Responsibility for ensuring that students have access to excellent public charter schools is entrusted to the school’s authorizer – the public agency tasked with deciding who should be able to start a new charter school, setting expectations and overseeing school performance, and deciding who has lived up to promises made to students and communities in order to continue the privilege of serving students. Doing these activities right is crucial to providing high-quality education for all children, no matter where they live.
Since 2008, NACSA has surveyed our nation’s authorizers annually. Along the way, we have learned about current practices, challenges, strengths, and shortcomings in authorizing, and have shared these with education decision makers, foundations, legislators, and researchers to inform their understanding of the field of charter school authorizing.
The infographic below highlights an interesting story from this year’s survey on school closure – often the part of authorizing that is the most controversial. The data shows that authorizers take great care – and do a lot of work – before making that difficult decision. While a decision to not renew a school’s charter often seems like a surprise in media reports, almost all (96%) authorizers have documented criteria in place to evaluate whether a charter should be renewed at the end of its contract. Unfortunately, authorizers sometimes are forced to close a school mid-charter. Ninety percent of authorizers have an escalating scale of consequences in place to give schools time to turn the boat around and makes closure a last resort.
While closure gets the most attention, our survey shows opening and replicating the best charter schools is also top of mind for authorizers. For instance, we’ve also showcased in our five-week series that authorizers are getting smarter about only letting the best applicants open new schools and that they are making it easier for the best schools to replicate and expand.
Quality authorizing that allows high-performing schools to open and expand while holding those that fail to perform accountable is essential for excellent education, and only excellent education, to thrive. Let’s continue to push for greater state-by-state and community-by-community adoption of quality authorizing practices that create environments where students flourish. Our children deserve nothing less.