Charter Schools: Accountability is Key

June 20, 2012 posted by Eric Lerum and Justine Jacob

Eric Lerum is Vice President of National Policy at StudentsFirst.

Justine Jacob is a Policy Analyst for StudentsFirst, where she focuses on charter school accountability, parent empowerment, and school choice. 

Here at StudentsFirst we've been so encouraged to see states taking up critical legislation to allow for the expansion of high-quality public charter schools.

We believe parents, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, need more high-quality educational options for their kids. No parent should ever feel stuck with limited options that aren't serving their children well.

And as the charter school sector grows, we’re also glad to see an increased focus on the accountability rules governing these schools. Several states, most recently Missouri, have been debating and passing laws that put more rigorous accountability systems in place for their charter sector.

We think that's a great sign of progress and have put together a policy paper and model legislation that states can look to as a resource as they take up this issue.

Some of the policies that we believe must be enacted include: requiring performance contracts between charter schools and their authorizers to ensure key goals are met, establishing a transparent charter application and review process, and ensuring a charter school authorizer’s responsibilities are clear and well defined. Reporting rules around the performance of schools and authorizers and having meaningful consequences for poor performance are important too.

Just yesterday, the Government Accountability Office released a report looking at the rate at which public charter schools, which are free and open to any child in their jurisdiction, enroll kids with special needs. This kind of oversight is critical -- as is the kind of accountability and oversight that comes with strong state laws.

Our model legislation requires schools and their authorizers to establish performance targets for all students, including those with special needs, at the outset. By talking about how the school will serve all of its students and set high expectations for them, and by committing to those goals as part of the performance contract, authorizers can play a key role in ensuring charter schools are great options for families.

Check out our policy paper and model legislation for a more detailed look at what we think can help high-quality charter schools flourish and serve more kids in need.

Holding Public Charter Schools Accountable

Charter School Accountability Act