WEEKEND EDITION

New York State Plans Overhaul to its Charter Authorizing Process

| October 9, 2012 11:41 AM

State education officials want to raise the bar for charter schools and they’re looking to outsource some of the work to create and carry out the new standards.

In particular, the State Education Department, one of two charter school authorizers in New York, is hoping that consultants will help create a process for reviewing schools up for renewal.

The cost of the contract is small, but its scope covers an unusually broad range of responsibilities compared nationally to other authorizers that have used consultants. It comes amid a change in leadership in the office that oversees the department’s charter school portfolio, which has expanded rapidly in recent years.

The Board of Regents is one of two bodies that legally authorizes and renews charter schools in New York State. The board has closed or sought to close seven schools in its 12-year history.

The other New York authorizer, the SUNY Charter School Institute, is nationally acclaimed and is seen as possessing greater autonomy and exercising stronger oversight carrying out its authorizing responsibilities, which include reviewing applications, visiting schools, and deciding whether charters should be renewed. SUNY CSI has not renewed nine charter schools and restructured one other school since it began authorizing in 1999.

Starting in 2010, the Board of Regents has been working to mimic more of SUNY CSI’s practices. The board hired a former charter school director, John King, to run the state’s schools, and King in turn hired two experienced authorizers from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the Massachusetts Department of Education to ramp up New York’s charter schools office.

Since then, the office has authorized more than 20 charter schools, nearly doubling its portfolio.

Now, after two years of tightening its internal operations, the office is moving to expand its practices with the help of external consultants. This summer, the department took bids for a four-year consulting contract to review 80 charter applications, help interview 20 applicants, and participate in 34 school visits.

Continue reading at Gotham Schools…

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