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A Call to Action to Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools

June 20, 2016

Currently, more than 180,000 students attend 135 full-time virtual charter schools in 23 states and the District of Columbia. While some students do well in a full-time virtual charter school environment, too many of these schools are not providing a quality educational program to the vast majority of their students, while enrolling too many who are simply not a good fit for attending a fully online school.In this report,  A Call to Action to Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now (50CAN) and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) propose specific policy recommendations to help states better hold full-time virtual charter schools accountable for student results.

The Health of the Charter Public School Movement: A State-by-State Analysis

March 7, 2016

The Health of the Charter Public School Movement: A State-by-State Analysis evaluates the health of the charter public school movement in key states across the country. Following the first report released in October 2014, this second edition measures movement growth, innovation, and quality, while this year doubling the number of quality measures. Due to these quality additions, a total of 18 states with charter school laws met the criteria for inclusion in this year's report.

A Closer Look at the Charter School Movement: Charter Schools, Students, and Management Organizations, 2015-16

February 3, 2016

Enrollment in charter public schools has grown by 250,000 students in the 2015-16 school year, and more than 400 new charter public schools have opened their doors, according to, A Closer Look at the Charter School Movement: Schools, Students, and Management Organizations, 2015- 16. The report also estimates that the total number of students currently attending charter public schools is nearly 3 million, representing a sixfold increase in charter school enrollment over the past 15 years.While more than 400 new charter schools opened this school year, the report finds that about 270 schools ceased operations. These schools closed for a variety of reasons, including low enrollment, inadequate financial resources and low academic performance. More than 6,800 charter public schools are now open across 42 states and the District of Columbia.

Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Charter School Laws 2016

January 20, 2016

2015 has proved to be another active year for charter public school legislation across the country. For starters, we saw significant activity regarding potential enabling legislation in several of the states without charter public school laws. Most notably, Alabama became the 43rd state to enact a charter school law.We saw a handful of states lift restrictions on growth. For example, New York made some important adjustments to its cap to allow more charter public school growth in New York City and more charter-authorizing activity by the State University of New York. In addition, Oklahoma expanded charters statewide.

Getting Lost While Trying to Follow the Money: Special Education Finance in Charter Schools

November 2, 2015

Tracking the special education dollars that support services for students with disabilities attending public schools is complicated; attempting to track the funds to autonomous public charter schools is even more so. Public schools -- traditional and charter alike -- receive their operating revenues from three primary sources: local property taxes, state per-pupil allocations, and federal categorical-aid programs. The aggregate resources available to provide services to students with disabilities in public schools is a function of both 1) funding available to public schools generally, and 2) funding designated to support special education and related services in particular.Understanding how dollars flow to charter schools requires consideration of multiple and overlapping federal, state, and local district formulas and policies, and understanding how state policymakers have retrofitted these policies and procedures to include autonomous charter schools

2015 State Legislative Session Highlights for Public Charter Schools

October 28, 2015

2015 has proved to be another successful year for public charter school legislation across the country. Some of the biggest developments of the 2015 state legislative sessions include:Alabama became the 43rd state to enact a public charter school law.Connecticut defeated a proposed two-year moratorium on opening of new charter schools.Indiana increased school autonomy, strengthened school and authorizer accountability, and funded facilities and finance programs.Nevada improved funding opportunities and modified its automatic closure requirements for low-performing public charter schools.New York increased flexibility for teacher certification and adjusted its cap to allow more public charter school growth in New York City.Ohio increased per-pupil funding for charter facilities and expanded the ability of traditional districts to levy taxes for charter schools that are sponsored by "exemplary" sponsors.Oklahoma overhauled law, including provisions to allow charter schools statewide, strengthening school and authorizer accountability, and allowing charter schools to borrow money.Wisconsin overhauled its law to allow more entities to authorize independent public charter schools, strengthening school and authorizer accountability, and providing additional funding to independent public charter schools.

Automatic Closure of Low-Performing Public Charter Schools

October 26, 2015

The National Alliance advocates for the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools. While we believe it is important to foster the growth of charter schools achieving great academic results for students, it is equally important to close charter schools that are not improving student outcomes.We are pleased to see that over the past several years, state lawmakers have increasingly enacted legislation, often based on our model law, to better support the growth of high-quality public charter schools -- including strengthening accountability provisions for these innovative public school options. At the same time, a growing number of states have passed laws that require charter schools to close if they do not meet certain performance benchmarks.This week we released a state policy snapshot that provides an overview of automatic closure policies in the 15 states that have such laws, which is an increase of four states since we last released this snapshot in 2014.As state lawmakers consider these policies, they should give serious thought to several issues, including authorizers' track records in closing low-performing public charter schools, the sophistication of their states' accountability systems, and how to handle public charter schools that serve high percentages of at-risk students.We commend policymakers who have acted to enforce the quality of their state's charter school landscape through strong accountability measures. We also strongly encourage lawmakers to work closely with the local public charter school stakeholders who are committed to quality as they investigate this policy issue.

Assessing the Increasing Strength of Charter Laws

September 29, 2015

Since 2005, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (National Alliance) has advocated for high-quality public charter school laws. With the support of a working group with deep expertise in public charter school law, we released a model charter law in 2009 with 20 essential components focused on creating and supporting high-quality public charter schools.After we released the model charter law, we then undertook an extensive review of all existing state charter laws in comparison to the model law and issued annual state charter laws rankings reports in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Each year, we sought input on the rankings reports from a variety of charter stakeholders and made adjustments to the reports' scoring rubrics as needed. In the rankings reports, we showed where state scores shifted as a result of policy change, but we also noted where changes occurred as a result of adjustments in our scoring rubrics or further clarifications about existing policies in states that would affect the state's rankings score.The purpose of this report is to sync the ratings from the multiple rankings reports so that rating changes over time are primarily the result of changes in policy, not from changes to our scoring rubrics and clarifications about existing policies.

Separation of Church and School: Guidance for Public Charter Schools Using Religious Facilities

August 18, 2015

Public charter school leaders and advocates are dedicated to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools available to all families, especially those in communities where there are very few opportunities to attend a high-quality public school. To realize the promise that public charter school expansion can bring, public charter schools need reasonable access to facilities in every community.This is a guidebook to help public charter school leaders -- and the advocates, attorneys, and others who support them -- navigate the increasingly complicated legal landscape surrounding public charter school use of a facility owned or operated by a religious organization. By presenting an analysis of the legal standards that govern application of the Establishment Clause and offering practical advice on how to ensure compliance with the it when a public charter school decides to locate in a religious-owned facility, this guidebook will help charter school leaders protect their access to an important facilities option and foster continued public charter school growth.

Chartering Turnaround: Leveraging Public Charter School Autonomy to Address Failure

August 12, 2015

Persistently low-achieving public schools around the country have received $5.8 billion from the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, in addition to district and state funds, and other supplementary federal funds. Despite all of these sources of funding, most of the schools receiving them have failed to make a dramatic difference in improving student achievement. However, according to a new report jointly released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the Center on School Turnaround, autonomy provided by state charter laws can be better leveraged to improve school turnaround efforts.The report, Chartering Turnaround: Leveraging Public Charter School Autonomy to Address Failure, provides case studies of three charter management organizations (CMOs) that have successfully restarted low-achieving public schools, adding a valuable component to the limited body of research that exists about turnaround models. The report highlights the freedoms that benefit poor-performing schools most significantly, including: the autonomy to hire, retain and reward staff; the ability to adjust the length of school year, academic program and curriculum; and, the option to develop tailored approaches for finances and facilities.

Pre-K and Charter Schools: Where State Policies Create Barriers

July 15, 2015

High quality charter schools and pre-K programs have shown tremendous potential to change the educational and life trajectories of low-income students. In combination, they could do even more to improve the odds for our nation's most vulnerable youngsters. But current policy and practice in many states limit the ability of charter schools to offer state-funded pre-K programs.Even though most states use a variety of providers to offer pre-K -- including public schools, Head Start programs, community-based child care centers, and for-profit and faith-based preschools -- charter schools are often not among them.In this report, the National Alliance teamed up with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to analyze state pre-K and charter statutes, regulations, and agency policies in the 36 jurisdictions that had both charter schools and state-funded pre-K programs at the start of the 2014 -- 15 school year. This comprehensive study points to state policies that create restrictions for collaboration between charter schools and pre-K, and also offers policy recommendations at the federal and state levels to improve the climate for high-quality charter schools to offer pre-K.

State Laws on Weighted Lotteries and Enrollment Practices

July 1, 2015

In January 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued updated guidance that expanded the circumstances under which charter schools receiving Charter Schools Program (CSP) funds may elect to use a weighted lottery in admissions. According to the guidance, charter schools receiving CSP funds may now use weighted lotteries to give slightly better chances for admission to all or a subset of educationally disadvantaged students if state law permits the use of such weighted lotteries.The requirement that state law specifically permit the use of weighted lotteries -- as made clear in the analysis in this report -- is particularly limiting. Few states have language that clearly permits weighted lotteries for charter schools. The National Alliance is concerned that without individual state legislative or regulatory action, the guidance will likely yield few waivers.As Congress considers reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the National Alliance has recommended changes to law to ensure that weighted lotteries are permitted unless state law specifically prohibits the practice. This legislative proposal would make it significantly easier for schools to take advantage of weighted lotteries as a means to serve more educationally disadvantaged students. ESEA legislation in the House and Senate includes the National Alliance recommendations.