National group releases charter performance standards for Colorado

In a report set for release today, a nationally-recognized charter advocacy group will call for higher academic standards for incoming charters on a wide range of indicators.

The report, issued by the Building Charter School Quality initiative, focuses largely on efforts already underway in Colorado to improve accountability and standards - but it also offers education policymakers in other states a vision of how to develop a more comprehensive picture of student success.

The measures available today are very one dimensional. What I think the framework actually does is produce a 3-D image of what is going on," said Macke Raymond, director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, one of the partners in the charter quality initiative.

"I think we've got the opportunity for someone in a small district like Riverside to be as thoughtful about student needs as somebody who has been collecting data at LA for the last four years on charter schools who are very clear about what they want," she said.

The report, Building Charter School Quality in Colorado, suggests that education agencies that authorize charter schools begin using performance-based contracts to hold them accountable.

The contracts should be based on an evaluation metric articulated by the same group in a 2008. That report, Framework for Academic Quality for Public Charter Schools, argues that the charter schools should be compared to successful regular public schools by post-secondary readiness and success, student engagement, and student academic achievement and growth.

For example, the group suggests measuring post high school readiness through the percentage of students who apply - and then are accepted - to college in relation to the best performing regular public schools in the region, state, and nation.

For student engagement, the group suggests measuring student attendance and truancy rates in comparison to the best performing regular public schools in the region, state, and nation.

Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, said that today's report is intended to help charter authorizers set minimum standards for acceptable academic performance.

"We're trying to get some consensus and trying to get some common understanding about what is good enough. Even if it just began with some common language and some common indicators of success, that's a big step," said Griffin.

The group, Building Charter School Quality, is a coalition of several national charter organizations - the Colorado League of Charter Schools (the League), CREDO at Stanford University, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.

A reaction from the California charter community was unavailable at press time.

Representatives from the California Charter Association said they were not participating in the national group's work, and declined directly commenting on it.

To read A Framework for Academic Quality for Public Charter Schools, click here: http://www.charterschoolquality.org/media/1186/FrameworkForAcademicQuality.pdf

To read Building Charter School Quality in Colorado, click here: http://www.charterschoolquality.org/media/1178/BCSQ_BuildingQualityColorado.pdf

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