Charter School Authorizers in SREB States: A Call for Accountability

Southern Regional Education Board
November 2008

The Southern Regional Education Board has identified key elements to gauge the success of charter schools (see here).

This 15-page report examines charter school student achievement, data systems and state-level policies and practices in the 16 SREB states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

While the charter-school grades are mixed, the most interesting part of the report identifies three elements needed to make a valid assessment of charter performance:

  1. States need reliable data comparing charter school and traditional public school student achievement.
  2. To obtain this data (which in turn forms the basis for state policy decisions), states must have statewide educational data systems that track individual students year to year and school to school.
  3. The charter-school authorizer is critical.

Ohio needs to consider these points while moving forward with improvements to the state's charter program. Our state has developed and implemented quality state-wide student-achievement and data systems. But, we have not done a good job of overseeing authorizers (see here). The Columbus Dispatch observed recently in a Nov. 26 editorial that the "gaping" hole in Ohio law "that grandfathered dozens of sponsors [a.k.a. authorizers] already in the charter school field from any direct connection to the department [of education]." To drive home the point, the Dispatch stated that 56 of 74 Ohio sponsors do not have any type of accountability agreement with the Ohio Department of Education.

Ohio would be wise to take a page from the SREB report and focus on authorizer quality and oversight. The state should hold all authorizers accountable to the same performance standards and it should support quality authorizers. In turn, we might just see an improvement in the quality of charter schools in this state.

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