This morning, we released a major new report, A Model Law For Supporting the Growth of High-Quality Charter Public Schools: Second Edition.
Seven years have passed since the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released A New Model Law For Supporting The Growth of High-Quality Public Charter Schools in 2009. The National Alliance’s model law and the seven associated state charter school laws’ annual rankings reports from 2010 to 2016 have had a major impact on the nation’s charter school laws. As evidence, the four states that have enacted charter laws since 2009 have largely aligned them with the model law, while 36 states have made policy improvements to better align their laws with the model law since 2009.
At the same time, the charter school movement has grown from more than 4,900 charter schools serving more than 1.4 million students in 40 states and D.C. in 2008-09 to more than 6,800 charter schools enrolling an estimated 2.9 million students in 42 states and D.C. in 2015-16. These numbers could be even higher, given that more than a million students are on wait lists for charter schools.
While the health of the charter school movement is generally strong, and many charter schools are yielding outstanding results for students, the state policy environments supporting charter schools must continue to evolve to reflect emerging opportunities and challenges. Although the vast majority of the provisions in the first edition of the model law are still reflective of smart policy, the time is right for some updates to the model law based upon lessons learned from experience, research, and analysis.
Some of these updates are focused on providing more equitable support to charter school students. Most notably, the new edition of the model law includes provisions strengthening facilities support for charter school students, requiring state departments of education to create an annual funding transparency report, ensuring the fairness of charter school admission lotteries, and ensuring a clear articulation and understanding about how student discipline will be handled at charter schools.
Other updates are focused on providing more flexibility to charter schools. Most notably, the new edition of the model law includes provisions ensuring that charter schools are able to serve preschool students, allowing charter schools to give enrollment preference to students who are at risk for academic failure, requiring a school’s performance framework to include indicators, measures, and metrics for mission-specific goals, providing for the differentiated renewal of charter contracts for high-performing charter schools, and providing that authorizers may not request duplicative entries and submissions from its charter schools and may not use their performance frameworks to create cumbersome reporting requirements for its charter schools.
Still other updates are focused on strengthening accountability for charter schools and their authorizers. Most notably, the new edition of the model law includes provisions holding full-time virtual charter schools more accountable; creating a minimum standard of performance for an authorizer’s portfolio of schools; ensuring that chronically low-performing charter schools are closed; strengthening conflict of interest, code of ethics, and nepotism policies for charter schools; and strengthening accountability requirements for educational service providers that partner with charter schools.
In order to update the first edition of the model law, the National Alliance convened a working group of individuals with deep expertise in charter school law. The National Alliance tasked this working group with identifying policy issues that have emerged since the release of the first edition of the model law in 2009 and suggesting changes to the model law to better support the growth of high-quality charter schools. We also shared drafts of the report with the National Alliance’s State Leaders Council and Policy Advisory Council. Together, these groups represent the broad spectrum of stakeholders in the charter school movement.
We look forward to continue working with governors, state legislators, and our many state and national advocacy partners to create charter public school laws that support the growth of high-quality charter schools across the country.