THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
John B. King, Jr.
A New Approach to Charter School Authorizing
June 7, 2010
Issue for Discussion
A review of public charter school authorizing and the oversight role and responsibility of the Board of Regents, including:
Review of Policy
This item will come before the Regents EMSC Committee for discussion in June 2010.
The Charter Schools Act of 1998 granted the Board of Regents authorizing power to grant charters for the purpose of organizing and operating independent and autonomous public charter schools. The Act also outlined the Board of Regents’ responsibility for the oversight of the public charter schools in the state, including the partnership with the State University of New York Board of Trustees and their Charter Schools Institute, which carries out their charter authorizing work. Through a state charter cap lift during the last week of May 2010, 460 start-up (non-conversion) public charter schools now can operate in New York State.
From 1998 to March 2010, the work of overseeing the state’s charter schools was split between two offices – one in Brooklyn that interfaced mainly with charter schools in New York City; and one office in Albany that interfaced with charter schools located “upstate.” These offices functioned independently from one another, each with its own manager. The systems, structures and procedures that the downstate and downstate office used to oversee and monitor its share of public charter schools were loosely coordinated with little alignment between the two offices.
In March 2010, in accordance with a plan approved by the Regents in December 2009 and the State’s Race to the Top Round One application, the Department created the Office of Innovative School Models to (1) create optimal state-level policy and operating conditions for dramatic school intervention and ensure that local educational agencies can build on successful and innovative practices; and (2) oversee the Department's charter authorizing work. The state’s charter authorizing work now falls under this new office and the “downstate” Brooklyn office and “upstate” Albany office have been merged into one, new Charter School Office (CSO) (please see the new CSO organization chart, Attachment A).
The Department hired Sally Bachofer as the Executive Director for the Office of Innovative School Models. Sally brings deep experience in program administration and charter authorizing experience. Sally comes to us from the National Association for Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). NACSA is a professional organization of authorizers and other educational leaders who work together to achieve quality public charter schools (www.qualitycharters.org). While at NACSA, Sally served as the organization’s key point person for school and district accountability and authorizer policy and practice. Sally developed, with support from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, a set of model authorizer resources in all areas of oversight responsibility. These resources, covering authorizing Board policy and charter contracting, through to school monitoring and renewal decision-making, now guide NACSA field staff, consultants and members in their day-to-day authorizing work. Sally was deployed to work with NACSA clients to improve both Board level policy setting and day-to-day management of work. During her time at NACSA, she delivered training and consultation to: Oakland Unified School District; Los Angeles Unified School District; Denver Public Schools; Chicago Public Schools; and the State Boards of Education in Arizona, Missouri, New Mexico, and Louisiana.
Sally also has prior experience in large urban district administration and State Education policy. Before working at NACSA, she worked at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, under then Commissioner David Driscoll. While in Massachusetts, Sally oversaw the Department’s performance based charter school accountability system. During her tenure, she implemented charter school renewal standards, refined annual site visit protocol and annual reporting requirements. She also successfully brought forward two school non-renewal recommendations and one school revocation recommendation based on school academic underperformance and fiscal mismanagement. Her last year at the Department was with the Accountability and Targeted Assistance Unit, overseeing the Commonwealth’s underperforming schools. Sally helped implement the Board’s regulations on Underperforming Schools and Districts, managing school and district review and the conversion of four chronically underperforming schools to Commonwealth Pilot School status.
We have asked her to draw on her knowledge and experience to design an approach for the Board of Regents charter authorizing practice that incorporates rigorous elements of performance based accountability while protecting school site based autonomies. Above all, the proposed approach that we are sharing with you today is designed to protect the public trust – public monies and public school students – of the State of New York.
Current NYSED Position:
The State Education Department, reporting to the Commissioner of Education, acts as staff to the Board of Regents. The Charter School Office manages the day-to-day operational work of authorization and oversight of the schools directly authorized by the Board of Regents, and the schools authorized in partnership with the Buffalo Board of Education and the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.
The Department has built an effective system of public charter school oversight that is in compliance with state law.
As part of the charter application process, the New York State Education Department:
As part of its oversight responsibility for charter schools, the New York State Education Department:
As part of the charter revision process, the New York State Education Department:
As part of the charter renewal process, the New York State Education Department:
To advance transparency in charter school operations, the New York State Education Department:
Currently, staff in the Charter School Office is organized by regions. Each staff person is a generalist, and is responsible for all aspects of a school’s “lifecycle.” The regional liaisons manage all application reviews, monitoring and oversight, accountability and program evaluation, as well as preparing for renewal decision-making. In addition, when a request for public information on a school is received, or if the Department is engaged in a legal issue with a charter school, the regional liaison responsible for that school is the staff person responsible for filling the request. Staff is not currently matched to the needs of the work.
The Commissioner and staff are recommending changes and improvements to the way in which the Board of Regents approaches its authorizing work, and the way in which staff carries out the oversight work of the public charter schools in the state. Our goal is greater accountability and transparency, following the direction that the Regents have set. We must hold public charter schools to the core of the charter school initiative – greater public accountability in exchange for increased site based autonomy over program and operation.
NACSA has distilled the work of quality charter authorizers to three core responsibilities:
NACSA’s 2009 Principles and Standards for quality charter school authorizing provide a roadmap for how authorizers should orient their work to ensure public charter schools are held accountable for results. The Principles and Standards state that authorizers should:
The Board of Regents and staff in the Department need to re-orient time and efforts to better support the three core responsibilities of charter school authorizers. The Board of Regents should focus its time on highstakes decision-making related to issuing new charters and charter renewals. Staff should focus its time on rigorously and appropriately monitoring charter school academic performance, fiscal health and school governance health
Timetable for Implementation
Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, staff will work to draft and implement the following improvements to the charter school oversight work:
By August 1, 2010
There is an immediate need to issue a regulatory change to the Education Law to relieve a burden from the Regents unrelated to school quality and to define the requirements and process for a school to request a revision to its charter. To date, practice has been to bring all revisions, no matter how small or large, before the Board of Regents. This practice is a distraction from the core responsibilities of the Regents’ work, and can be better handled by delegating some of the decision-making to the Commissioner. Through the proposed regulatory revisions, the Board of Regents will define what will require your formal approval, and what revisions to a school’s charter can be reviewed and acted on by the Commissioner.
In support of this regulatory change, staff has developed a Technical Advisory for schools that outlines the definition of material and non-material term of a charter. The Technical Advisory creates conditions under which a school may request a change it its charter, and sets specific criteria that a school must follow and meet when submitting its request. The Technical Advisory also sets one intake point during the year for staff to consider and process enrollment increase and grade addition requests for charter amendments, to ensure that schools are in compliance with fiscal, academic and legal reporting, and are planning ahead for their academic and operational programs.
Proposed Organization Chart for Charter School Office
Attachment A - Continued
Responsibilities and Tasks by Focus Area
Charter School Office
Board of Regents Charter School Policies
A. Purpose of Application Process
B. Board of Regents Chartering Authority
C. Application Criteria
D. Application for a Public Charter School
E. Application Review and Decisionmaking Process
F. Approval to Open a New Charter School
G. Appeals Process
H. Support and Resources for Applicants
I. Board Member Code of Conduct with Applicants
A. Purpose of charter school monitoring
B. Performance review criteria (performance plan template)
C. Timeframe for events (monitoring plan)
D. Consequences for underperformance
A. Purpose of Renewal
B. Board of Regents Renewal Authority
C. Renewal Criteria
D. Renewal Timeline
E. Charter Renewal and Decisionmaking Process
F. Support and Resources for Renewal Applicants
G. Board Member Code of Conduct with Renewal Applicants
A. Board of Regents Closure Authority