In short, there are a number of poor performing charter schools and, according to NACSA, they should be closed. NACSA also calls for states to add school closure provisions to their charter school authorizing laws.
"For the first time, NACSA is urging state legislatures to adopt new laws that hold both schools and authorizers accountable for their performance. NACSA is also calling for the establishment of statewide authorizing offices because they are more likely to implement professional practices based on high standards and promote quality growth. These changes will help create more successful new schools, including replications, while facilitating the closure of hundreds of schools that are falling short."NACSA points to the new charter school law here in Washington as a model. Section 220 of I-1240 speaks to the closure of under-performing charters:
Section 220 (2):
"A charter contract may not be renewed if, at the time of the renewal application, the charter school's performance falls in the bottom quartile of schools on the accountability index developed by the state board of education under RCW 28A.657.110, unless the charter school demonstrates exceptional circumstances that the authorizer finds justifiable."So there it is. The school must, absolutely, positively close - unless the authorizer (in its sole discretion) says it doesn't have to. The "exceptional circumstances" are not defined. They are, essentially, whatever the authorizer says they are.
So all of the much-ballyhooed accountability for charter schools in Washington State will come down to a subjective determination by the authorizer. While school districts are eligible to become authorizers, the primary one will be the state commission. And who are they? See Section 208 of I-1240.
- They are "an independent state agency"
- As an idependant state agency, there is no oversight of their activities. Not by the governor, not by the OSPI, not by anyone. They are completely unaccountable. This is an apparent violation of the state constitution
- "The commission shall... administer the portion of the public common school system consisting of the charter schools it authorizes as provided in this chapter, in the same manner as a school district board of directors"
- I wonder to what extent the laws governing school boards govern them. School Board decisions can be appealed to a Superior Court. Does that rule extend to the commission? Without that, are they completely unaccountable? Will the commission be responsible for submitting requests for conditional certificates like a school board? Will the commission have to sign off on grant proposals and contracts like a school board?
- "The commission shall consist of nine members" appointed, three each, by the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the state house.
- As Mel has frequently noted, there is no provision for a review and confirmation of these appointments and there is no provision for removing a commissioner from office other than at the expiration of the commissioner's term. This also means no accountability for the commission members.
- "All members shall have demonstrated an understanding of and commitment to charter schooling as a strategy for strengthening public education."
- This is the central concern. If the commission members are all charter school boosters, how likely are they to ever decide to close a charter school? Especially when they can not be held accountable for that decision.
In the end, there can be no celebrating when a school closes. It is a horrible experience for the entire community. No one wishes it to happen and we should not be flip about school closures. School closures don't really solve anything, and the promotion of closures as a solution to underperforming schools strikes me as callous to an extreme.