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The 21st Century Charter Schools Initiative

The 21st Century Charter Schools Initiative

Accountability for

Accountability for Student Achievement Charter schools are accountable for student achievement. The rules and structure of charter schools depend on state authorizing legislation and differ from state to state. A charter school is authorized to function once it has received a charter, a statutorily defined performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3–5 years. Charter schools are held accountable to their sponsor—a local school board, state education agency, university, or other entity—to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. While this accountability is one of the key arguments in favor of charters, evidence gathered by the United States Department of Education suggests that charter schools are not, in practice, held to higher standards of accountability than traditional public schools. That point can be refuted by examining the number of traditional public schools that have been closed due to students' poor performance on end-of-course/end-of-grade tests. Typically, these schools are allowed to remain open, perhaps with new leadership or restructuring, or perhaps with no change at all. Charter school proponents assert that charter schools are not given the opportunities to restructure often and are simply closed down when students perform poorly on these assessments. As of March 2009, 12.5% of the over 5000 charter schools founded in the United States had closed for reasons including academic, financial, and managerial problems, and occasionally consolidation or district interference. Many charter schools are created with the original intent of providing a unique and innovative educational experience to its students that cannot be matched by the traditional public schools. While some charter schools succeed in this objective, many succumb to the same pressures as their public school brethren. Charter schools are accountable for test scores, state mandates, and other traditional requirements that often have the effect of turning the charter school into a similar model and design as the public schools. Page 12 of 43

Although the U.S. Department of Education's findings agree with those of the National Education Association (NEA), their study points out the limitations of such studies and the inability to hold constant other important factors, and notes that "study design does not allow us to determine whether or not traditional public schools are more effective than charter schools." Chartering Authorities Chartering authorizers, entities that may legally issue charters, differ from state to state, as do the bodies that are legally entitled to apply for and operate under such charters. In some states, like Arkansas, the State Board of Education authorizes charters. In other states, like Maryland, only the local school district may issue charters. States including Arizona and the District of Columbia have created independent charter-authorizing bodies to which applicants may apply for a charter. The laws that permit the most charter development, as seen in Minnesota and Michigan, allow for a combination of such authorizers. As of 2012, 39% of charters were authorized by local districts, 28% by state boards of education, 12% by State Commissions, with the remainder by Universities, Cities and others. Charter operators may include local school districts, institutions of higher education, non-profit corporations, and, in some states, for-profit corporations. Wisconsin, California, Michigan, and Arizona allow for-profit corporations to manage charter schools. Notable School Operators Achievement First Algiers Charter Schools Association (New Orleans) Arizona Charter Schools Association Aspire Public Schools BASIS Schools Concept Schools EdisonLearning The Leona Group Mosaica Education National Heritage Academies SABIS Educational Systems Page 13 of 43

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