The purpose of the Accountability Guide is to provide schools and other interested parties with information on the accountability system that is unique to charter schools in Massachusetts. Each component of the Guide provides specific information regarding a particular aspect of the accountability process. This process was conceived when charter schools were first opened in the Commonwealth and has been added to and improved upon through years of implementation.
Guide to Charter School Accountability
Annual Report Guidelines
A charter school's Annual Report must be submitted to the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) on or before August 1, as set forth in the charter school statute (MGL Chapter 71, Section 89(jj)) and regulations.
The Annual Report informs the public of the recently completed academic year as it relates to the school's accountability plan objectives, the school's academic performance, and evidence regarding the three areas guiding charter school (faithfulness to charter, academic program success, and organizational viability). The Annual Report is also used by the Department to review the school's performance and progress for the past academic year, to corroborate and augment upcoming scheduled site visits, and to serve as one of the primary pieces of evidence that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will review when it considers a school's application for charter renewal. The Annual Report Guidelines (found below) provide the required elements that must be included in each report.
Annual Report Guidelines 2019-2020
The Annual Report Guidelines enable charter schools to meet statutory and regulatory requirements pertaining to Recruitment and Retention Plans. Please use the Recruitment and Retention Plan resources found on our Access and Equity website to complete this portion of the Annual Report. The resources are found at Access and Equity: Annual Report: Recruitment and Retention Plans.
A sample Recruitment and Retention Plan
Charter Analysis and Review Tool (CHART)
A list of charter schools that are located in districts that enroll 10 percent of more of limited English proficient students.
A compendium of recruitment strategies
Charter School Performance Criteria
The Charter School Performance Criteria (Criteria) are presented in the three guiding areas of charter school accountability defined in the current regulations, 603 CMR 1.00: faithfulness to charter, academic program success, and organizational viability.
The purposes of the Criteria are to:
- Articulate the expectations for all aspects of charter school accountability, from the application process to the renewal process;
- Provide charter schools with clear guidance about how the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department), and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education (Commissioner) define charter school success and on what basis charter schools will be evaluated; and
- Clarify the connections between Massachusetts charter school accountability and state and federal accountability standards.
The Criteria were first developed in 2005 and were subsequently revised in 2010. The Department developed the third revision (Version 3.0) after research and review of best practices from other high quality charter school authorizers. The Department has subsequently adjusted the Criteria annually based on the best practices, suggestions, or challenges that have arisen in the prior year.
There are ten (10) Criteria that define expected performance in the three guiding areas of charter school accountability: faithfulness to charter, academic program success, and organizational viability. The Department evaluates these criteria through the use of quantitative and/or qualitative data as well as affirmative evidence presented by the school, compiled over the course of the school's charter term.
The Charter School Performance Criteria is available by request. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-338-3227 to receive a copy.
Charter School Renewal Guidance and Materials
Considerations for Charter School Renewal
This memorandum documents key considerations related to accountability decisions for charter schools, including decisions to not renew or to revoke schools' charters. These considerations are not new; they have been developed and employed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) for the past several years.
Considerations for Charter School Renewal Memo
Application for Renewal of a Public School Charter
According to the Charter School Regulations (603 CMR 1.00), a school may apply for renewal of its charter anytime from March 1 of its third year of operation to August 1 before the fifth and final year of its charter. The application process culminates with a Board of Education vote regarding the school's renewal. Renewal of a public school charter is based on affirmative evidence in three areas:
- the success of the academic program,
- the viability of the organization,
- the faithfulness to the terms of the charter.
A fourth area is addressed in the renewal application regarding the school's capacity and plans for the term of the next charter.
The application for renewal of its charter is the school's opportunity to present evidence that demonstrates success in the three areas of charter school accountability. In short, it is the school's explanation of why the Board of Education should renew the school's charter. The application should provide affirmative, credible evidence of the school's success in each of the three accountability areas, as well as compelling information about the school's plans for the future. The application should address what steps have already been taken to improve any areas of weakness, as well as strategies for improvement that are likely to be effective during the next charter term. Schools should view this as an opportunity to advocate for themselves, provide deeper analysis of student academic achievement, underline successes, explain past troubles, and preempt questions that might arise during the renewal process.
Application for Renewal of a Public School Charter — Revised March 2020
Renewal Inspection Protocol
This protocol provides information about the Massachusetts public charter school renewal site visit process to a wide range of stakeholders in public charter schools. Individuals who participate as team members on the renewal site visits and public charter schools going through renewal can draw practical knowledge on how to prepare for and successfully implement renewal site visits. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education depends upon this protocol to describe the process used by evaluators to gather and analyze school performance data that will be considered when determining renewal or non-renewal of a public charter school. Parents and the general public may turn to this protocol for an explanation of one component of the greater accountability system that monitors public charter school performance over the five-year life of every charter.
Renewal Inspection Protocol — Revised July 2019
Summary of Review Template
The Summary of Review (SOR) summarizes the school's performance over the five-year charter term, reflecting evidence compiled throughout the charter term from sources such as annual reports, site visit reports, and state assessment results. The SOR incorporates descriptions of evidence gathered during the renewal inspection. The renewal inspection team prepares these descriptions, and they are included in the gray shaded boxes in the body of the report. The SOR highlights evidence for six Criteria aligned with the statutory requirements for charter renewal outlined by M.G.L. c. 71, § 89(dd): Criterion 1: Mission and Key Design Elements; Criterion 2: Access and Equity; Criterion 3: Compliance; Criterion 4: Dissemination; Criterion 5: Student Performance; and Criterion 9: Governance. The SOR also includes evidence related to other Criteria assessed during the renewal inspection.
Summary of Review Template — Revised October 2019
Accountability Plan Guidelines
One way in which charter schools demonstrate results is through reporting on selected outcomes using an Accountability Plan (603 CMR 1.02). A charter school creates an Accountability Plan to publicly articulate the goals the school has set to measure its success during a five-year charter term. These Accountability Plan Guidelines (Guidelines) are intended to assist in the creation of an Accountability Plan. Using the Guidelines and the template provided, a charter school can develop an Accountability Plan that will clearly demonstrate performance relative to the goals set forth in its charter.
Accountability Plan Guidelines — Revised April 2020
Site Visit Protocol
In conducting site visits, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) is carrying out the requirements of the charter school regulations (603 CMR 1.00) which outline the ongoing review of charter schools. The Site Visit Protocol is designed to be a resource for charter school leaders, external site visitors, the Department staff, and contracted vendors who may conduct site visits for the Department. It articulates the types of visits, site visit processes, roles and responsibilities of all parties, and expected outcomes. The Protocol is meant to provide useful information about site visits so stakeholders and visitors can know what to expect and how to prepare.
Site Visit Protocol — Revised October 2019
Classroom Observation Form — Revised October 2019
Volunteer to be an External Site Visitor
The Department seeks external volunteers with expertise in classroom instruction, school leadership, and/or school governance to serve as external site visitors on charter school accountability visits. If you are interested in applying to be a site visitor, please fill out a brief online survey. See below for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about serving as a site visit volunteer.
Charter School Closing Procedures
After the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) votes its intent to non-renew, revoke, or suspend the charter of a charter school (School); or a vote by a charter school's board of trustees (board) to voluntarily surrender its charter; or the board does not file an application for renewal of a public charter, the trustees of the school are responsible for ensuring the completion of the items listed in these Closing Procedures in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department Elementary and Secondary of Education (DESE). All documents should be submitted to the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign (OCSSR) of DESE unless otherwise indicated.
Commonwealth Charter School Closing Procedures
Horace Mann Charter School Closing Procedures