State Senate Passes Bill to Ensure Higher Accountability For California's Charter Schools

June 1, 2011

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PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

Contact: Vicky Waters, CCSA
(415) 505-7575
vwaters@calcharters.org

Senator Simitian's SB 645 would link performance to charter school renewals; persistently low-performing charters would face closure

SACRAMENTO, California--The State Senate today approved SB 645, a bill sponsored by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) that would increase academic accountability in the state's charter schools, linking their obligatory renewals to performance and enabling authorizing entities to more accurately identify persistently low-performing schools.

SB 645, authored by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), would create new and more stringent academic accountability requirements for charter schools, while raising standards for student performance and outcomes.

"California charter schools are places of innovation that more and more parents and students are choosing to attend. With this increase in demand, we also need to ensure that every student is getting the quality education that they deserve," said Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). "Academic accountability is one of CCSA's top priorities, precisely because charters are given increased flexibility in exchange for results. The measures outlined in SB 645 represent a way to truly define and measure charter school performance."

In California, charter schools must go through a process every five years in order for their charter to be renewed by their authorizing entity, which can be a school district, county office of education, or the State Board of Education. Specifically, SB 645:

  • Establishes a floor of 700 on the API scale.
  • Defines an acceptable API cumulative growth target as 30 points over the three previous API cycles.
  • Limits the API rank to deciles 6-10 and eliminates this alternative if there is no demographically comparable school.
  • Maintains the alternative accountability system as an exception.

These academic accountability targets must be met by charter schools at their time of renewal. They are necessary because existing criteria for charter school renewal are too low; in fact, the current "at least as good as the worst school in the area" academic equivalency requirement is so loosely drafted that it is possible to justify the renewal of almost any charter school, no matter how poorly it has performed.

SB 645 replaces the existing academic equivalency standard with a new one that requires schools not meeting at least one of the targets to seek a determination of academic eligibility, or "second look," from the State Board of Education in order to be eligible for renewal. In that process, the school would have to submit data to demonstrate that it meets or exceeds its predicted performance, based on a statistical evaluation of similar student populations.

Only when a charter school meets one of the four academic accountability targets, or successfully receives a positive determination of academic eligibility from the State Board of Education, may an authorizer consider renewing the charter school.

The bill would limit the "second look" option to those charters that fail to qualify for renewal under the academic accountability targets specified above.

SB 645 was approved with a 26 to 10 vote. It now heads to the State Assembly.

Currently, California has 912 charter schools serving more than 365,000 students, the largest number of charter schools and students of any state in the nation. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that open to all students; they provide innovative and diverse educational programs with the goal of improving academic achievement. Charter schools operate free of many rules and regulations in exchange for increased accountability.

About the California Charter Schools Association

The California Charter Schools Association is the membership and professional organization serving 912 charter public schools and more than 365,000 students in the state of California. The Vision of the California Charter Schools Association is to usher in a new era in public education so all students attend independent, innovative, accountable schools of choice. The Mission of the California Charter Schools Association is to influence the legislative and policy environments, leverage collective advocacy, and provide resources to support our members in developing and operating high quality, charter schools reflective of California's student population. For more information, please visit www.calcharters.org.

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