The quality of charters schools is a topic often covered by the media, stemming from debates about the potential impact of charter schools on student achievement. Only a few groups, however, place an emphasis on ensuring the quality of authorizers who contract with charters and have the responsibility to oversee their academic and fiscal performance. One of these groups called the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) publishes an annual report that collects self-reported survey data from authorizers, which indicate the extent to which they comply with the “Index of Essential Practices.” The best practices represent policies that would allow an authorizer to successfully accomplish their roles as a facilitator and compliance officer.
Of the eleven Buckeye State authorizers whom NASCA surveyed (including Fordham), NACSA found that Ohio’s authorizers scored well according to the index. Authorizers met nine to eleven out of the twelve possible indicators of best practices. NACSA, however, did critique states like Ohio who have implemented laws that do not allow authorizers to institute policies from the index. For example, the current law for charter renewals in Ohio prevents authorizers from issuing new schools a contract longer than the length of the authorizer’s own contract with the Department of Education. This means that an authorizer with two years left in their contract has to review the standing of a new school within those two years. NACSA recommends that new charters should be given a review for renewal after five years. In this report, they also argue that policies like the one implemented in Ohio negatively affect a charter’s autonomy by requiring more reporting and could potentially tempt authorizers to step outside of their established roles, prescribing their schools with explicit directions for improvement.
Reports like this enable authorizers to have a clearer sense of how to best perform their roles along with gaining a better sense of how the laws of their state are influencing their ability to meet the needs of their charters. Although the report gives a sense of how authorizers are doing as a whole, NACSA does admit that since authorizers self-report they are not being reviewed based on the quality of achieving the items on the index. To show a more detailed view of how authorizers have progressed this past year, NACSA plans to release a companion report called The State of Charter School Authorizing 2012 which will aggregate the authorizers surveys to show trends in the adoption of best practices, charters that have closed and open, and other indicators of accomplishments.
SOURCE: National Association for Charter School Authorizers. The National Association of Charter School Authorizers’ Index of Essential Practices 2012 (Washington, D.C.: National Association for Charter School Authorizers, 2013)