Charter Schools: A Guide to the Dissemination of Best Practices1
The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 allowed for the creation of Commonwealth and Horace Mann charter schools: new kinds of public schools, operating under five-year charters granted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and directly overseen by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (the Department). In part, charter schools were established to "stimulate the development of innovative programs within public education" and to provide "models for replication in other public schools."
Recognizing that all types of schools have best practices, by law, a charter school must provide models for replication and best practices to the Commissioner and to other public schools in the district where the charter school is located in order to earn a renewal of its charter. Indeed, as stated in the charter school statute, "a commonwealth charter shall not be renewed unless the board of trustees of the charter school has documented in a manner approved by the board (BESE) that said commonwealth charter school has provided models for replication and best practices to the commissioner and to other public schools in the district where the charter school is located" MGL c.71 S. 89 (dd).
The Charter School Performance Criteria provide a more expansive definition of dissemination of best practices:
Criterion 4: Dissemination: The school provides innovative models for replication and best practices to other public schools in the district where the charter school is located.
The Department will also consider efforts made by the charter school to disseminate innovative models for replication and best practices to other schools, districts, and organizations beyond the district where the charter school is located. There are multiple forums and activities through which a charter school may disseminate, including but not limited to:
- partnerships with other schools implementing key successful aspects of the charter school's program,
- active participation in district turnaround efforts,
- sharing resources or programs developed at the charter school,
- hosting other educators at the charter school, and
- presenting at professional conferences about its innovative school practices.
The Department has compiled this Guide drawing from a variety of sources, including: the research done by the UMass Donahue Institute in its 2012 paper "Charter School Dissemination Grants in Massachusetts, Successes, Challenges and Recommendations," discussion with current charter school leaders who have made strong dissemination efforts, discussion with district and non-profit leaders in the sector, and best practices from other states. This webpage provides guidance regarding creating the conditions for dissemination, sharing resources and information, and sustaining partnerships.
Creating Conditions for Successful Dissemination
Sharing Resources and Information
Profiles of Dissemination
Best Practices Archives
1 For the purposes of this site, the term "best practice" refers to a strong or promising practice that has demonstrated potential to be effective. The Department recognizes that both the term "best practice" and the term "dissemination" can be charged and potentially create barriers to sharing. These terms are being used here because of the wording of the law.