Measuring Up

 



Rhode Island

TOTAL SCORE:
113 out of 228

Rank: 34 out of 43

Year Charter School Law Was Enacted:  1995
Estimated Number of Public Charter Schools in 2013-14:  19
Estimated Number of Public Charter School Students in 2013-14:  6,215

Rhode Island did not pass any legislation in 2013 that affected its score and ranking.

Rhode Island’s score increased from 108 points in 2013 to 113 points this year.  The score changed because of adjustments in our methodology for Component #4 (Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required) and further clarification about the specific policies for Component #12 (Clear Student Recruitment, Enrollment, and Lottery Procedures).  Its ranking went from #35 to #34.

Rhode Island’s law is still in need of significant improvement, most notably by removing the remaining caps on charter school growth, providing additional authorizing options for charter applicants, ensuring authorizer accountability, providing adequate authorizer funding, and ensuring equitable access to capital funding and facilities.

Do Rhode Island's laws align to the model law?

Model Law Component

Matches

Rhode Island's Charter Law

Score

1. No Caps

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Rhode Island law permits 35 charter schools statewide. There are currently 19 charter schools operating in the state.

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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

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

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2A. New start-ups.

2B. Public school conversions.

2C. Virtual schools.

3. Multiple Authorizers Available

weight = 3 | Possible total = 12

Under Rhode Island law, the only authorizer is the state board of education, and only after the charter school has been approved by a local school board or the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education. There are 19 charter schools operating 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

Rhode Island law includes a small number of the elements of the model law's authorizer and overall program accountability system.

While the law does not require the legislature and governor to regularly review the performance of the state board of education as an authorizer, they can do so at any time. In addition, the ability of the state board of education to continue authorizing can be removed by the legislature and governor (the entities that gave it that authority).

The law does not require at least a registration process for local school boards to affirm their interest in chartering to the state, does not require authorizer submission of annual report which summarizes the agency’s authorizing activities as well as the performance of its school portfolio, does not require a regular review process by authorizer oversight body of local school board authorizers, does not require authorizer oversight body with authority to sanction local school board authorizers including removal of authorizer right to approve schools, and does not require a periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

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

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

Rhode Island law and regulations include 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

Rhode Island law provides for application elements for all schools. It also provides additional application elements specific to conversion schools. Regulations provide additional detail regarding the contents of a proposed application, including information if the use of a service provider is proposed. It does not require additional application elements specific to replications.

Rhode Island law provides that the state commissioner of education hold a minimum of two public hearings and allow a 60 day public comment period on the issue of whether or not to approve a charter application. Regulations offer additional detail, but there is still no requirement that an in-person interview be held (even though such interviews are occurring in practice). It does not require authorizers to issue a request for proposals.

Under Rhode Island law, the decision by the authorizer to approve or deny an application along with its reasons and conditions are to be made in writing and available to both the applicant and the public at large. However, state law does not require that all approval or denial decisions be made in public.

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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

Regulations detail charter contract requirements, including the creation of a final charter contract document which details various things including: the power to operate as a local education agency or as a public school within another local education agency; the obligations of the authorizer; and academic and operational performance expectations (including student academic goals, post-secondary readiness for high schools, organizational performance including financial issues, student and teacher attrition, and parent and student satisfaction).

Regulations state that charter contracts are granted for a fixed term not to exceed five years (which means there is no guarantee of at least 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

Rhode Island law and regulations require charter schools to provide a yearly report to parents, the community, the local school committee, and the state commissioner of education, which indicates the progress made by the charter school during the previous year in meeting the charter objectives.

Regulations give the state commissioner of education the responsibility and authority to conduct or require oversight activities.

Regulations provide that the state commissioner of education can institute charter revocation proceedings, during which the commissioner notifies the school in writing of the facts and issues that justify a revocation and offers the school a reasonable length of time to attain compliance. Regulations allow the commissioner to place schools on probation for a specified period of time in lieu of revocation.

Rhode Island law requires all charter schools to adhere to financial record keeping, reporting, auditing requirements, and procedures in the same manner as required of local public school districts and in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations.

Rhode Island law requires all charter schools to continuously monitor their financial operations by tracking actual versus budgeted revenue and expense.

Rhode Island law allows individuals or groups to complain to a charter school's governing body concerning any claimed violation of the provisions of the charter law by the school. If, after presenting their complaint to the governing body, the individuals or groups believe their complaint has not been adequately addressed, the law allows them to submit their complaint to the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education who must hear and decide the issue pursuant to state law.

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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

Regulations provide that the state board of education may conduct a review of a school’s charter. They also note the data that should be considered, including evidence from a renewal application, by the state board of education for making decisions regarding renewal. While the regulations mention a “renewal application,” it is unclear if such applications are required of all charters as part of the renewal process.

State law provides that charter renewal contracts may be up to five years, although it does not provide detail on what should determine the length of the continuance. If the state board of education does not conduct a renewal hearing for an existing charter school, the charter shall be renewed for another five-year period.

Rhode Island law states that a charter may be revoked for material violations of those provisions contained within the charter, failing to meet education objectives, fiscal mismanagement, or violation of the law. The law also provides that a charter may be revoked if after three consecutive years of operation, the school is not a “high-performing charter school” that has demonstrated substantial progress improving student achievement and has the management and leadership necessary to establish a thriving, financially viable school.

After denying or prior to non-renewing a charter, state law requires the state department to hold a hearing on the issues in controversy. Regulations add further detail in that schools must be notified in writing about the concerns, given reasonable length of time to correct the concerns, and offered an administrative hearing in which the school has the burden of proof to demonstrate it has met the terms of the charter and other applicable legal requirements.

While the law requires the state to provide its reasons for non-renewals and revocations in writing, it does not require that these decisions be made in a public meeting.

Regulations require that in the event of a closed school, the state commissioner of education must coordinate student and record transitions (but nothing is mentioned about timely parent notification or property and asset disposition).

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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

Rhode Island law allows charter boards to contract directly with third parties for the purchase of books, instructional materials, and any other goods and services which are not being provided by the sending school districts. Statute also requires that information be placed in charter applications regarding any support services the school plans to obtain directly from third parties and under what terms and conditions those services are to be provided, to the extent known. Rhode Island law prohibits charter schools from contracting with for-profit management organizations.

Regulations require the following within charter application: evidence of the educational service provider’s success in serving students; terms of the service contract including the roles, responsibilities of the governing board, school staff, and the service provider; performance evaluation and enforcement measures; compensation structure and fees; methods of contract oversight; and conditions for renewal.

Regulations state that no charter school board can enter into a contract that would have the effect of reducing the board’s ultimate responsibility for the operation of the school.

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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

State law provides that district charters are still bound to the district’s collective bargaining agreement unless the parties to the collective bargaining agreement approve variances requested by the school. Rhode Island law states that teachers and administrators in district and independent charter schools are entitled to prevailing wages and benefits as enjoyed by others in the district for district charter schools or others in the state for independent charter schools. Such schools must also pay into the state pension system and provide tenure. These provisions restrict the fiscal autonomy of a given school board. Mayoral academy charter schools are not subject to the above restrictions.

Rhode Island law provides that charter schools may negotiate and contract directly with third parties.

Rhode Island law requires all charter schools to have governing boards. It also requires mayoral academy charter schools to have a board of trustees or directors that is comprised of representatives from each city or town participating in the school and chaired by a mayor of an included city or town. It also subjects the governing boards of all charter schools to the open meetings law.

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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

Rhode Island law provides that charter schools are open to any student in the state.

Rhode Island law requires charter schools to conduct a lottery if the total number of students who are eligible to attend and apply to a charter school is greater than the number of spaces available.

Rhode Island law requires that the combined percentage of free or reduced lunch students, special education students and limited English proficiency students enrolled at a charter school must at least equal the combined percentage for the district as a whole.

Regulations indicate that schools are allowed to exempt siblings as well as students of teachers and school founders from participation in the lottery (as long as it is not more than 10% of enrollment).

It does not require enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and prior year students within chartered schools. It also does not provide an optional enrollment preference for the children of a school’s governing board members.

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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

Rhode Island law requires exemptions from particular state statutes, state regulations, school district rules, and collective bargaining provisions to be requested in the charter application.

Rhode Island law requires charter school teachers to be certified.

3

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

Rhode Island law exempts independent and mayoral academies from district collective bargaining agreements, although they must identify the sending school district(s) rules from which they are seeking variances within the application. The law also provides that district charter schools are bound by the district collective bargaining agreement unless the parties to the collective bargaining agreement approve variances requested by the school.

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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

Rhode Island Law is silent regarding these arrangements.

2

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

Rhode Island law is silent regarding charter eligibility and access.

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

Rhode Island law addresses special education, but is unclear about responsibility for providing services and funding for low-incident, high-cost services. It states that charter schools are subject to the same special education requirements as traditional public schools, and are thus responsible for providing special education services as required by law.

2

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

The state law includes many of the model law’s provisions for equitable operational and categorical funding, but there is no evidence of the amount of funds charters receive versus districts.

Rhode Island charter schools will be 100% equitably funded per a new state funding policy once the policy is fully phased in over seven years. Equitable funding for transportation is also included in the new policy.

While the law grants charter schools access to federal funding, clear guidance from the state is not explicitly required.

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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

Rhode Island law provides that a school district may access aid for reimbursement of school housing costs for school district sponsored charter schools, and that charter schools not sponsored by a school district may apply for 30% reimbursement of school housing cost on a need basis.

State law provides that charter schools can access bonding support through the Rhode Island Housing and Education Building Corporation.

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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

Rhode Island law requires all charter schools to participate in the relevant employee retirement systems, except for mayoral academy charter schools, which have the option to participate.

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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).