Regulating the Quality of Charter Schools | Regulatory review

Researchers analyze variations in the quality regulation of charter schools across states.

Charter schools have inspired controversial debates about how best to provide quality educational opportunities. The virtual school during the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to reveal the frustrations of some parents with traditional public schools. Charter schools, however, can be particularly nimble in embracing new learning formats.

Since many states exempt charter schools from regulations that bind traditional public schools, charter schools can allow educators to innovate in program delivery. Although charter schools are publicly funded public schools, they operate independently of local school districts.

Such local autonomy, however, has led to great variation in how the quality of charter schools is regulated across the United States. Some states have flexible charter school licensing policies – allowing multiple levels of government and school boards to grant charters and provide accountability measures to schools – while other states have more restrictive policies . The data suggests that these policy differences between states partly explain the variations in charter school outcomes.

There is little federal regulation of charter schools to deal with variations at the state level. The Federal Charter Schools Program places certain accountability requirements on recipients of discretionary grants offered to promising charter schools. But the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) removed many of the conditions placed on the funding of charter schools, giving states relatively broad power to set their own measures of charter school accountability. And while ESSA requires states to develop accountability systems to monitor the quality of schools, states remain free to exclude charter schools from those systems.

In this week’s Saturday seminar, academics highlight the impacts of different charter school regulations in several states.

  • In an article published in the University of Michigan Law Reform Journal, Nicole Stelle Garnett of the Faculty of Law at the University of Notre Dame points out that most states regulate charter schools by threatening them with closure, both through the charter authorization process and through measures of academic responsibility. Growing concern that chartered authorizers increasingly fail to adequately monitor the performance of charter schools has led several states to adopt more stringent regulatory policies, such as automatic shutdown laws. To improve the charter school sector and improve student outcomes, Garnett suggests that state and federal regulations increase transparency for parents and expand school choice options.
  • According to Ashley LiBetti, Justin Trinidad and Juliet Squire of Bellwether Education Partners, standardizing the licensing of charter schools has improved the quality of the sector, but it has also established a potential barrier to entry for new school models. diversified charters. In a report released by Bellwether, LiBetti, Trinidad and Squire recommend that charter school authorizers, principals and policy makers change their practices in light of changing student needs during the COVID pandemic. 19. Specifically, LiBetti, Trinidad, and Squire suggest that education actors are replicating the approaches of authorizers in Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, and New York by supporting various charter school models while maintaining education systems. solid responsibility.

Case studies examining the policies of state charter schools

  • In an article published in the Arkansas Law Review, Kevin P. Brady of the University of Arkansas and Wayne D. Lewis, Jr. of Houghton College discuss the recent implementation of charter schools in Kentucky. As Brady and Lewis explain, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a Charter Schools Act in 2017 with the stated purpose of narrowing the gap in socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic achievement. Brady and Lewis commend lawmakers for focusing on the needs of at-risk students, demanding strong performance-based charter contracts and providing clear criteria for candidacy decisions. They criticize, however, aspects such as the failure of the law to include a permanent and equitable funding mechanism.
  • The charter school application process in Texas has become excessively expensive and unpredictable, according to former Texas Education Agency deputy commissioner Adam Jones and Amanda List in a report. case study for ExcelinEd and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Jones and List detail the history of charter schools in Texas since their inception in 1995, including early mass approval of underperforming schools. Jones and List argue that the state has “over-corrected” with an “arduous, highly constrained and inflexible” application process that inhibits growth and innovation. They call on decision-makers to increase the flexibility of nominations and to revise the external review committee process.
  • In an article by Educational evaluation and policy analysis, Joshua L. Glazer of George Washington University, Diane Massell of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, and Matthew Malone of Summit Learning argue that the “effectiveness” of charter schools should be measured against the specific concerns and goals of the community. The authors conducted a study of state-run charter programs in Memphis, Tennessee, which communities viewed negatively as “paternalistic” state intervention. Community leaders expressed a desire for educational reform that captured the school’s cultural narratives, included input from community members, and followed fair hiring practices. Despite these community demands, the state program has firmly set its goals for academic test performance.
  • Successful charter schools require a balance between autonomy and responsibility, say Karen Stansberry Beard of Ohio State University and Omotayo Adeeko of Denver Public Schools in a study conducted in the Journal of Transformative Leadership and Policy Studies. Beard and Adeeko studied charter authorization policies in California, which focused on deregulation, and Ohio, which focused on increased regulation of charter authorizers. They argue that the best model for increasing educational opportunities is to increase both the liability and regulation of charter authorizers. Beard and Adeeko conclude that such regulations protect communities and students from reckless charter permissions and improve the quality of the charter.

The Saturday Seminar is a weekly feature that aims to put in written form the type of content that would be conveyed in a live seminar involving regulatory experts. Every week, Regulatory review publishes a brief overview of a selected regulatory topic, then distills recent research and academic writing on that topic.

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