Today, the Detroit Free Press covers an important new report submitted to the Michigan Board of Education. The report ranks, for the first time, the state’s 11 largest authorizers “based on student achievement, student growth over time, authorizer improvement over time, and achievement gaps across all five tested subjects (mathematics, reading, science, social studies, and writing), as well as the graduation rate for authorizers with graduating students.”
A critical component of the theory of change behind charter schooling is the concept of accountability for performance with a focus on results. The idea is that people and organizations perform best when expectations are clear and rigorous and when they have autonomy over inputs and accountability for outcomes.
Just as clear and rigorous standards and accountability for results helps to promote success for charter schools, NACSA believes the same is true for charter school authorizers. To establish high expectations and accountability for authorizers, NACSA is calling on policy-makers to adopt and apply standards for quality charter authorizing. Specifically, NACSA is calling for the following
• State endorsement of national industry standards;
• Periodic evaluation of a subset of authorizers within the state against these standards;
• Production of an annual report by authorizers of both their adherence to standards and the performance of their schools; and
• Sanctions for authorizers not meeting those standards or with failing portfolios.
There is abundant evidence that quality authorizing matters. Rigorous and consistently applied authorizer standards can help ensure that authorizers do their jobs well.
State Endorsement of Standards
The state should endorse national industry standards of quality charter school authorizing and require all authorizers to meet these standards. Ideally, these standards will be NACSA’s Principles & Standards of Quality Charter School Authorizing. Alternatively, the state should develop or endorse standards that may be different from NACSA’s yet still adequate to inform strong authorizer practices.
Evaluation of Authorizers
Some entity in the state should periodically evaluate some subset of authorizers on the standards. In most circumstances, the entity evaluating authorizers would be the State Education Agency (SEA). Not all authorizers would require evaluations. In most cases, evaluation would be reserved for authorizers with low-performing portfolios or allegations of egregious authorizer practices. In some states, responsibility for conducting evaluations may rest with the authorizers themselves or other parties.
Each authorizer should publish an annual report assessing its achievement of state authorizer standards. In the absence of a state endorsement of authorizer standards, authorizers should report on how well they achieve NACSA’s Principles & Standards. Each authorizer should also provide an annual report on the performance of its schools. That report should include measures of school performance as measured by the state accountability system and by the authorizer’s school performance framework.
Authorizers may face sanctions if they do not meet professional standards or if their schools do not perform adequately. Sanctions may include removal of authority to authorize schools, removal of authority to authorize new schools, and transfer of schools to other authorizers.