Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on CCSA's Public Call for Non-Renewal

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After years of member engagement, consultation with technical experts, and rigorous testing by staff, CCSA has formally adopted the CCSA Accountability Framework to guide our support for charter schools in renewal. Accordingly, CCSA will call for the non-renewal of schools in renewal that are below the CCSA Minimum Criteria as described above.

The public call for non-renewal represents a significant step towards advancing accountability and fulfilling our collective promise of quality education for children across the state.

For more information, an overview video and the latest updates, please visit our Accountability page.

Why is CCSA publicly calling for the non-renewal of charter schools below your minimum criteria?

Since 2011, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has annually called for the non-renewal of charter schools that are below CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal. This public call for non-renewal represents a significant step towards advancing accountability and fulfilling our collective promise of quality education for children across the state.

The Charter Schools Act approved in California in 1992 opened the door to education reform and school choice, allowing charter schools to operate with autonomy and flexibility in exchange for higher accountability.

CCSA developed an Accountability Framework to guide this work in 2009, working closely with over 20 technical experts and researchers and CCSA's Member Council, which consists of charter school leaders representing every region of California and diverse school types. The CCSA Accountability Framework guides CCSA's efforts to raise accountability standards in a way that values academic rigor while also giving schools credit for growth and for taking on the challenge of serving traditionally disadvantaged students well. The Framework is the basis of CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal, a minimum performance standard that CCSA developed and uses as part of its advocacy efforts for charter schools seeking a renewal of their petition.

How does charter renewal work?

Anyone who wants to open a new charter school writes a charter petition, a detailed plan for how they'll run the school. Under California law, charter school petitions are authorized for up to a five-year term, and may be renewed by the authorizer for five more years. The authorizer is usually the local school district - some charter schools are authorized by their county office of education or the State Board of Education. California state law directs local authorizers to use academic criteria as the single most important factor in considering whether to grant a charter renewal (Ed. Code §§ 47607(a)(3)(A)). To inform schools, authorizers and the public on school performance, every fall, CCSA publishes Academic Accountability Report Cards that show the results of every charter school on the Accountability Framework and CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal. CCSA encourages authorizers to use this data in making their decisions about whether to renew a school's petition. We also publicly call for the non-renewal of schools below CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal.

What is CCSA's Accountability Framework?

CCSA developed its Accountability Framework in 2009, working closely with technical experts and CCSA's Member Council, comprised of charter public school leaders from every region of the state. This framework is a multi-dimensional model that values academic rigor while also giving schools credit for growth and for taking on the challenge of serving traditionally disadvantaged students well. It provides the basis for CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal, a minimum performance standard that CCSA developed and uses as part of its advocacy efforts for charter schools seeking a renewal of their petition.

Under California law, charter school petitions are authorized for up to a five-year term, and may be renewed by the authorizer for additional five-year terms. To inform schools, authorizers and the public on school performance, CCSA publishes Academic Accountability Report Cards every fall that show the results of each charter school on the Accountability Framework and CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal. CCSA encourages authorizers to use this data in making their decision about whether to renew a school's charter.

What is CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal?

To qualify for renewal support in 2015-16, a school must meet one of the four criteria outlined below.

State Test Scores (Proficiency, Growth over Time, or Demographic Comparison):

1) A 2013 API score of 749 or higher, or
2) 50 points of cumulative API growth (2010-2013), or
3) Similar Student Measure showing the school is performing "within" or "above" its predicted API score in either 2011-12 or 2012-13 (based on how all other schools serving similar demographics of students performed), or

Multiple Measure Review:

4) If a school does not meet ONE of the three criteria above, CCSA offers a review of multiple measures aligned to California's eight state priorities as described in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The standard for this review is to identify substantially compelling evidence of student outcome success and growth in achievement beyond that which is seen at other schools. This is also an opportunity for the school to be able to tell its own data story of success in achieving strong student outcomes, choosing the measures it feels are most closely aligned to its mission and are most indicative of the school's success.

What is the scale of the problem? How many schools are likely to be closed as a result of the accountability initiative?

Only the schools that have consistently failed to meet academic and growth targets and that are in renewal for this school year are the subject of CCSA's public call for non-renewal. Only authorizers have the authority to decide not to renew a charter school's petition. Learn more about PCNR 2011-2015.

What is CCSA doing to support schools that are trying to improve?

CCSA has developed several support resources to help all California charter schools in the cycle of continuous improvement, particularly those schools that are at risk of being below CCSA's Minimum Academic Accountability Criteria. In 2012-13 and 2013-14, CCSA offered all California charter schools the opportunity access free value-added modeling reports. These are sophisticated regression-based analyses, based on individual student data that help pinpoint students' growth over time. The calculations take into account the starting test scores and demographic backgrounds of each student and quantify the impact that their charter school experience had on increasing their achievement in a particular grade and subject.

CCSA Self-Assessment Portal
CCSA launched a self-assessment portal for California charter schools that will help charter schools identify areas of strength and weakness and get connected with targeted resources and support services that are tailored to their needs. It is free, it is based off a successful model used by the Texas Charter Schools Association and was launched statewide at CCSA's conference in March 2014. To sign up, email datarequest@ccsa.org.

Principal Leadership Networks
In summer and fall 2014, CCSA launched several principal leadership networks in Los Angeles and San Diego (in partnership with School Leaders Network) to support charter school leaders in analyzing the needs of their schools to effectively transition to Common Core success, develop research-based action plans to address these needs, and take effective action to improve student outcomes. CCSA is helping charter schools by defraying principals' costs so that school leaders can develop professional learning communities of supportive colleagues who share the beliefs that all students can be successful, that systematic analysis and action planning leads to results, and that reflection on leadership improves leadership practice.

Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA MAP Assessments) Partnership
Finally, CCSA has negotiated a volume discount with the Northwest Evaluation Association™ (NWEA™) to allow California charter schools to receive a substantial discount on Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®) assessments in Math, Reading, and Language Arts. All charter schools in California are eligible to receive this discount. Charter schools currently using NWEA™ can receive the discounted rate in the form of a credit toward purchasing MAP® assessments in 2015-16. NWEA MAP Assessments provide critical information to help schools effectively transition to Common Core. Particularly in the absence of state standardized testing, this data will be important to charter schools on three levels:

  • At the student level: Are students successfully making the transition to Common Core? What mid-course corrections to instruction are needed?
  • At the school level: How will schools maintain transparency and accountability with parents and the public? How will schools demonstrate academic success school-wide and with subgroups at time of renewal?
  • At the movement level: CCSA needs to be able to paint a portrait of the movement to be able to successfully advocate for charter schools and push for continued equitable access to facilities, funding and to protect against efforts to re-regulate charters or take away charter autonomy.

CCSA will continue to develop and customize additional supports for schools as needs emerge and through ongoing dialogue with our member schools.

How will CCSA continuing to pursue accountability strategies for charter schools as California transitions to a new accountability system based on the Common Core?

Accountability has been a top priority for CCSA for many years. We have focused relentlessly on the pursuit of quality as a constant priority through many political shifts, legislative cycles and changes to California's school accountability systems. Every student only gets one chance at first grade or sophomore year - this work has an urgency that supersedes the impulse to wait and see. Our measures and criteria are designed to evolve as the system changes.

We are steadfast in our commitment to address chronic underperformance and take bold steps toward fulfilling the promise of charter accountability, not just in concept, not just in theory, but where the hardest decisions meet reality - the call for non-renewal.

As California defines its future accountability system, we are pressing for clear accountability measures that are consistent across the state and that prioritize strong academic outcomes for all students, particularly those most in need. We firmly believe that a school's success should be grounded in its ability to increase student academic achievement. As we update our accountability framework for the 2016-17 school year, we are advocating that the state define a small, clear set of uniform criteria aligned to the Common Core standards to assess charter performance. For schools falling below these minimum criteria, we recommend that the state engage in a review of multiple measures aligned to California's 8 state priorities.

Is CCSA setting itself up as a regulatory agency to make renewal decisions?

Absolutely not. What we are providing is a more robust, reliable set of criteria using publicly available data to aid authorizers in making appropriate renewal decisions. Authorizers have the jurisdiction to make renewal decisions, based upon the current provisions of law, which provide guidance regarding criteria for renewal. What we have found over years of analysis and testing of the criteria, is that there are some significant shortcomings to the current provisions which make it quite difficult for districts to make sound, timely decisions at the time of a charter's renewal. Further, the way these criteria are applied is extremely uneven across the state, which has allowed for the re-authorization of charters that are chronically underperforming.

How are CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal better than what exists in current law?

As California's Academic Performance Index has been discontinued and as the California State Board of Education (SBE) considers changes to the state's accountability system, there have been questions about which criteria should apply to charter school renewal decisions. The two criteria currently in law are California Education Code §§ 47607(b) and Ed. Code §§ 52052(e)(4). Also still applicable is SB1290, which directs authorizers to consider increases in pupil academic achievement for all groups of pupils served by the charter school as the most important factor in determining whether to grant a charter renewal. The majority of the metrics cited both Ed. Code sections are based on California's API, which the State Board of Education has indicated it is unlikely to produce moving forward. The remaining criteria require alternative measures that show increases in pupil academic achievement for all groups of pupils schoolwide and among significant subgroups. However, these alternative measures are not defined. CCSA's criteria are straightforward, clear, and holistic; leveraging both public test score data along with a multiple measure review aligned to California's 8 state priorities.

How do the schools you have identified perform on the current criteria in law, and aren't the authorizers obligated to use those criteria only?

Charter renewals must meet the standards and criteria under Education Code section 47605. In addition, authorizers must also assess whether a charter is providing a sound educational program, consistent with the criteria under Ed Code Section 47607(b). The use of State Ranks and the Similar Schools Rank (SSR) for renewal determinations are a more volatile set of measures that fluctuate significantly from year to year, and have limited use in assessing the soundness of the charter school's educational program for authorizers. For example, a charter school's SSR can change from SSR 8 to SSR 2 from one year to the next without a dramatic change in API.

We encourage authorizers to scrutinize school results very carefully and review the complete record of performance existing for each school, for which our Accountability Framework provides a proven, research-based method for assessment.

What's at stake in pushing forward with accountability measures now rather than waiting?

All charter schools serving children in California must be held accountable for educating them well; and while we can debate endlessly about defining perfect measures--under which circumstances and impacting which schools--we know we cannot wait. The time to act is now - because our children require the urgency of our deliberate response. By having a clear and honest analysis, charter schools can learn from the best, and we can take a closer look at the schools that are not delivering results to their students and families. We cannot have an honest discussion about education reform and increasing accountability without closing the charters that are chronically underperforming.

Does CCSA's Accountability Report Card fulfill charter school's federal School Accountability Report Cards (SARC) requirements?

No. SARC cards are a federal requirement intended for specific dissemination on specific measures required by law. Our accountability report cards only address the state accountability system measures against CCSA's own performance framework. Of course, schools can and should share them with their own stakeholders, but they do not fulfill the federal requirements set forth in No Child Left Behind (NCLB). For additional information on SARC requirements and assistance, please visit our CCSA Resource Library or contact our Help Desk at info@ccsa.org.

Does CCSA's accountability initiative hurt charter schools that are not in renewal this year by labeling them "underperforming"?

We do not publish Accountability Report Cards publicly for schools that fall below CCSA Criteria until they have an opportunity to correct potential demographic data errors (like all other schools) and/or work with us to identify individual student-level longitudinal analysis that may be even more precise than our Similar Students Measure (SSM). For schools that do not meet CCSA's Minimum Criteria but are not in renewal, this information is an early warning tool that can help them identify new strategies to address not just their renewal in the upcoming years, but also assess how long they have and how far they have to go to meet criteria, to ensure the full support of CCSA.

This early warning system should inspire vigorous deliberation at the school site about how best to accelerate performance where they can, in the time they have left before a renewal.

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