The Purpose of the Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws Report

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Two weeks ago, we released our Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws—the ninth edition of this report. Upon the release of this year’s report, a few individuals have questioned the rankings because of the inclusion of the five states that have most recently come into the charter school family: Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, and Washington. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools had the honor of working side-by-side with local advocates and lawmakers in these states to craft and advocate for these laws. In each of these states, we used our model charter school law as the foundation for these efforts, but had to modify it to align with local political and policy contexts. Since our annual rankings report analyzes each state’s law against our model law, it isn’t much of a surprise to see these states rank highly in this effort.

From our perspective, the point of the law rankings report is to figure out which states are creating the conditions for high-quality charter schools by providingamong other thingsflexibility, funding equity, non-district authorizers, facilities support, and accountability. We’ve completed two versions of another periodic report on the health of the movement in each state that then looks at how those policies are playing out in practice by analyzing indicators associated with growth, innovation, and quality. In The Health of the Charter Public School Movement: A State-by-State Analysis report, we only include states that meet certain conditions, including that the state’s charter schools serve at least two percent of the state’s students.

While the individuals that have questioned the rankings have raised some legitimate questions, they have also made some claims that we strongly dispute, such as that the model law doesn’t support the growth of high-quality charter schools. To make this claim, they have pointed to the relatively slow starts in the five most recent states that have adopted laws. There are several reasons for these relatively slow starts, the biggest one perhaps being that these are mostly risk averse places when it comes to education reform. After all, it took them more than two decades to enact charter school laws. To think that charter school growth would boom once they enacted laws completely ignores the reality on the ground in these states, one that not even the most free market-oriented law would alter.

The lack of planning and start-up funds, the lack of support for founding groups, the increasingly negative attacks that are hurled at charter schools on a daily basis, and the legal cloud that is hanging over some of these laws have a whole lot more to do with where things are at in these states than anything else. These realities are why we’ve started an effort in three of these states (Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi) to work with local supporters to figure out ways to overcome these hurdles and accelerate growth.

By the way, if one were to take out these five states from our annual rankings, here would be the Top 10 states, along with the share of public school students that charter schools enroll in each state. To say that the model law doesn’t support the growth of high-quality schools isn’t borne out by the longer-term experiences in these states and obscures an important discussion on how we can accelerate growth in the places where it is needed the most.



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New York





Lastly, it is important to realize that similar policies will play out differently from state to state because of a whole host of local political and policy factors. As advocates, the best that we can do is push for laws that create the conditions for high-quality charter schools by providing, among other things, flexibility, funding equity, non-district authorizers, facilities support, and accountability. And upon their enactment, we need to push equally hard for the implementation conditions that support high-quality charter schools, such as planning and start-up funds, support for founding groups, and support for the legal battles that may ensue.