The State of Charter School Authorizing 2010

The National Association for Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) just
released its third annual survey
of charter school authorizers (a.k.a. “sponsors” in Ohio). To anyone interested
in improving the quality of charter schools as well as outcomes for kids served
by them, findings about charter school authorizing matter immensely. 

First, more school districts are undertaking the work of authorizing –
that is, monitoring and overseeing the education, fiscal, operational, and
governance components of a charter school, and holding the school’s board
accountable for performance. Between 2007-08 and 2010-11, 233 school districts
became authorizers. Also of note, the survey found that charter agreements
(i.e., the contract between the authorizer and the governing board of the
charter school) with lengthier terms – for example, ten years as opposed to
five years – resulted in a greater number of weak schools remaining open,
largely because authorizers tend to close schools as a result of the
renewal/non-renewal process, and focus on school evaluations at that time.

In terms of scale, large authorizers (those that authorize 10 or more
schools) are more likely to implement authorizing best practices than their
smaller counterparts. According to the report, roughly 700 authorizers oversee
only one or two schools each, which in turn raises questions about whether they
have the resources to effectively perform the work of authorizing. One finding
that deserves additional study is that about one third of authorizers do not
implement professional authorizing practices that relate to charter schools
that contract with management companies – for profit or non-profit – that
provide various services to the schools. This is a key issue, especially in
situations where lack of capacity at the school governing board level has
resulted in a power shift of sorts in which the management company potentially
holds more power than the governing board of the school.

The 2010 survey (with the greatest response rate NACSA has seen yet) is
an invaluable resource that offers insight into the core work that charter
school authorizers perform.

"The State of Charter School Authorizing 2010"
National Association of Charter School Authorizers
January 2011