The State of Charter School Authorizing 2009: 2nd Annual Report on NACSA's Authorizer Survey

Sean Conlan, Alex Medler, and Suzanne Weiss
National Association of Charter School Authorizers
May 2010 

NACSA’s second nationwide survey of authorizers (aka “sponsors” in Ohio) contains several policy insights (as reviewed by my colleague, Janie Scull), as well as interesting findings regarding “practitioner basics” for those of us that authorize schools (the Fordham Foundation sponsors six charter schools). The survey examines how authorizers approach key practices that are critical in the life of a charter school: application process, performance contracting, oversight and evaluation, and charter renewal.

NACSA identified 872 total authorizers across the nation, and found that 86 percent of those authorize five or fewer charter schools; 6 percent authorize six to nine schools; and 8 percent authorize ten or more schools. Authorizers in this last category oversee well over half (64 percent) of all the charter schools in the nation. One of the most interesting findings for those of us here in Ohio relates to services provided by authorizers. Specifically, among small authorizers (ten or fewer schools), 66 percent provide financial services; 89 percent provide training on improving instruction; 72 percent provide special education services; 74 percent provide data analysis; and 85 percent provide training on special education requirements.

Interesting stuff, considering we recently found that of Ohio’s approximately 67 active authorizers, two authorize one-third of all Ohio charter schools, and 52 authorize two or fewer schools. Ohio’s authorizers vary in their roles and the degrees to which they provide services to their schools. And, it’s fair to say that there’s something of an identity crisis going on regarding the appropriate role of the authorizer (so much so, in fact, that the State Board of Education is considering rules that would require authorizers to competitively bid the “administrative services” that authorizers sell to the schools they monitor and oversee in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest).

The report provides good insight on how different types of authorizers operate, and what they deem important. Read it here.

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