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Nonclassroom-based Charter Public Schools Help Educate the State’s Most Vulnerable, At-Risk Students, New CCSA Study Finds

April 13, 2021

NCBs offer individualized, tailored and responsive learning practices that are effectively meeting the needs of thousands of students across the Golden State

SACRAMENTO—A new study released today by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) finds nonclassroom-based charter public schools (NCBs) are effectively serving students, many of whom have not been successful at traditional public schools. The report highlights how the innovative and adaptive instructional programs provided by NCBs are giving students more opportunities to achieve academic success and pursue career aspirations.

The report, Serving Diverse Student Needs In the Golden State: Practices and Programs of Nonclassroom-based Charter Public Schools, offers California’s policymakers and public education leaders a breakdown on the variety of instructional delivery models available to families within NCBs that are different than what is offered at most conventional schools. NCBs currently serve more than 190,000 students in California and have served 25-30 percent of all charter public school students since at least 2008.

“We know that not all students learn the same and for many California students, the traditional model of education simply does not work for them, and as a result they are falling behind or dropping out of school,” said Myrna Castrejón, CCSA President and CEO. “Nonclassroom-based charter schools are public schools that offer an alternative approach that for years has given hundreds of thousands of students the opportunity to thrive. CCSA is committed to working with community leaders and legislators to ensure we keep these opportunities available for at-promise students and correct the falsehoods spread by charter school opponents in their attempt to limit their ability to meet families’ needs.”

A nonclassroom-based charter public school is a universal term for a school in which students spend less than 80 percent of their time physically in a classroom. The flexibility of NCBs allows them to offer students a tailored blend of distance learning, independent study, home study, site-based instruction, other services at resource center facilities, and/or access to career technical education pathways.

In doing so, NCBs serve a wide variety of student needs – from students who are on the brink of dropping out of school to students who want a specialized education model that best fits their learning style, family requirements, and other life circumstances and challenges. 

A key finding of the CCSA Research Division study, Serving Diverse Student Needs in the Golden State: Practices and Programs of Nonclassroom-based Charter Public Schools, is that one-third of NCBs are classified as alternative schools (Dashboard Alternative Status Schools or DASS) which serve high proportions of at-promise students (70 percent or more) with multiple expulsions, who are chronically absent, high school dropouts, or adult/teenage parents.

In addition, NCBs that offer reengagement/adult-focused programs serve a higher proportion of Latinx, Black, and low-income students than traditional public and site-based charter public schools.

“Nonclassroom-based charter public schools have developed flexible programming structures, allowing for a high degree of customization to the individual needs of students,” said Elizabeth Robitaille, CCSA’s Chief Schools Officer. “Many NCBs were among the most effective and successful at educating students in remote learning environment during the pandemic. In the past year many families have sought alternative education models like NCBs for their children.”

The study explores eight best practices of NCBs including personalized learning, synchronous and asynchronous learning, strong teacher and student relationships, flexibility in instruction timing and style, and ability to meet diverse student needs.

Serving Diverse Student Needs in the Golden State: Practices and Programs of Nonclassroom-based Charter Public Schools also offers an understanding of NCBs’ programmatic specialties such as career-focused, reengagement/adult and college-ready programs by analyzing five NCBs in California:

To access the full report, click here.

MEDIA AVAILABILITY: CCSA President and CEO Myrna Castrejón and CCSA Chief Schools Officer Elizabeth Robitaille will be available on Tuesday, April 13th, from 10am-11am to discuss the report’s findings, as well as statewide efforts to ensure NCBs remain a viable option. Reporters must RSVP for the media availability by contacting CCSA Director of Media Relations and Research Ana Tintocalis,