Measuring Up

 



Massachusetts

TOTAL SCORE:
151 out of 228

Rank: 11 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1993 Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  81 Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  35,353 Massachusetts did not pass any legislation in 2013 that affected its score and ranking. Massachusetts’ score increased from 145 points in 2013 to 151 points this year. The score changed because of adjustments in our methodology for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required). Its ranking remained at #11. Potential areas for improvement include removing the state’s caps on charter school growth and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Massachusetts's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Massachusetts's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Massachusetts law contains the following caps on charter school growth:

(1) 120, with 72 reserved for commonwealth charter schools and 48 reserved for Horace Mann charter schools.
(2) Not less than two of the new charters approved by the state board of education in any year shall be granted for charter schools located in districts where overall student performance on the statewide assessment system is in the lowest 10 percent statewide in the two years preceding the charter application.
(3) In any fiscal year, no school district's total charter school tuition payment to commonwealth charter schools shall exceed nine percent of said district's net school spending. However, in the districts performing in the lowest 10 percent statewide, this percentage will increase from nine percent to 18 percent between Fiscal Year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2017, with any new charters above the previous cap of nine percent reserved for the replication of high performing schools these districts. The law provides that the schools authorized above the previous cap of nine percent don’t count toward the cap of 72 commonwealth charter schools.
(4) The state board of education shall not approve a new commonwealth charter school in any community with a population of less than 30,000 unless it is a regional charter school. In any year, the state board of education shall approve only one regional charter school application of any commonwealth charter school located in a school district where overall student performance on the statewide assessment system is in the top 10 percent in the year preceding charter application.

There are currently 81 charter schools open in Massachusetts - 71 commonwealth charter schools and 10 Horace Mann charter schools.

3

1A. No limits are placed on the number of public charter schools or students (and no geographic limits).

1B. If caps exist, adequate room for growth.

2. A Variety of Public Charter Schools Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

"Massachusetts law allows new start-ups and public school conversions, but not virtual schools.

There are two types of charter schools in the state, commonwealth charter schools and Horace Mann charter schools. Horace Mann and commonwealth charter schools differ in that a Horace Mann charter school must have its charter approved by the local school committee and, in some cases, the local teacher’s union in addition to the state board of education."

4

2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Massachusetts provides only a single authorizer option in the state board of education. There are 81 charter schools open in the state.

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3A. The state allows two or more authorizing options (e.g., school districts and a state charter schools commission) for each applicant with direct application to each authorizer.

4. Authorizer & Overall Program Accountability System Required

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Massachusetts law requires the state commissioner of education to collect data on the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic make-up of the student enrollment of each charter school in the commonwealth and the number of students enrolled in each charter school who have individual education plans and those requiring English language learners programs. It also requires the state commissioner of education to file such data annually with the clerks of the house and senate and with the joint committee on education, arts, and humanities not later than December 1.

The legislature and governor can remove the ability of the state board of education to continue authorizing (the entities that gave it that authority).

9

4A. At least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state.

N/A

4B. Application process for other eligible authorizing entities.

N/A

4C. Authorizer submission of annual report, which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio.

4D. A regular review process by authorizer oversight body.

4E. Authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction authorizers, including removal of authorizer right to approve schools.

4F. Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

5. Adequate Authorizer Funding

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Massachusetts law includes none of the model law's provisions for adequate authorizer funding.

0

5A. Adequate funding from authorizing fees (or other sources).

5B. Guaranteed funding from authorizing fees (or from sources not subject to annual legislative appropriations).

5C. Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.

5D. Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.

5E. Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

6. Transparent Charter Application, Review, and Decisionmaking Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Massachusetts law contains application elements for all schools and additional application elements specific to conversion schools. The law also contains additional requirements for applications submitted by proven providers (i.e., successful charter school operators) that want to replicate their models.

According to Massachusetts law, if the charter school intends to procure substantially all educational services under contract with another person, the terms of such a contract must be approved by the board either as part of the original charter or by way of an amendment thereto.

The state department of education issues applications, including all requirements and approval criteria, for the state.

Massachusetts law and regulation require an in-person interview and a public hearing for each charter application.

Massachusetts law provides that charter approvals only go to the public meeting of the state board and that all founding groups receive letters if they are denied with reasons.

12

6A. Application elements for all schools.

6B. Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.

6C. Additional application elements specific to virtual schools.

N/A

6D. Additional application elements specific when using educational service providers.

6E. Additional application elements specific to replications.

6F. Authorizer-issued request for proposals (including application requirements and approval criteria).

6G. Thorough evaluation of each application including an in-person interview and a public meeting.

6H. All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

7. Performance-Based Charter Contracts Required

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Massachusetts does not have a performance contract per se, relying instead on promises made in the charter application against the application criteria, the statement of assurances signed by the founding group, and criteria defined separately in the Common School Performance Criteria for charter schools.

Massachusetts law provides that charter contract terms are for five years.

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7A. Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.

7B. Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.

7C. Defining academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged, based on a performance framework that includes measures and metrics for, at a minimum, student academic proficiency and growth, achievement gaps, attendance, recurrent enrollment, postsecondary readiness (high schools), financial performance, and board stewardship (including compliance).

7D. Providing an initial term of five operating years (or a longer term with periodic high-stakes reviews.

7E. Including requirements addressing the unique environments of virtual schools, if applicable.

N/A

8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Massachusetts regulations allow the state department of education to send evaluation teams to visit each charter school on an annual basis to corroborate and augment the information provided in the school’s annual report in accordance with guidelines issued by the department. State regulations also allow site visit teams to gather any other evidence relevant to the school's performance and provide that the written reports from these site visits become part of the charter school's record, along with any written addendum that the school wishes to submit in response to a report.

Massachusetts regulations require a charter school to submit to the state board of education and the local school committee and make available to every parent or guardian of its enrolled students and to every parent or guardian who expresses interest in enrolling in that charter school, an annual report.

Massachusetts regulations require each charter school to have an independent audit conducted of its accounts, consistent with generally accepted auditing principles, and consistent with any guidelines the state department of education may issue. Regulations require charter schools to file audits annually and file a Charter School End-of-Year Financial Report which is similar to that filed by traditional districts.

Massachusetts regulations require that a charter school is responsible for filing any data reports or school returns as required under public school law and regulations, in accordance with guidelines published by the state department of education ensuring that charter schools are not asked for the same data more than once.

According to Massachusetts regulations, as required by the state department of education, a charter school must submit written documentation that the school remains in compliance with all building, health, safety, and insurance requirements established as conditions for charter granting and that all related inspections and approvals are current.

Massachusetts regulations require a charter school to notify the state department of education in writing immediately of any change in circumstances that may have a significant impact on a charter school's ability to fulfill its goals or mission as stated in its charter. Within 30 days after receiving such notice, regulations require the state commissioner of education to determine whether any remedial action is required and to recommend such action, if necessary, to the state board of education. Regulations provide that such actions may include suspension or revocation of the charter or placing the charter school on probation.

According to Massachusetts regulations, at the discretion of the state board of education, charter schools may be required to submit additional information other than that specifically required by regulation.

Massachusetts regulations allow the state board of education to place a charter school on probation, rather than revoke its charter, in order to allow for the implementation of a remedial plan approved by the board. If after 60 days, or such longer period as the board may specify, said plan is unsuccessful in remedying the problem or alleviating the causes of the probation, regulations allow the board to summarily revoke the charter.

Massachusetts regulations allow the state department of education to impose certain conditions on a school's charter for violations of law or failure to comply with the terms of the school's charter.

Massachusetts regulations allow the state board of education to withhold payments to any charter school placed on probation or whose charter has been suspended, revoked, or not renewed or that has failed to comply with conditions imposed by law or regulation.

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8A. The collection and analysis of student outcome data at least annually by authorizers (consistent with performance framework outlined in the contract).

8B. Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).

8C. Authorizer authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

8D. Annual school performance reports which are made public.

8E. Authorizer notification to their schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.

8F. Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.

9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Massachusetts regulations require that charter schools seeking renewal to apply for it under renewal application guidelines established by the state board of education. Regulations also require that applications for the renewal of Horace Mann charters must be submitted with the approval of the local teachers' union and the local school committee.

Massachusetts regulations require the state department of education to issue guidelines describing the evaluation process to be followed in reviewing applications for charter renewal, including protocols for renewal inspections. Regulations require that the decision by the state board of education to renew a charter must be based upon the presentation of affirmative evidence regarding the success of the school's academic program; the viability of the school as an organization; and the faithfulness of the school to the terms of its charter. Regulations require the state department to gather evidence regarding these issues from the renewal application and from other information, including but not limited to, a school's annual reports, financial audits, test results, site visit reports, and renewal inspection. Regulations provide that all charter schools must be evaluated on the same performance criteria as provided in the guidelines, provided, however, that the criteria take into account each school's charter and accountability plan.

Massachusetts regulations provide that the state board may suspend or revoke a charter for cause, including but not limited to: a material misrepresentation in the application for approval of the charter; failure to comply substantially with the terms of the charter, with any of the applicable provisions in state law, or with any other applicable law or regulation; financial insolvency; misappropriation, conversion, mismanagement, or illegal withholding of funds or refusal to pay any funds that belong to any person otherwise entitled thereto and that have been entrusted to the charter school or its administrators in their fiduciary capacities; fraud or gross mismanagement on the part of charter school administrators or Board of Trustees; criminal convictions on the part of the charter school or its Board of Trustees; or failure to fulfill any conditions imposed by the state board in connection with the grant of a charter.

Massachusetts regulations require that charters that are renewed must be for five years from the expiration of the previous charter under such conditions as the state board may establish under regulation. The law does not provide authorizers with the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

Massachusetts regulations require the state board to provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal and reasonable time to respond and to provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation.

Massachusetts regulations contain the following closure provisions:

• Charter schools must comply with the closing procedures established by the state department.
• Upon the revocation, non-renewal, or voluntary return of a commonwealth charter, title to all of the property of the charter school shall immediately vest in the Commonwealth, subject to the rights of any secured party holding a perfected security interest in the property of such charter school. Any funds remaining after the satisfaction of the charter school's obligations shall be deposited in the General Fund. This regulation shall not apply to the extent the charter school or any other interested party demonstrates that charter school property was purchased solely by, or solely with funds paid to the school by, persons or entities other than the Commonwealth, in which case ownership of the property shall be transferred to such persons or entities, unless otherwise voted by the Board of Trustees.
• Upon the revocation, non-renewal, or voluntary return of a Horace Mann charter, title to all of the property of the charter school shall immediately vest in the school district in which the school is located, subject to the rights of any secured party holding a perfected security interest in the property of such charter school. This regulation shall not apply to the extent the charter school or any other interested party demonstrates that charter school property was purchased solely by, or solely with funds paid to the school by, persons or entities other than the district or Commonwealth, in which case ownership of the property shall be transferred to such persons or entities, unless otherwise voted by the Board of Trustees.

The law does not require authorizers to issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

12

9A. Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.

9B. Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.

9C. Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.

9D. Clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.

9E. Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract (in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract).

9F. Authorizer authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.

9G. Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or non-renewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.

9H. Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).

9I. All charter renewal, non-renewal, and revocation decisions made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing.

9J. Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.

10. Educational Service Providers (ESPs) Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Massachusetts law allows all types of educational service providers, requires contracts between boards and providers, and has provisions regarding conflicts of interest.

The law requires applications submitted by proven providers (i.e., successful charter operators) to demonstrate the performance of their successful schools they propose to replicate, including academic and operational performance, and board capacity to operate additional schools.

8

10A. All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and non-profit) explicitly allowed to operate all or parts of schools.

10B. The charter application requires 1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, including documentation of academic achievement and (if applicable) school management success; and 2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.

10C. A performance contract is required between the independent public charter school board and the ESP, setting forth material terms including but not limited to: performance evaluation measures; methods of contract oversight and enforcement by the charter school board; compensation structure and all fees to be paid to the ESP; and conditions for contract renewal and termination.

10D. The material terms of the ESP performance contract must be approved by the authorizer prior to charter approval.

10E. School governing boards operating as entities completely independent of any educational service provider (e.g., must retain independent oversight authority of their charter schools, and cannot give away their authority via contract).

10F. Existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.

11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Public Charter School Boards

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Massachusetts law provides requirements for fiscally and legally autonomous schools with independent charter school boards.

12

11A. Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds, incur debt, and pledge, assign or encumber assets as collateral).

11B. Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).

11C. School governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

12. Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Massachusetts law requires charter schools to provide open enrollment to any student in the state. However, the law provides that preference for enrollment in a commonwealth charter school must be given to students who reside in the city or town in which the charter school is located or the region the school serves if it is chartered to be regional.

Massachusetts law requires charter schools to hold lotteries if too many students seek enrollment in the school.

The law provides that preference must be given to prior year students within chartered schools and siblings of students currently attending the charter school.

The law provides that priority for enrollment in a Horace Mann charter school must be given first to students actually enrolled in said school on the date that the application is filed with the state board of education and to their siblings and second to other students actually enrolled in the public schools of the district where the Horace Mann charter school is to be located and third to other resident students.

The law does not provide an optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

6

12A. Open enrollment to any student in the state.

12B. Lottery requirements.

12C. Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions, prior year students within chartered schools, siblings of enrolled students enrolled at a charter school.

12D. Optional enrollment preference for children of a school’s founders, governing board members, and full-time employees, not exceeding 10% of the school’s total student population.

13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Massachusetts law provides that charter schools must operate in accordance with the provisions of law regulating other public schools, although the following provisions of state law do not apply to commonwealth charter schools: “Section 41. Tenure of teachers and superintendents; persons entitled to professional teacher status; dismissal; review” and “Section 42: Dismissal or demotion of teachers or other employees of school or school district; arbitration.”

For commonwealth charter schools, the law provides that no teacher may be hired who is not certified unless the teacher has successfully passed the state teacher test within one year of employment. For Horace Mann charter schools, the law requires charter teachers to be certified.

9

13A. Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.

13B. Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Commonwealth charter teachers may work independently or bargain collectively. Horace Mann charter teachers remain bound by school district collective bargaining agreements to the extent provided by the terms of their charters.

9

14A. Charter schools authorized by non-local board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.

14B. Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

N/A

15. Multischool Charter Contracts and/or Multicharter Contract Boards Allowed

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Massachusetts law allows the state board of education to approve applications for replication schools received from those with a record of operating at least one school or similar program with demonstrated academic success and organizational viability, with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

8

15A. Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

15B. Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access

weight = 1 | Possible total = 4

Massachusetts law is silent about extra-curricular and interscholastic activities eligibility and access for charter school students and employees.

1

16A. Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs available to non-charter public school students and employees.

16B. Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extra-curricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at non-charter public schools for a fee by a mutual agreement.

17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Massachusetts law provides that charter schools must comply with the state’s special education statutes provided, however, that the fiscal responsibility of any special needs student currently enrolled in or determined to require a private day or residential school shall remain with the school district where the student resides. It also provides that if a charter school expects that a special needs student currently enrolled in the charter school may be in need of the services of a private day or residential school, the school must convene an individual education plan team meeting for said student.

8

17A. Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.

17B. Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).

18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Massachusetts law provides that commonwealth charter schools are funded as follows: The commonwealth shall pay a tuition amount to the charter school, which shall be the sum of the tuition amounts calculated separately for each district sending students to the charter school. Tuition amounts for each sending district shall be calculated by the department of education using the formula set forth in state law, to reflect, as much as practicable, the actual per pupil spending amount that would be expended in the district if the students attended the district schools. The tuition amount shall be calculated separately for each district sending students to a charter school, and for each charter school to which a district sends students. Each district’s per pupil tuition amount for each charter school to which it sends students shall include a per pupil foundation budget component, adjusted to reflect the actual net school spending in the sending district.

Massachusetts laws and regulation provide equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds, including for charter schools that are significantly expanding.

Massachusetts law requires school districts to provide transportation to charter school students on the same basis as it is provided to regular public school students in the district. In providing such transportation, the law requires districts to accommodate the particular school year and school day of the charter school, in accordance with state law. If a district and a charter school cannot reach agreement about the service to be provided, and if the charter school finds an alternative that costs the same as or less than the average cost of transportation per student in the district, the law allows the charter school to provide its own transportation services to students eligible for transportation. In such cases, the law provides that the costs for such services will be deducted from a district's account on a quarterly basis, based on estimated and actual expenditures for transportation.

Massachusetts law requires the state to reimburse any district whose total charter school tuition amount is greater than its total charter school tuition amount for the previous year. The reimbursement amount is equal to 100 per cent of the increase in the year in which the increase occurs 25 per cent in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth years following.
In a national study of charter school funding (Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists, 2010), Massachusetts charter schools were receiving on average $12,838 per pupil, while traditional public schools would have received $15,917 for those students. As a result, the state's charter schools were receiving $3,079 per pupil - or 19.3% - less than what the traditional public schools would have received for those students. This figure includes all sources of funding, and analysis reveals some continued inequities for operational, but the significant inequities exist for capital funding (see component #19 for information on capital issues).

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18A. Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.

18B. Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding, and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.

18C. Funding for transportation similar to school districts.

19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities

weight = 4 | Possible total = 16

Massachusetts law requires the state department of education to provide, subject to appropriation, funding to charter schools for a portion of the per pupil capital needs component included in the charter tuition amount. It requires the department to calculate a statewide per pupil average expenditure from state and local sources for capital costs solely associated with payments, including interest and principle payments, for the construction, renovation, purchase, acquisition, or improvement of school buildings and land, multiply said amount by the number of students the district sends to charter schools, and reimburse these sending school districts for said costs. In making these calculations, it requires the department to use data from the most recent year for which actual district expenditures have been reported by districts to the department. For Fiscal Year 2012, the per-pupil capital needs component was $893.

Massachusetts law allows charter schools to access tax-exempt bond financing for capital projects through the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency.

While not created in statute, the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency provides loan guarantees for charter facilities projects.

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19A. A per-pupil facilities allowance which annually reflects actual average district capital costs.

19B. A state grant program for charter school facilities.

19C. A state loan program for charter school facilities.

19D. Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allow charter schools to have their own bonding authority.

19E. A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for public charter school facilities.

19F. Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to non-charter public schools.

19G. Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.

19H. Prohibition of facility-related requirements stricter than those applied to traditional public schools.

20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems

weight = 2 | Possible total = 8

Massachusetts law requires charter schools to participate in the Massachusetts Teacher Retirement System.

4

20A. Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.

20B. Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).