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Last week we released the second edition of NACSA’s Index of Essential Practices.  Based on NACSA’s Principles & Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing, the Index is a road map for quality authorizing, articulating a set of practices for authorizers that can significantly improve the quality of their work.

The 2012 Index is a great starting point for those interested in using policy to promote quality charter schools in their state and in their community.  It provides a snapshot of self-reported authorizer practices in states across the country and can be used to identify where new authorizer policy—or policy implementation— may be desired.

To date, twelve states and the District of Columbia have endorsed national industry standards of quality charter school authorizing—such as NACSA’s Principles & Standards—and require all authorizers to meet these standards.   This year alone, more than a dozen states are considering legislation to change how authorizing takes place and half of those are specifically referencing authorizer standards.  Policy makers are recognizing the vital role authorizers play in creating a strong charter school sector and are making their states places where strong authorizers can flourish.

The Index is perhaps even more relevant this year, as our One Million Lives Campaign and the recent CREDO study have brought to the fore the connection between quality authorizing and quality charter schools. Broader public awareness and transparency around authorizer practice, in combination with our new practice tools, human capital programs, consultative work and advocacy, are putting us on track to meet the goals of our strategic plan. If we want to give a million more children the chance to attend a great school, we need skilled authorizers committed to quality and a policy environment focused on excellence. The Index is one important tool to help get us there.

All states will benefit from establishing standards for authorizer practices.  A strong reference to authorizer standards is a reasonable amendment to just about any piece of legislation affecting charter schools.  Once these references are in place, a variety of long-term strategies of assistance and communication can follow.  Eventually this will help produce a charter sector where strong applications are approved, weak ones are denied, schools enjoy the autonomy they need to innovate and succeed, and failing schools are closed.


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