impact for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the Charter School Growth Fund, makes 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. The recommendations support four strategies to promote quality in the sector: differentiating charter operators based on performance, building system capacity to cultivate and support high-performing schools and networks, facilitating replication of high performers and accelerating closure of low performers.
Charter School Authorizing
The report, prepared by Daniela Doyle and Tim Field for NewSchools Venture Fund, explores a variation on school closure where a charter school’s operator and governance (board) changes, while the school continues to serve the same students — charter school “restarts.” The report examines how charter restarts fit within the larger context of charter school quality and accountability and describes how restarts have played out at five charter schools. It concludes with a series of recommendations for board members and charter authorizers interested in pursuing a restart strategy.
Searching for Excellence: A Five-City, Cross-State Comparison of Charter School Quality sheds light on charter performance in Albany, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, and Indianapolis. The study, conducted jointly by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Public Impact, found that charter schools in these five cities outperformed their home districts’ schools, which had similar levels of student poverty. Though schools statewide had significantly lower levels of poverty than the charters (and urban districts), the study also compared charter performance to the higher standard of average statewide performance. Charters in all five cities trailed the state overall—often by a wide margin. Within each district, quality varied widely, with very high-performing charter schools and dismal ones. But a simulation shows how the charter sectors could improve under an aggressive charter closure and replication policy. In Cleveland, for example, if the bottom 10 percent of performers were closed while the top performers expanded by an equal percentage, citywide charter school performance would substantially outperform the home district, and perform on par with all statewide public schools in five years.
This issue brief for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers deals with the unique challenges of authorizing blended charter schools, which combine digital learning with instruction at supervised brick-and-mortar locations. Authorizing blended charter schools requires a mix of application review and oversight methods applicable to typical brick-and-mortar charter schools and full-time online charter schools. This brief begins with an explanation of the variety of blended charter school models, followed by a brief discussion of key issues for authorizer awareness and consideration in the blended school context, with attention to both initial approval and ongoing oversight. It then provides more specific guidance on evaluating proposals for blended charter schools. Finally, the brief provides general recommendations for overseeing and evaluating blended charter schools.
States create the environment in which charter school authorizing happens. As a result, state policymakers are in a strong position to influence charter school quality by laying the groundwork for good authorizing. Public Impact organized and edited this series of brief “policy guides” for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers designed to help state policymakers meet this challenge. [Read more…]
Closing bad schools is necessary to maintain quality in a system based on performance accountability. However, even “failing” schools may have pockets of strength and/or “assets” that are worth preserving: a committed parent body, high-quality teachers, a valuable school building in a tight real estate market. In this report, prepared for the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s National Charter School Research Project, Lucy Steiner and Bryan Hassel draw upon interviews with high-quality charter school authorizers and school districts to offer a framework and preliminary lessons for considering alternatives to school closures. Three approaches — installation of new leaders, school reconstitution (where governance structures and personnel are replaced but students remain) and facility acquisition (new school operator takes over a failing school’s facility) — have shown promise for intervening in failing schools when closure is not the best option.
When a school fails to meet student learning needs year after year – or, in the case of a charter school, fails to meet the terms of its charter contact – closure is sometimes the only responsible intervention. In this report, prepared for the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s National Charter School Research Project, Julie Kowal and Bryan Hassel draw upon interviews with high-quality charter school authorizers and school districts to offer a framework and preliminary lessons for improving the process of school closures. Recommendations include involving key stakeholders early in the closure process, developing clear and objective criteria for selecting schools to be closed, enlisting external evaluators to make tough calls, and creating support structures to help displaced students secure quality alternatives.