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Essential Steps for Charter School Authorizing Outlined

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The National Association of Charter School Authorizers has released its 2012 Index of Essential Practices for charter school authorizers.

The organization surveyed 157 active authorizers to see how many of the 12 essential practices for charter school authorizers have been implemented. The report found that only a small percentage of those who responded have all 12 practices in place, but the majority are using at least nine.

What entities are allowed to authorize charter schools vary from state to state and can include statewide boards, school districts, universities, nonprofit organizations, state education agencies, and non-educational government entities.

The 12 essential practices are as follows:
1. Sign a contract with each school.
2. Have established, documented criteria for the evaluation of charter applications.
3. Publish application timelines and materials.
4. Interview all charter applicants.
5. Use expert panels that include external members to review charter applications.
6. Grant charters with five-year terms only.
7. Require and/or examine annual, independent financial audits of its charter schools.
8. Have established renewal criteria.
9. Have established revocation criteria.
10. Provide an annual report to each school on its performance.
11. Have staff assigned to authorizing within the organization or by contract.
12. Have a published and available mission for quality authorizing.

Authors of the report emphasize that these 12 practices are merely the minimum expectations for charter school authorizers to follow and that many charter school authorizers should and could go beyond these basic requirements to best serve charter schools and students in their states.

This is the second year that NASCA has conducted the survey. (You can read the 2011 report here.) The report indicates which charter school authorizers have made changes from last year.

In addition to being a resource for charter school authorizers to self-assess their efficacy, the report also provides suggestions for policymakers and funders on how to best support charter school authorizers. The report suggests that policymakers and funders provide reliable funding for authorizers to be able to complete the 12 essential practices, align state policies with index practices, and use the resources provide by NACSA to inform policy decisions.

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