October 2017 Newsletter

$253 Million Dollars in New Federal Grants to Expand Charter Schools Announced

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced the FY 2017 awards for three Charter Schools Program grant competitions.

  • State Entity Grants for the State-Level Charter Subgrant Competitions: Approximately $144.7 million in new grants were awarded to nine States. This year’s awards will support approximately 445 new, replicating, and expanding public charter schools. Formerly known as State Education Agency (SEA) Grants, other entities, like Charter Support Organizations and Governor’s offices, are now eligible for these grants that support state-level subgrant competitions. The Oklahoma Public School Resource Center will be the first non-SEA to directly administer a grant under this revised competition.
  • Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools (CMO Grants): The Department awarded more than $52 million to 17 CMOs.
  • Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities: The Department awarded $56.25 million in new grants to eight entities for Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program competition. Recipients use these funds to help charter schools leverage more affordable financing for facilities

Charter Support Organizations Prioritize New School Development

Without new schools, the charter sector cannot grow to serve more students. This simple fact is why supporting new charter school operators is critical work.

In September, leaders from statewide charter support organizations (CSOs) across the nation gathered in Minneapolis, MN to discuss new school development. This “Master Class” gathering was part of quarterly, day-long intensive trainings that the National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) host to share best practices among CSOs on supporting a state’s charter schools.

Many CSOs are working diligently to recruit and develop potential applicant groups to ensure quality new schools. The Master Class focused on new school development processes, including:

  • Identifying and supporting promising founding groups through application and authorization;
  • Helping approved schools launch successfully; and
  • Identifying robust professional development opportunities for operators. 
  • Throughout the day, CSO leaders delved into tensions that face this work:
  • How can CSOs support new school development given their limited staff and resources?
  • How does the charter school sector balance the ideals of innovation and replication? If we support “tried and true” charter models, are we missing the “next big thing”?
  • What are the advantages and pitfalls for charter school incubators?
  • How can we ensure that when a charter school closes (for any reason), it is replaced by a quality charter school operator?

The robust conversations, brainstorming, and examples from the field helped CSO leaders collaborate and problem solve to continue working toward the goal of increasing the number of high-quality charter schools serving students in their state.

Please visit the NCSRC website to learn more about CSOs and resources for your state.

State Agencies Sharing Strategies to Support and Monitor Grants

The NCSRC hosted a series of conference calls as part of our technical assistance to grant administrators running state-level CSP grant programs. Each call allowed peer-to-peer problem solving of a concrete challenge presented by a colleague.

The first call addressed allowable expenses for subgrants. Krystal Starwich, from the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), shared her questions and challenges. SEA leaders discussed the types of expenditures that charter schools can pay for with CSP funds. States shared strategies for how to provide maximum clarity and opportunity for schools, while reducing the risks of challenges that accompany unallowable activities.

The second call addressed monitoring, focusing primarily on fiscal monitoring of CSP subgrantees. David Frank, from the New York State Department of Education (NYSDE), walked participants through New York’s audit guide (a project the state undertook to look at fiscal risk) and fiscal dashboard. Participants discussed how to decide where to invest limited resources, and how to differentiate between schools based on risk.

Administrators of each state’s CSP program can help school founders navigate these issues, and ED has guidance and related resources to answer questions as well. 

NCSRC Resources

  • Authorizer Evaluation Summary: An Analysis of Evaluations of Authorizer Quality: This report uses quantitative analysis to examine six years of NACSA evaluations and authorizer characteristics to explore questions about authorizing policies and practices. Our analysis revealed clear model authorizer practices and areas for improvement and growth. This report can serve as a starting point to inform authorizers, policymakers, and key stakeholders in the charter school sector about effective authorizing practices.
  • Turning Passion into Action: Unlocking Your Board’s Fundraising Potential: Among the responsibilities of boards, ensuring the proper fiscal resources is one of the core responsibilities as the school's sponsor. This document provides a four-step self-assessment for boards to be able to conquer the task of fundraising.
  • Webinar: Logic Models as Living Documents – Updating and Applying Tools: This webinar addressed how to better streamline the logic model as a road map for CSP grant activities and the application of these tools. As part of grant applications, once created, they could be ignored. Presenters gave overviews on findings from analysis of state logic models and how to effectively use rubrics given by the state.

Recent NCSRC Partner Resources

  • Charter School Performance in Texas: This report finds that, on average, students in Texas public charter schools experience stronger growth annually in reading and math. It provides views of Texas charter school performance and provides benchmarking results for the state. CREDO reports on academic progress, the impact of charter schools at the school level and school locale, performance of charter schools grouped by charter network, the impact of online charter schools in Texas, performance of charter schools, and the impact of alternative charter education campuses. 
  • English Learners and ESSA: Implications for States and Charter Schools: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) maintains key provisions from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) but also makes significant changes. NAPCS and the National Council of La Raza have produced a new brief to ensure that state charter public school leaders and charter school operators have key facts about the law and proposed regulations that will affect the implementation of requirements that specifically apply to English learners.
  • In Pursuit of the Common Good: The Spillover Effects of Charter Schools on Public School Students in New York City: This report finds that there seems to be a small positive effect on nearby district student performance in New York City. 
  • Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools: Fordham senior research and policy associate David Griffith takes an unprecedented look at teacher chronic absenteeism rates in charter and traditional public schools—that is, the percentage of teachers who miss at least eleven days of school, excluding professional development days and field trips.
  • Better Together: Ensuring Quality District Schools in Times of Charter Growth and Declining Enrollment: The report recommends a series of actions to address financial challenges, including closing underutilized schools, selling unneeded property, cutting legacy costs by reforming pension agreements, and ending unfunded salary commitments. The report urges charter leaders to actively work with districts and states on solutions. This report is intended as a first step to help all sides overcome their entrenched viewpoints and unite to address the pressing financial problems that are threatening quality public education today.
  • Authorizer Voices: Serving Students with Unique Needs: The fifth video short in NACSA's Authorizer Voices series centers on how authorizers ensure access to charter schools for students with unique needs. Authorizers first give parents quality options, they leverage school autonomy, they expect schools to reflect their neighborhoods and cities, and they partner with schools to fix problems.