CCSA is taking a lead role in assessing charter school performance and ensuring appropriate accountability within the movement by establishing clear and transparent minimum academic performance expectations for charter schools.
The California Charter Schools Law, approved in in 1992, opened the door to education reform and school choice, allowing charter schools to operate with autonomy and flexibility in exchange for increased accountability. In keeping with this covenant, California's charter schools are serious about creating significantly better learning opportunities than are available within the traditional public school system.
Taking the Lead on Improving Academic Accountability
CCSA's Member Council, which consists of charter school leaders from across California, unanimously adopted an approach that calls for improving academic performance criteria and addressing deficiencies in current law that make it difficult to close underperforming schools. Our accountability strategy aims to provide a clear, simple and fully transparent framework that provides all charter schools with tools to examine their individual performance, and also helps present a clear picture of the performance continuum across the entire movement.
CCSA Accountability Framework
In conjunction with our Member Council and in consultation with technical experts, CCSA developed an Accountability Framework to set minimum standards of academic performance at time of renewal. The Accountability Framework values academic rigor, growth, and comparisons with similar student populations. Importantly, it draws from public data (and thus is able to be implemented statewide) yet addresses some of the limitations of the state's current data infrastructure. Read more on the "CCSA Accountability Framework" tab of this article.
Public Call for Non-Renewal
After years of member engagement, consultation with technical experts, and rigorous testing by staff, CCSA 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 for Renewal (learn more on the "CCSA Accountability Framework" tab of this article.).
For those schools falling below the criteria, CCSA will inform the authorizers and the schools, and we will publically encourage authorizers to exercise their authority to deny the charter renewal petitions and close the schools.
In 2012, for the first time, CCSA publicly called for the non-renewal of 10 chronically underperforming charter schools. Ultimately, it is authorizers--local school districts, county offices of education or the State Board of Education--that make the decision on whether a charter school will continue to operate. 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.
- Press Release (Dec. 15, 2011): CCSA Calls for the Non-Renewal of 10 Charter Schools as a Result of Academic Underperformance
- Frequently Asked Questions on the Public Call for Non-Renewal
- Fact Sheet: Call for Non-Renewal of Charter Schools Not Meeting Minimum Performance Criteria
- What Members are Saying about CCSA's Call for Non-Renewal
- What People are Saying about CCSA's Call for Non-Renewal
- Watch "Taking Responsibility for Low-Performing Charter Schools," a short video on CCSA's call for non-renewal
State Board of Education Revocation Regulations
On November 9, 2010 the State Board of Education (SBE) voted in favor of approving new regulations that establish minimum benchmarks for academic performance, and lay out a process for triggering close reviews of charter schools that may result in their revocation by the State Board. In 2012 the state introduced SB 1290, which declared that academic growth across all student sub-groups is the most important factor in deciding whether to renew or revoke a charter. CCSA supports the SBE's efforts to address sustained underperformance that hasn't been adequately addressed by local authorizers.. CCSA support for schools in this process will be based on each school's results on the CCSA Minimum Criteria for Renewal (read more on the on the "Accountability Framework" tab of this article.).
The CCSA Accountability Report Card (see the "School Results" tab of this article) includes results for schools on the SBE Revocation Regulations on the third page of the Report.
CCSA Accountability Framework
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. It was developed by CCSA staff in conjunction with our Member Council and in consultation with over 20 researchers and technical experts across the state.
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 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. In order to meet the CCSA Minimum Criteria for Renewal, schools four years and older need only meet ONE of the following:
- Academic Performance Index (API) score of at least 700 in most recent year, or
- 3-year cumulative API growth of at least 50 points (2011-12 growth + 2010-11 growth + 2009-10 growth), or
- Similar Students Measure (SSM) band of "Within" or above at least two out of the last three years.
CCSA has conducted extensive data simulations over multiple years, which have confirmed that charter schools of all grade level and school type are broadly distributed across the Accountability Framework and that the Minimum Criteria for Renewal do not unfairly treat schools serving traditionally disadvantaged students.
CCSA further tested the Accountability Framework by conducting an ambitious study of 58 charter schools across the state of California in 2011. Through site visits at nearly all of those schools and analysis of longitudinal student data, the study aimed to assess whether schools with low API status and growth scores were truly underperforming (as best as possible given the limitations of the data), to get schools' perspective of their own performance, and to assess the effectiveness of the Similar Students Measure (SSM) in identifying underperforming schools.
Read the full report "Assessing the Utility of State Academic Indicators for Measuring Performance in 58 California Charter Schools" (Note: school names are redacted for confidentiality).
Some of the findings of the report include:
- Charter schools in this study are performing at comparatively very low levels of achievement (particularly in Math). Moreover, the data suggest that many of these schools are underperforming compared to how other schools are serving similar demographics of students, which are finding success despite greater challenges among their student populations.
- Compared with other charters statewide, these schools had far lower performance in API scores, English and Math proficiency, and lost ground over time in student proficiency rates. In particular, Math proficiency levels were far lower for these schools. These data characterized the schools as far below average and not improving over time.
- We do not see evidence that the K-12 and independent study schools are being unfairly penalized with the SSM.
- We see similar numbers of high risk/high need populations served by the low performing CCSA Support and Non-Support charters. This suggests that the SSM is not inappropriately over-identifying or penalizing schools for serving high risk populations.
- One third of the schools interviewed made comments that embodied low expectations for their students.
- For 20% of the lowest performing charters, there is no longer a fit between their mission statement and who they serve.
- Many of the lowest performing charters do not believe they are underperforming and do not evidence a clear understanding of accountability. More than half of schools (57%) believe they are not underperforming; two-thirds (63%) of the schools are unable to articulate a clear understanding of accountability.
- Analyses of individual-student academic metrics contradict schools' assertions that, while school-wide results show poor performance, they are substantially increasing individual students' academic trajectories. We do not see evidence of such added value or disarticulation with our SSM measure.
In sum, this study suggested that, given the data limitations, CCSA's SSM instrument is properly calibrated to discern between schools that are performing well and those that are struggling.
Academic Accountability Report Cards
CCSA has published Report Cards that show the results of every charter school on the CCSA Accountability Framework and the CCSA Minimum Criteria for Renewal. Report cards are available for all schools regardless of their age as an early warning service; though the Minimum Criteria for Renewal are only applicable for schools four years and older (schools participating in the Alternative Schools Accountability Model and schools testing fewer than 20 students are excluded). Schools can access their Report Cards here (navigate to "CCSA Academic Accountability Report Cards").
The data presented in the CCSA 2012 Academic Accountability Report Card is downloaded from the California Department of Education (CDE)'s website and reflects the data that CDE has for your school.
If you find incorrect data reported in your school's CCSA Academic Accountability Report Card, please submit changes to both CCSA and the CDE no later than January 4, 2013. Please note that CCSA will only accept changes to demographic characteristics for the students whose test scores were included in the 2012 Growth Academic Performance Index (API) Report. These data are taken from the 2012 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program student answer document. CCSA will not accept California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS) demographic data.
To submit changes to CCSA: Please fill out and submit the Demographic Data Change Request Form. We ask that you also submit to us a copy of the STAR Data Corrections Form in order to demonstrate that you are submitting changes to the CDE. Forms must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 4, 2013. If you have questions please contact Andrew King, Data Analyst, Accountability, at 213-244-1446 ext. 232.
In order to receive a revised CCSA Academic Accountability Report Card, schools must submit Demographic Data Change Request Forms to CCSA by January 4, 2013.
To submit changes to the California Department of Education (CDE): The Demographic Data Corrections module has been added to the STAR Management System, which allows for charter school STAR coordinators to correct demographic data errors.
Instructions can be found in the STAR Demographic Data Corrections Manual.
The first step of STAR data corrections procedure is to complete the STAR Data Corrections Form.
For more info, email email@example.com or call the ETS STAR Technical Assistance Center at 800-955-2954.
Painting a "Portrait of the Movement"
In addition to establishing a minimum bar for academic achievement, CCSA's Minimum Criteria for Renewal enables us to look across a continuum of performance to identify schools that are far exceeding the performance of other schools serving similar student populations and compare charter performance with that of traditional public schools. This will enable us to help build networks of practice, provide targeted support to struggling schools and achieve a greater degree of transparency and collaboration among similarly oriented charters - whether in curricular approach or student population served.
CCSA's Achievement and Performance Management Team use this data to generate an annual Portrait of the Movement report, which features movement-wide analyses to aid efforts to assess, monitor and improve the academic performance of all charter schools. CCSA generates other studies and reports. Find these, as well as other major studies about charter schools in our Charter School Resource Library.
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