Communities Are Demanding Excellent Educational Opportunities. It's Time We Do Something Different.

Mar 1, 2022 12:00:00 AM


In this moment, shaped by both the global pandemic and enduring racial inequities, excellent educational opportunities that communities are rightly demanding have never been more important. And NACSA is in a position to do something about that.

Working to ensure excellence in authorizing and charter schooling is not new for NACSA. We have and always will be focused on excellent educational opportunities for all students. But over the last two years, as we have worked with and supported a wide diversity of stakeholders, [pullquote]it’s clear that more and different work is required from all of us.[/pullquote] As we have recently spent time with a number of key partners on what NACSA can uniquely contribute to student and community success in the coming years, here are NACSA’s key strategies to increase quality educational opportunities, built from the excellence that exists in communities.

Centering Communities

When we tap into the brilliance in communities—particularly those that have been overlooked and undervalued—powerful, sustainable, and highly successful student learning opportunities emerge. We will continue to create tools and frameworks for building from community aspirations, advocating for policies and practices that share power with under-resourced communities, and amplifying those doing this well. We will create and disseminate resources built on listening well to families and students, not to people who claim to speak for them and often don’t. We know that centering communities is complicated and messy, but that will not stop us from delivering on smart ideas, with talented people, in overlooked communities across the country.

Evolving Excellence

The global pandemic has illuminated the need for more quality schools and more effective, flexible, and creative ways of meeting students’ holistic aspirations and needs. We remain committed to excellence and equity in literacy and numeracy as foundational building blocks, and will continue to broaden rigorous ways of evaluating school quality. We will push back on burdensome bureaucratic policies and practices that prevent the emergence of new and proven approaches to schooling that develop whole children. We will help create an expanded array of excellent learning opportunities—including those emerging from the pandemic and those not yet thought of—operated by an increasingly diverse group of educators and entrepreneurs, that meet the unique aspirations and needs of every student.

Diversifying the Profession

It works this way in other sectors, and it will in authorizing too: getting different kinds of people involved and thriving will lead to smarter and better decisions, more creative and effective solutions, and better relationships with a wider diversity of schools, families, and communities. We will elevate authorizing to a more diverse audience, prioritize people of color and those with closer ties to the lived experiences of students, and work with authorizing institutions so a more diverse workforce can thrive. That also means we will work to get more diverse authorizing contexts, create a more diverse group of consultants for authorizers to tap, and broaden the voices that can push back against outdated and false narratives about charter schooling. 

Broadening Commitments Across Education

Authorizing is one of the most innovative aspects of charter schooling: quality options, at scale, while upholding autonomy and accountability. While there is still much to learn, there are lessons, tools, examples, and approaches that authorizing can contribute to improving outcomes for a broader group of students. We see leaders in other educational contexts—from early childhood, to districts and states, to people running educational models outside of schools—working to create the right kinds of autonomy, access, oversight, and accountability. This provides new opportunities to teach and learn together. We will work collaboratively with educational, civic, nonprofit, authorizing, and community leaders to share and learn how to build quality options.

We’re committed to not going back to the way things were. There is work to be done and we are committed to doing it. Learn more here.

Karega Rausch

Karega Rausch, Ph.D., is the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) President and CEO. He leads and manages NACSA’s work to increase knowledge of quality authorizing practices and policies by shaping and managing a research agenda that further defines effective authorizing. Karega is a former charter schools director with the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office; founded and served as director of the Indianapolis affiliate of Stand for Children, a national educational advocacy nonprofit; and was on the leadership team of Indiana University’s Equity Project, housed at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. Karega has authored and co-authored numerous professional publications, and has presented at more than 50 research conferences across the country on charter school authorizing, racial/ethnic disproportionality in school discipline and special education reform. Karega earned his doctorate in educational psychology and master’s degree from Indiana University.

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