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From Caps to Closures: Six Growing Charter School Policy Trends

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Charter school authorizing, caps, and performance-based closures are among six policy areas getting growing attentionĀ in state charter school laws, according to a policy brief released by the Education Commission of the States this month.

Authorizing policies make up half the trends highlighted in the report.

"Recently, attention to authorizers—the entities responsible for approving and overseeing charter schools—has increased," the brief's authors write. "A growing number of states are establishing standards and reporting requirements that authorizers must adhere to."

The report says 15 states and the District of Columbia have established standards for authorizers, while 16 states and D.C. require authorizers to submit annual reports on their portfolios of schools. The brief also points to statewide authorizing bodies as another policy trend: Of the 42 states with charter laws, 33 have an authorizer that charters and oversees schools statewide.

The remaining policy trends identified by the Denver-based ECS were not directly related to charter school authorizing, but still share oversight as a theme:

  • Automatic closure laws—11 states and the District of Columbia now have explicit performance thresholds that require that charter schools be shut down if their academic outcomes dip below a certain level.
  • Caps—20 states plus D.C. place some kind of cap on the number of charter schools that can open or the number of students they can serve.
  • Virtual charter schools—More than 20 states with charter school laws have policies specifically for online charter schools, many of which require additional oversight for cyber schools.

As part of the project, the Education Commission of the States created an online database on how policies line up or vary from state to state.

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