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ERIC Number: ED542600
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 7
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Differentiated Charter Authorizing Strategies for Innovation, Scale, and Quality. Viewpoint
Ark, Tom Vander
National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NJ1)
It is time to rethink charter school authorization. There are approximately 5,000 charter schools in the United States (about 5 percent of schools) and a push from parents and the Department of Education for more. Given that many charters authorized during the initial wave of charter applications have not proven themselves to be any better than traditional public schools, there have been efforts to tighten up authorizing. In an effort to screen out weak proposals and applicants, the application process has become much longer (i.e., 18-24 months), more demanding, less flexible, and more bureaucratic. As a consequence, students' access to innovative and high-quality options for education is being limited. Charter authorizing is a critical function and will increasingly shape public education in the United States. At the beginning of 2010, there were 872 authorizers including state education authorities, school districts, universities, nonprofit organizations, and two municipalities. The recommendations of this paper are most relevant to the 70 authorizers with more than 10 charter schools and a statewide scope. The 20 state charter offices in that category employ an average of 2.7 staff members. This paper recommends expanded as well as differentiated authorizing capacity for the maturing charter school sector. State education policymakers (legislatures and state boards) should consider six distinct authorizing pathways with associated capacity. These are: (1) Standard. An updated authorizing process should focus on qualified first-time applicants proposing a single school based on a proven school model with demonstrated community support; (2) High Performing. A short-form application with quick turnaround should be available for operators of two or more high-performing schools; (3) Innovation. Qualified applicants with a strong hypothesis should be able to seek conditional approval for innovative school models that incorporate novel assessment systems, performance-based progress, unique staffing and compensation models, distributed learning, blended institutions, and/or year-round learning. State commissioners could modify criteria to target specific reforms, populations, or geographies; (4) Online. Reflecting the Internet's ability to cross municipal and state borders, virtual and blended operators should have the ability to enroll students statewide and/or across a multi-state region under a reciprocal charter agreement; (5) Turnaround. School improvement providers should be invited to propose in a two-step process that would result in a list of preapproved vendors that are subsequently matched with turnaround or restart opportunities; and (6) Conversion. The conversion of a high-performing public or private school to charter status warrants special consideration. Conversions warrant a statewide (non-district) authorizer to ensure real charter status and treatment. This monograph is intended to promote discussion about emerging issues. It does not reflect adopted positions of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). It includes the author's personal opinions and anecdotes about charter school authorizing. (Contains 4 endnotes.)
National Association of Charter School Authorizers. 105 West Adams Street Suite 3500, Chicago, IL 60603. Tel: 312-376-2300; Fax: 312-376-2400; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: Policymakers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Association of Charter School Authorizers