education

How does Colorado rank? Charter schools edition

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has just published rankings of state charter laws. Colorado did well, coming in at number 5 out of 40 states ranked, earning 128 points out of 208.

The states’ laws are ranked against a model charter school law published by NAPCS in June 2009 that addresses things like caps, authorizers, accountability, and exemption from state and district laws and regulations.

Why did Colorado do well? From the report:

In general, Colorado law provides an environment that’s cap-free, open to new start-ups, public schoolconversions, and virtual schools, and supportive of autonomy. Most notably, it is a leader in providing facilities support to public charter schools (although challenges remain). One potential area for improvement is providing clarity in the law to govern the expansion and replication of high-quality charter schools through multi-school charter contracts and/or multi charter contract boards. Another potential area is a general fine-tuning of the law in relation to the model law’s four “quality control” components.

The four quality control components that NAPCS mentions are these:

  • Authorizer and overall program accountability system required
  • Performance-based charter contracts required
  • Comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes
  • Clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions

Number 6 state Massachusetts ranks highest on these elements, so perhaps offers a model for Colorado to look at.

The most recent research on charter schools has found that charter schools can drive better achievement growth but don’t always. So there seems to be some need for quality control. But is legislation the right approach?

The idea with charter schools — as I understand it — is to put in place some competition for traditional public schools. In an actual competitive marketplace the customers would put pressure on the suppliers to provide services of adequate quality; you might need some government quality regulations but these would supplement the workings of the marketplace, not replace them. Public schools, even with a few charter schools thrown in, aren’t anything like a competitive marketplace, though.

I wonder: how should the quality control components of charter school legislation be structured so that they encourage higher quality among charter schools and in the traditional public schools as well?

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