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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 2010, 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. 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 Minimum Criteria for Renewal?

The CCSA Accountability Framework guides CCSA's efforts to raise accountability standards. A key component is the Similar Students Measure (SSM), which looks at how schools perform compared to schools serving similar student populations across the state, as a way to assess the value-added by schools regardless of the gifts and challenges their students bring to the door. The SSM identifies schools that persistently exceed or fall short of a prediction based upon how students with similar backgrounds performed statewide.

The CCSA Accountability Framework combines the SSM with measures of academic status and growth. The resulting three-dimensional framework creates the CCSA Minimum Criteria for Renewal, which CCSA has adopted as a minimum performance standard for charter schools at the time of renewal. A school must pass JUST ONE of four criteria (status, growth, Similar Students Measure and second look) to receive CCSA's complete support at time of renewal.

  • Academic Performance Index (API) score that is above the 25th percentile* of performance for all schools in CA in most recent year, or
  • 3-year cumulative API growth of at least 50 points (2012-13 growth + 2011-12 growth + 2010-11 growth), or
  • Similar Students Measure (SSM) band of "Within" or above at least two out of the last three years.

In addition, if a school does not meet ONE of the three criteria above, CCSA offers a "second look" process whereby schools may submit additional evidence of student academic gains that may demonstrate higher levels of growth than what is seen at other schools.

*Criterion is 25th percentile in 2013-14 and will rise gradually to the 33rd percentile over five years. In fall 2013, this was an API of 744+.

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.

CCSA first made our public call for non-renewal in 2011, calling for the the non-renewal of 10 chronically underperforming charter schools. Four of the schools on our list closed that year--two voluntarily. In three school districts, the boards of education conditionally approved the charter schools, setting specific academic targets that, if not met, would result in automatic revocations. This is indeed what happened with Nubia Charter School in San Diego, which closed in spring 2013. In San Francisco Unified, Center Joint Unified and Antelope Valley Union High, the board chose simply to renew the charter schools.

Why didn't CCSA make a public call for non-renewal in fall 2012?

While there were schools that fell below CCSA's Minimum Criteria, none of them were up for renewal during the 2012-13 school. CCSA makes its public call highlighting schools in the school year when those schools are up for renewal.

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 has 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 has recently launched a pilot version of 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 will be launched statewide at CCSA's conference in March 2014.

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 2014-15. NWEA MAP Assessments provide critical information to help schools effectively transition to Common Core. Particularly in the absence of state standardized testing in 2014-15, 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.

Why is CCSA continuing to pursue accountability strategies based on a system (Academic Performance Index, or API) that will change in the future?

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. Thanks to the dedicated effort of CCSA's Member Council, our charter leaders and our CCSA team, we have a reliable framework upon which we can act now. We can set the standard, we can lead by example, and we can demonstrate that we are serious about "performance-based accountability in exchange for operational flexibility" rather than taking a "wait and see" approach and sit by the sidelines of reform.

What about AB 484 and the transition to Common Core?

On October 2, 2013, the Governor signed AB 484, which temporarily suspends most standardized testing. Though CCSA is supportive of transitioning to Common Core standards, as a state we are entering a period where transparency for the public, accountability for continuous improvement, and critically needed data to inform instruction are all at risk. This is a critical moment for California charter schools to come together as a movement and find ways to maintain these crucial components during the transition to Common Core.

Under AB 484, schools will not receive scores back from the Smarter Balanced field test because it primarily serves "as a test of the test." In fall 2014, the California Department of Education (CDE) will still issue an API score for schools but it will be either last year's score or a three-year average of API scores, whichever is higher. It is important for schools to know that while the state has suspended API reporting, Education Code still requires charter schools to demonstrate academic growth school-wide and in subgroups as a primary factor for renewal.

Schools shouldn't fly blind: Operating without assessment data this year is akin to flying an airplane in poor visibility conditions without critical cockpit instruments. The first time the clouds will part is in spring of 2015 with the full SBAC test. Schools shouldn't wait for that moment to realize that they are a foot off the ground or headed in the wrong direction. In 2013-14, schools need "cockpit instruments" (Common Core-aligned interim assessments) to track progress at the student level, at the school level and for the charter school movement. 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 that will provide this critical data for 2013-14 and beyond.

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

Absolutely not. What we are providing is a stronger, more reliable set of criteria and use of publicly available data to aid authorizers in making the appropriate renewal decision. Local districts - if schools are chartered by them - 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?

Current law (Ed Code Section 47607(b), provides for minimum renewal standards, such as meeting the API growth target in the prior year or in two of the last three years, or ranked in deciles 4 to 10, inclusive on the API in the prior year or in two of the last three years. But because API rankings are released nearly a year after testing, this data does not provide a current picture of a school's academic performance. Some of the benefits of CCSA's Metrics include:

  • Using elements of both academic status and growth
  • Using multiple years of data to mitigate yearly fluctuations
  • Using the most recently available data for renewal decisions
  • Allowing schools to demonstrate additional value through the SSM
  • Aligning better with other cutting edge accountability and performance management approaches, such as value added measures and the use of status and growth measures to track an individual school's record over time both statewide and nationally, even within the limitations of California's dated data system, which does not yet track individual student level data for reporting purposes

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. Our framework has been pressure tested, analyzed and deliberated thoroughly. The time to act is now - because our children require the urgency of our deliberate response. By having a clear and honest analysis, charters can learn from the best, and we can take a closer look at the charters 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@calcharters.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.