This study focuses on the government-side of charter school accountability: the agencies that sponsor schools and how they come to make final decisions on a charter school’s future. The study was designed to examine 50 “decisions” made by authorizing agencies – renewals, revocations, and nonrenewals. These 50 cases were selected out of a collected pool of 506 “decisions.”
Our first step was to collect charter school decisions from states with charter school laws or existing charter schools. These decisions were put into a database and sorted by state, authorizer-type, and decision-type. We then selected 50 cases with alternates matched for each case. These fifty cases were chosen to reflect the ratio of decision-types and authorizer-types found in the population of 506 cases.
Once the cases were selected, we contacted our prospective “respondents” for interviews. Interviewees received a copy of a set protocol prior to the interview for their own review and to assemble any relevant documents we requested. The study was designed to collect information on the decision-process through three respondent-types: a knowledgeable representative of the authorizing agency, a school official, and a third-party with knowledge of the decision. Click to view the interview protocols in their entirety. From the start our Advisory Board recognized that obtaining information or interviews about closure cases would be more difficult than with renewals. We therefore took two precautionary steps: 1) we slightly over sampled revocations and nonrenewals to ensure a balance of decision-types and 2) the basis for a case to move forward was – at bare minimum – an interview with an authorizer involved with the decision. In addition to interviews, we collected documents from the authorizing agencies pertaining to the decision.
These documents included, but were not limited to: copies of the original charter, renewal applications, authorizing agency board minutes, correspondence between authorizers and schools, and any policies regarding decision-processes. We also looked for press articles in local newspapers for an understanding of how the school was situated in the community.
With all of the data collected we began a process of statistical analysis as well as a close examination of the “stories” behind each case. Our final analysis incorporates a balanced examination of what the numbers reveal along with the patterns and trends of charter school accountability.
To go back to one of the following click below:
- “High-Stakes”: Findings from a National Study of Life-or-Death Decisions by Charter School Authorizers”
- “Starting Fresh: A New Strategy to Dealing with Chronically Low-Performing Schools”
As charter schools are a fairly new reform effort on the American education scene, other agencies and organizations are beginning to look at questions of accountability and, in particular, the threat or occurrence of charter school closures. One such study recently released by The Center for Education Reform, “Charter School Closures: the Opportunity for Accountability,” lists charter school closures, consolidations, and charter schools which never opened. Visit www.edreform.com for further information.
For additional information on authorizer practices and policies regarding charter school decision-making processes visit www.qualitycharters.org, the website of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
We welcome any responses to the components of this two-year project. Please contact Public Impact with any questions or comments.