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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Amendment to Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.04(9)

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
September 11, 2015

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Enclosed with this memorandum, for final adoption, is the amended regulation for Charter Schools, 603 CMR 1.04(9). At its meeting on May 19, 2015, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) voted to solicit public comments on this narrowly targeted proposed amendment to the charter school regulations. We have received one public comment in support of the proposed change, and no public comments in opposition. I recommend that the Board vote to adopt the proposed change to the regulations.

The proposed amendment is a narrow revision to the regulation that specifies the method for calculating the list of school districts that perform in the lowest 10% on statewide assessments, for purposes of the charter school statute. Under the current regulation, the list is calculated and published fairly late in the charter application cycle. This year, the current regulatory methodology would result in publication of the list after final charter applications are to be submitted. The late availability of performance data creates considerable uncertainty for charter applicants and for school districts under current statutory requirements. The proposed amendment would calculate the lowest 10% based upon data available at the start of the charter application cycle. This would provide school districts and charter applicants the information they need to plan expeditiously. If the amendment is approved, the list used during the 2014-2015 charter application cycle would be used for the current 2015-2016 application cycle.

Background

Section 1.04(9) of the regulations specifies the method for calculating the list of school districts that perform in the lowest 10% on statewide assessments. The calculation is required for two purposes. First, this calculation is required to determine where charter schools may be approved during each annual application cycle as specified in G.L. c. 71, § 89(i)(2): "Not less than 2 of the new commonwealth charters approved by the board in any year shall be granted for charter schools located in districts where overall student performance on the statewide assessment system approved by the board under section 1I of chapter 69 is in the lowest 10 per cent statewide in the 2 years preceding the charter application." Second, this calculation is required to determine in which districts the total charter school tuition payment may exceed nine (9) per cent of the district's net school spending as specified in G.L. c. 71, § 89(i)(3): "In any fiscal year, if the board determines based on student performance data collected pursuant to section 1I, said district is in the lowest 10 per cent of all statewide student performance scores released in the 2 consecutive school years before the date the charter school application is submitted, the school district's total charter school tuition payment to commonwealth charter schools may exceed 9 per cent of the district's net school spending but shall not exceed 18 per cent."

The Board adopted section 1.04(9) in March 2014, as part of a comprehensive revision of the Charter School Regulations. The regulation aligns the lowest 10% calculation more closely to the calculation used for determining the lowest performing 20 percent of schools under the state school and district accountability system. As a result, the regulations now incorporate science scores and student growth percentiles in determining which school districts are in the lowest 10%. The proposals were discussed at length with various stakeholder groups and with the Board's charter school committee. Formal public comment was solicited and, at that time, the proposed change to the lowest 10% calculation did not elicit significant opposition.

The proposed amendment is a targeted change to 603 CMR 1.04(9) that would base the calculation of the lowest 10% on data available at the start of the charter application cycle, rather than in the middle of the cycle, so that everyone is well informed in a timely fashion. Without the proposed amendment, the late availability of performance data creates considerable uncertainty and confusion for school districts and for applicants. In last year's cycle, for example, the shift of two districts out of the bottom 10% resulted in a situation in which one charter applicant was required to seek a waiver of the regulation from the Board at the November 2014 Board meeting, in order to permit consideration of its charter application on its merits. The proposed amendment will provide school districts and charter applicants with definitive information to plan appropriately.

Stakeholder views

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) solicited public comment from a variety of stakeholders, including current charter school leaders, the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts. While some debate continues about using student growth percentiles as part of the lowest 10% calculation, this proposed amendment does not address the inclusion of student growth in the calculation.

With the proposed amendment, the Department would base the calculation of the lowest 10% of scores released in the two years prior to the application deadline for new charters. This would permit the Department to publish the list of school districts in the lowest 10% at the beginning of the application cycle for charter schools and would enable charter applicants and school districts to plan effectively. While stakeholders recognize that, in the short-term, the proposed change could advantage some districts and disadvantage others, we believe that publishing the list at the beginning of the charter application cycle allows for more predictability and better planning for both charter applicants and districts.

Attached are the excerpt from the regulations with the proposed changes (Attachment 1), public comment from the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association (Attachment 2), and the motion to adopt the regulatory amendment (Attachment 3).

If you have any questions on the proposed change to these regulations, please contact Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner at 781-338-3222; Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner at 781-338-6500; or me.

Attachments:

Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Excerpt of proposed change to the regulations with tracked changes indicated
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Public comment from the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association
 
Motion to adopt final regulation


Last Updated: September 17, 2015
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