Developing the Petition
Researching, writing and revising the petition can take anywhere from three to twelve months depending on your work schedule and the size and commitment of your team. Most of that time will be spent describing the education program and designing a balanced budget.
Mission and Vision
Clarity of purpose and intent founds successful schools. The first step in pulling a team together and writing the petition is to ensure that everyone understand the purpose, the mission and vision of the undertaking. The mission and vision will drive all actions and decisions and will be your most public description of the school.
A wealth of information on developing effective mission statements can be found online. These charter school-related sources listed below are a good place to start:
- Examples of California charter school mission statements
- Michigan Association of Public School Academies
Some developers spend the time to further expand on their mission and vision by developing a set of guiding principles. Although not required, these often help to organize and lend meaning to the petition document itself.
Forming a strong team
Typically, a strong team consists of three to four core members with experience, knowledge, and commitment to your mission charged with writing the vast majority of the petition and a group of ancillary members who can provide specific information and support when needed.
The petition is a lengthy document covering all aspects of school design, implementation, governance and operations. It requires input from a wide range of experience and backgrounds including school management, school finances, human resources and of course education leadership.
The need to demonstrate significant breadth and depth of experience cannot be overemphasized. Authorizers will be weary of inexperience. The State Board of Education charter review criteria expects that the petition
"Includes evidence that the organizational and technical designs of the governance structure reflect a seriousness of purpose necessary to ensure that:
1. The charter school will become and remain a viable enterprise.
2. There will be active and effective representation of interested parties, including, but not limited to parents (guardians).
3. The educational program will be successful."
The following professional experience should be represented on the team:
- Assessments, and Outcomes
- Business and Finance
- Community and Public Relations/Outreach
Preparing a petition for approval is almost as much about successful project management as it is about creating a blueprint for a school. Identify a project manager with the organizational skills to set realistic deadlines and pull together disparate information in a fairly aggressive timeframe.
Many teams have found it useful to create a work plan by back mapping--backwards planning-- from the petition submission deadline and other critical dates.
Strong writing skills are essential during the petition development stage. It is well worth the effort and maybe even the expense to find someone who can write concisely and with clarity. Too often potentially powerful ideas are obscured by poor writing.
The Elements of a Petition
California Education Code 47605 requires developers to provide a "reasonably comprehensive description" of the following:
(A) The educational program
(B) Measurable pupil outcomes
(C) Method for measuring outcomes
(D) Governance structure
(E) Employee qualifications
(F) Health and safety procedures
(G) Means to achieve racial and ethnic balance
(H) Admissions requirements
(I) Annual audits
(J) Suspension and expulsion policies
(K) Employee benefits
(L) Attendance alternatives
(M) Return rights of employees
(N) Dispute resolution procedures
(O) Employee representation
(P) Procedures for closing
Most districts and the State Board of Education require additional information, including:
Determine and Target Your Student Population
Your petition must also clearly describe who the school plans to serve. Demonstrate in-depth understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing the school's target population. Make clear why and how the proposed education program is well suited to take advantage of the opportunities and address the challenges. You can demonstrate the need for your school by highlighting current student performance and other data trends, illustrating the lack of educational program diversity, limited opportunities, etc.
Sample Target Student Description
This petition excerpt illustrates the information included in a of a targeted student population description. Complete descriptions and petitions can be found in the resource library.
A large percentage of students throughout Los Angeles currently attend under-performing district schools. Nearly 43% of LAUSD schools are part of federal Program Improvement (PI), with dozens of schools in their third, fourth, or fifth year of PI. District-wide performance on the California Standards Test is below the state average, with 29% of students district-wide earning a proficient or advanced score on the English-Language Arts portion of the test and 31% scoring proficient or advanced in math. The district's Base API score for 2005-2006 was 655, but the average for Hispanic students was lower at 630, compared to 807 for white students.4 LAUSD high schools average a 66% graduation rate, compared with state average of 85%. (Endeavor College Prep)
Student Performance Information
The California Department of Educations Data and Statistics Web site provides access to a wide range of student related information that can be searched by state, counties, districts or individual schools.
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