Thoughts for Charter School Authorizers

Dear Charter Authorizers,
1. Some of you are becoming school districts–bureaucratic and directive.  What happened to ‘autonomy for accountability’?   Reading some of your renewal reviews, it’s like having a boss all over again.
2. Timelines are so long and apps are so big and expensive to prepare,  you’re shutting people out especially minority operators.
3. Non-renewing low performing schools is tough, but it’s your job–it’s the charter bargain.
4. Some of you have outlawed innovation by requiring same-old-same-old.  Ol’ fashioned prep schools get it done for some kids but there’s a new world of opportunity out there including learning online.
5. Time to check in with your state’s RttT team, you’ll want to update your process to accommodate the conversions/restarts contemplated in the plan.  In fact, you’ll probably want to work with the Chief to define a two step process to 1) identify conversion/restart partners and 2) match them with local opportunities.
6. Local rejectors (districts that will never approve an app) are torturing folks; create an expedited denial process or give applicants the ability to apply directly to the state.
7. Create a ‘Rapid-Pass’ for high performers that want to expand.
8. Where there is likely to be a large number of public or private schools converting to charter, suggest to the legislature that a separate niche authorizer be formed to deal with these unique circumstances.
9. Be thoughtful about location, transportation, access, and facilities; you’re often the portfolio manager.  We need equitable choice focused on, but not limited to, the highest need areas.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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