A Call for Quality: National Charter School Authorizers Group Says More Failing Schools Must Close for Reform to Fully Succeed

  A Call for Quality: National Charter School Authorizers Group Says More
  Failing Schools Must Close for Reform to Fully Succeed

          Call Comes as NACSA Launches “One Million Lives” Campaign

Business Wire

WASHINGTON -- November 28, 2012

While a great many public charter schools are among their states’ best
performers and are paving the way for educational innovation across the U.S.,
too many are failing to provide a quality education. The National Association
of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), which represents government and other
entities that approve and oversee charter schools, today called on charter
authorizers to be more proactive in closing failing schools and opening great

NACSA issued the challenge as its new membership survey shows the closure rate
for charters in renewal has doubled from year to year but is still leaving far
too many schools among the lowest performers, according to state
accountability data. As a result, too many children still do not have access
to a quality education.

As part of the challenge, NACSA today launched its “One Million Lives”
advocacy campaign, designed to provide better schools to one million children
by opening more good charter schools and closing more failing charter schools.

For the first time, NACSA is urging state legislatures to adopt new laws that
hold both schools and authorizers accountable for their performance. NACSA is
also calling for the establishment of statewide authorizing offices because
they are more likely to implement professional practices based on high
standards and promote quality growth. These changes will help create more
successful new schools, including replications, while facilitating the closure
of hundreds of schools that are falling short.

“In some places, accountability unfortunately has been part of the charter
model in name only. If charters are going to succeed in helping improve public
education, accountability must go from being rhetoric to reality,” NACSA
President and CEO Greg Richmond.

“Many authorizers are, in fact, getting it right – and those are the ones with
the best schools, including many that are educating high numbers of at-risk
students. But too many others are making decisions too influenced by politics,
faulty analysis, and bad laws,” Richmond said. “Our goal is to help all
authorizers raise their games to meet the challenges ahead.”

According to NACSA’s analysis, between 900 and 1300 charter schools across the
country are performing in the lowest 15% of schools within their state. While
some states may have imperfect measuring sticks, too many schools are not
achieving the goals promised in their charters. The bottom line is that the
large number of schools in the low rung inhibits the sector’s ability to grow
in the right way over the long term so more students and families can benefit
from great public schools.

If authorizers are able to close the failing charters in the U.S. and replace
them with twice as many excellent ones, more than one million students will
have access to a quality public education, Richmond said.

“Charter schools are not the only solution in public education, but we didn’t
start the charter school movement in order to create more underperforming
schools,” Richmond said.

According to NACSA’s annual survey, which focuses on the nation’s largest
authorizers (those who approve and oversee at least five schools), the charter
school closure rate in renewal increased from 6.2% in 2010-11 to 12.9% in
2011-12. NACSA focuses on closure rates during renewal because those decisions
are most tied to academic performance. Charters that close mid-term generally
do so for some emergency reason, such as poor financial management, lack of
enrollment, or other non-academic causes.

“While the uptick in these types of closures is a good sign, it’s imperative
for all authorizers to increase the rigor of their accountability practices so
that all charters are held to the highest standards of excellence,” Richmond

The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools has reported a 200,000-student
increase in charter school enrollment in 2011-12, bringing total charter
school enrollment to more than two million students. Georgia and Washington
voters this month approved ballot measures creating new, statewide authorizing
bodies. Washington joins 41 other states and the District of Columbia to allow
the creation of quality public charter schools.

“This is impressive growth and further proof that parents and policy makers
want quality, tuition-free educational choices for children,” Richmond said.
“We all have important roles to play – charter authorizers, state education
agencies, school operators, reform groups, policymakers, funders and others in
the charter sector and within public education – to make sure these schools
are the best possible environments for children to learn and to prepare them
for the future.”

By engaging authorizers and a broad coalition to close failing charter schools
and open many more good ones, we can get one million more children into 3,000
high-performing schools over the next five years.

NACSA released the new data and issued the challenge at a news conference held
at the National Press Club with charter school and education reform leaders
from across the country, including New Jersey Education Commissioner Chris
Cerf, New Orleans Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard, and
Jed Wallace, President and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association.

NACSA also announced that it has received financial support for its effort
from the nation’s leading education reform philanthropies, including the
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the
Robertson Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation.

This is the fourth consecutive year NACSA has compiled the authorizer survey

About NACSA: The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) is
committed to advancing excellence and accountability in the charter school
sector and to increasing the number of high-quality charter schools across the
nation. To accomplish this mission, NACSA works to improve the policies and
practices of authorizers – the organizations designated to approve, monitor,
renew, and, if necessary, close charter schools. NACSA provides professional
development, practical resources, consulting, and policy guidance to
authorizers. It also advocates for laws and policies that raise the bar for
excellence among authorizers and the schools they charter.

What others are saying about NACSA’s One Million Lives campaign

Nina S. Rees, President/CEO, National Alliance of Public Charter Schools

“To truly succeed, the public charter school community has to focus on growth
and quality at the same time. The One Million Lives project will create the
policies to ensure that every public charter is a high-quality school.”

Chris Cerf, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Education

“If charter schools are one important avenue for creating high-quality public
school options for students and families, then we must take the necessary
steps to ensure they truly are high-quality options. This means strengthening
the process by which schools are granted a charter, holding them accountable
for results along the way, and closing schools if they fail to meet the goals
of the charter upon which they were founded. This is precisely what the
exchange of autonomy for accountability means – the core idea inherent in
charter schools. As authorizers we must do our part in only accepting
excellence from this sector.”

Patrick Dobard, Superintendent, New Orleans Recovery School District

“New Orleans is on the way to closing the achievement gap. In the 2004-05
school year, fewer than 25% of public school students in the city were on
grade level. Our commitment to creating a network of independent, autonomous
charter schools has been a driving force in narrowing the gap significantly
with more than 50% of our students now on grade level. Crucial to our ability
to have successful organizations expand and open new charter schools, is an
independent third party that reviews charter applications.”

Jed Wallace, President/CEO, California Charter Schools Association

“This year as we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the charter school
movement, California charters experienced another spike in momentum with 109
schools opening as parents and communities across the state turn to charter
schools in ever-greater numbers.

“However, we cannot truly have the impact charters were intended to have – to
reinvent public education – if we do not close those charters that have
demonstrated an inability to meet the challenge of excellence and chronically
underperform. CCSA applauds NACSA for its One Million Lives campaign and its
goals to encourage effective authorizing, to grow the number of high quality
charters across the country and to close those charters that are failing. The
time to act is now if the charter movement is to continue to rebuild trust in
the public education system by providing high quality public school options
for all kids.”

Janet Mountain, Executive Director, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

“The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation believes that the process of chartering
schools, when done well, has the potential to transform the educational
opportunities available to students and families. NACSA’s work to improve
chartering practices, and specifically to close chronically low performing
schools and replace them with high performing options, is to be commended.”

Don Shalvey, Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“To realize a nation where every student graduates from high school ‘college
ready’ requires every school aspire to excellence and a cooperative spirit
that shares successes and learns from others. NACSA’s focus on excellent
chartering processes increases the likelihood that both will happen. ‘Bravo’
to the NACSA team!”

Phoebe Boyer, Executive Director, Robertson Foundation

“Each year, our public education system is falling short for thousands of
children. Charter schools are an important part of the solution, but only when
they’re high-quality. We need to continue to open new, great charter schools
while strengthening our efforts to close those that persistently fail.
Authorizers are critical levers and we are proud to support NACSA’s leadership
in the field.”

Ed Kirby, Senior Program Officer, Walton Family Foundation

“As more parents across the country are empowered to make choices about their
children’s education, the need for high-quality school options - district,
public charter or private - is more important than ever. With this funding,
NACSA can continue to raise the bar on public charter school authorizing
practices and expand the network of strong authorizers who thoughtfully
approve and provide oversight for high-performing schools and close those
schools that are not meeting their promise of serving students with a good

Bill Phillips, President, New York Charter Schools Association

“NACSA is right to bring the focus back to kids with its One Million Lives
campaign. For whatever reason the fact is that we open and close too few
charter schools, even in a successful chartering states like New York. Both
failures harm children.”

Jim Griffin, President, Colorado League of Charter Schools

“Taken as a whole these policy recommendations are a loud statement that
charter schools, parents, and community leaders across the country should have
access to a quality authorizer – rigorous, objective, and professional – with
its own clear mandate for performance expectations.”

Dr. Howard Fuller, Founder and Director, Institute for the Transformation of
Learning, Marquette University

“I applaud NACSA for this effort to expand quality choices for children and
families. We know that charters play an important role in providing children
from all backgrounds not only the opportunity to choose an education that is
right for them, but also an education that will prepare them with the skills
they need to succeed. The One Million Lives initiative will not only raise the
level of discourse to focus on quality, but can help build the coalition
necessary to put excellence into action. Our schools, our students and our
nation will be better for it.”

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National Association of Charter School Authorizers
Media Contact:
Lynne Baker, VP for Communications
847-404-3462 (Mobile)
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