Think Charter Schools Aren't Held Accountable? Think Again.

One of the biggest misconceptions around charter schools is that they lack accountability. While I am a strong supporter of public schools and take pride in serving on the school board for my local school district, I frequently find myself having to defend high-performing charters and their mere existence to naysayers who lack awareness of the procedures in place to review and revoke charter petitions. Like everything, charter schools are not all created equal. While some charters have been able to “show that significantly disadvantaged groups of students are doing substantially better in both reading and math,” other charters have not been able to meet the minimum guidelines, which has created a wave of concerns and distrust against the validity and need for charters in our communities. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness around charter renewals and the accountability systems in place, has allowed for many to question how far charters can go and whether we can truly trust them. To help dismantle the negative criticism against charters, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), a membership and advocacy group that supports nearly 1,300 charter schools in California, has taken a lead role in advocating for high-performing charters while also holding low-performing schools accountable. Since 2011, CCSA has publicly called for the non renewal of charter schools that do not meet their  minimum criteria framework for renewal: “This framework assesses a multi-year view of a school’s performance using multiple student outcome measures.” CCSA uses publicly available data, students’ demographics and works individually with charters below the minimum criteria to give them an opportunity to provide additional compelling evidence of growth in student achievement. In the spirit of continuing their advocacy and implementing the accountability systems framework, CCSA released a  statement last month calling for the non-renewal of six chronically underperforming charter schools. CCSA remains the strongest advocate for charters in California but continues to stand on the platform that when charter schools do not provide a high-quality education to their students, they should close. As shared in its press release, to advocate and highlight the impact and success of transformational charters, it is critical to also emphasize accountability. Even though [pullquote position="left"]closing a school is still viewed as the last resort, by utilizing results and the minimum criteria framework, CCSA wants to create transparency for students and parents to know where their school stands to truly have a choice. The CCSA has already committed to working with closing schools to find new options that will better meet the individual needs of students and families. It will be our responsibility as citizens to provide the students and families of these schools the high-quality options that will best serve them. As we move forward, it will be important to create awareness around the existing academic accountability framework to ensure people know charters are not only celebrated for their success but also held responsible for their failures. Transparency around charter performance must continue to be emphasized to help dismantle the many misconceptions around the review process. The reality is greater flexibility should only equate to greater accountability, and in order to provide parents and families the best options for school choice, we must support CCSA’s stand to push for chronically underperforming schools to close.
An original version of this post appeared on La Comadre.
Photo courtesy of The Academy for Global Citizenship.
Alma-Delia Renteria Alma-Delia Renteria is a digital learning coach for South Ranchito Dual Language Academy in Pico Rivera, California. Alma is a proud product of Lynwood schools. As a student in Lynwood, Alma was very involved which developed her passion for community outreach and education. After graduating from the University of California-Riverside, with a B.A. in English and a year ...

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