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State Education Policy Should Focus on Outcomes, Not Inputs

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Critical Analysis of New Report on Charter Schools

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
December 4, 2014

Kara Kerwin, president of The Center for Education Reform (CER), issued the following statement in light of the release of “On the Road To Better Accountability: An Analysis of State Charter School Policies” from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) today:

“Indeed, one of the most critical ingredients for charter school success is a strong charter school law. However, in analyzing the strength of charter school policies, it’s vital to understand and take into consideration how provisions play out on the ground. Despite NACSA recognizing ‘policy alone does not make great schools,’ this report relies heavily on the organization’s own model.

“It is indeed fact that NACSA’s suggested standards are heavily focused on inputs and paperwork, and there is no evidence in any one state that adopting NACSA standards have any bearing on student success and ensuring a robust charter sector to meet educational needs.

“For instance, Washington State earns a full 30 out of 30 points in NACSA’s latest analysis, yet there is only one charter school in existence in the entire state. Thus, it’s nearly impossible to responsibly evaluate whether or not this policy is truly working for students, which is why Washington State earns a grade of “C” on CER’s 2014 Charter School Law Rankings & Scorecard.

“Strong charter laws feature independent, multiple authorizers, few limits on expansion, equitable funding, and high levels of school autonomy. In fact, states with charter school laws graded “A” or “B” saw 355 new charter school campuses, whereas states with laws graded “D” or “F” saw just 13 new charter campuses in 2012.

“The District of Columbia, Michigan and New York (all of which have proven models of high-quality authorizing), faired poorly in NACSA’s report simply because these states have not ‘adopted’ or contracted with NACSA to implement its recommended standards in authorizing. Yet, all three boast major gains in student achievement, have higher closure rates for charter schools than the national average, and have demonstrated proven approaches to ensuring the highest levels of accountability.

“Since 1996, CER has studied and evaluated charter school laws based on both construction and implementation, and whether or not they yield the intended result of the charter school policy, which is to ensure the creation of excellent and numerous learning opportunities for children.

“Whether or not the point scale in this particular analysis makes sense – which the reports own findings admit to – is not the issue. We respect our colleagues’ opinions, but there is a major difference between fact and opinion. It is time to put an end to the continued rhetorical war that is leading to the centralization of charters, endangering them in becoming the very same thing the principles of choice, accountability and autonomy sought to fix.”

To learn more about CER’s state rankings and model legislation, please visit: