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Massachusetts Charter Schools

Updates for Charter Schools from ESE

To:Massachusetts Charter School Leaders and Board Chairs
From:Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner
Date:April 28, 2014

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Welcome back from school vacation week. This memo provides you with important information about:

  1. Updates to the Charter School Regulations
  2. CHART Now Public
  3. Updates to the Charter School Performance Criteria (CSPC)
  4. Renewal Inspection Timelines for 2014-2015
  5. Coordinate Program Reviews (CPRs) for 2014-2015 and beyond
  6. Nutrition Reviews for Networks of Charter Schools for 2014-2015 and beyond
  7. English Language Learning Leadership Training Opportunity for Summer 2014
  8. New Schools Application Process
  9. Amendment Guidelines and Deadlines
  10. Open Meeting Law Trainings
  11. Pre-enrollment Data Update
  12. New or Significantly Expanding Data Collection Update
  13. FY15 Preliminary Tuition Rates for Commonwealth Charter Schools
  14. Audit Guide and Fiscal Policy and Procedures Guide Revisions
  15. Staff Updates and Job Opportunity (Access & Equity Coordinator)
  16. Educator Preparation Program Review Opportunity

Please review it carefully and pass on the information to others as appropriate.

  1. Updates to the Charter School Regulations

    The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) at its March 25th meeting, voted to adopt the amendments to 603 CMR 1.00, the regulations for charter schools. The amendments are comprehensive and reflect the experience of the field and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) since last time in was changed in 2010. The amended regulations became effective on April 11, 2014, so please read them carefully. The revisions aligned regulations with current guidance and policy; clarified inconsistencies; and strengthened aspects of the charter school accountability system. These changes are intended to advance the goal of high quality authorizing and improving educational outcomes for all students throughout the Commonwealth. Topics covered in these amended regulations include:

    • explicit inclusion of growth measures as part of qualifications for proven providers;
    • strengthening requirements for written notice to families about the rights of children to attend charter schools and receive accommodations and services;
    • revision of the calculation used by the Commissioner to determine the lowest performing10 percent of districts for net school spending cap determinations to align more closely with the calculations used for the statewide accountability system;
    • explicit allowance for lotteries to be conducted electronically;
    • prohibition of "rolling" waitlists and requires schools to keep waitlists for only the school year for which the student applies, but allows a school to choose to maintain any waitlists established prior to March 31, 2014 until such waitlists are exhausted;
    • prohibition of lotteries prior to January 1 for the upcoming school year;
    • backfilling requirements for a school with an odd number of grades are revised to require a school to fill more than half the grades offered;
    • explicit roles and responsibilities of charter school boards of trustees, including reasonable term limits, and a requirement for board of trustees training;
    • monthly tuition payments to Commonwealth charter schools, rather than quarterly payments with the first payment going out at the end of July 2014. Please note that the provision for an early first quarter August 15 payment has been eliminated, since it becomes moot, so everyone will be on the same payment schedule;
    • new affirmative obligation that a charter school must immediately notify the Department if its enrollment drops more than 10 percent from any previous report, in order to allow payments to be adjusted accordingly;
    • clarification of reporting requirements, including but not limited to, requiring each charter school to make the annual report available on its website, and requiring charter schools to notify the Department of all significant matters within two business days. Significant matters include, but are not limited to, all communications made or received by or on behalf of the school with any government audit, investigative, or law enforcement agency;
    • changes to the complaint procedures timeline, allowing boards of trustees to respond to complaining parties within 45 days, rather than 30 days;
    • changes to the procedural requirements for amendments to charters of charter schools; and
    • clarification of processes for conditions, probation, and closure, including allowing the Commissioner to appoint an individual or entity to assist with the orderly closure of a charter school and to require a charter school on probation to establish an escrow account to pay for expenses associated with closure should that occur.

    The Department is in the process of updating and revising a significant number of guidance documents and technical advisories, including but not limited to Enrollment Policy Guidance; the Administrative and Governance Guide, the Horace Mann Technical Advisory, the Accountability Plan Guidelines; and Amendment Guidance. Once again, the amended regulations became effective as of April 11, 2014. For that reason, the Department strongly recommends that you read the regulations carefully because each charter school is responsible for full compliance. If you have questions about the amended regulations, please contact Ruth Hersh at 781-338-3211 or rhersh@doe.mass.edu.

  2. CHART Now Public

    The inaugural public version of CHART (Charter Analysis and Review Tool, formerly known as "Charter DART") is now posted on the Department's public website at: http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/finance/Chart/. CHART provides multi-year and multi-school comparison data in a visual format in three categories: 1) enrollment percentages by subgroup; 2) attrition percentages by grade level and subgroup; and 3) student indicator statistics, including suspensions. We strive to continuously improve this tool, and will be posting new versions periodically throughout the year, as new data becomes available and additional feedback is received. Please feel free to continue providing feedback and comments to James DiMaio at jdimaio@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3228.

  3. Updates to the Charter School Performance Criteria (CSPC)

    The Department is in the process of making minor changes to the Common School Performance Criteria (Criteria). Changes include clarifications in language and potential sub-ratings for a few additional criterion. A draft of Version 3.1 of the Criteria with instructions for providing feedback by May 12, 2014 can be found at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=10185. If you have questions regarding revisions to the Criteria, please contact Alison Bagg at abagg@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3218.

  4. Renewal Inspection Timelines for 2014-2015

    The 2014-2015 renewal cohort contains 19 charter schools. Applications for Renewal are due August 1, 2014. The Application for Renewal of a Public School Charter was posted in February. Please see here for the Application and other materials related to renewal: http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/acct.html?section=renew. The Renewal Inspection Protocol will be slightly revised and then posted during late spring. After August 1st, the Department will contact all schools in the renewal cohort to establish the dates for the renewal inspection. Inspections will occur anytime between the end of September and the beginning of November. The Department will work with each school to find the best time for the visit. If you have questions regarding the renewal process, please contact Alison Bagg at abagg@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3218.

  5. Coordinate Program Reviews (CPRs) for 2014-2015 and beyond

    The Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign has worked with the Program Quality Assurance Unit to ensure that charter school renewals and coordinated program reviews (CPRs) do not occur in the same year. (See http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/docs/FY2014/2013-10/item9.html for a memo on similar overlaps for 2013-2014.) If a charter school's next CPR is scheduled to occur in the same year as its renewal, the CPR will be delayed to the following year. In addition, we are in the process of working with networks of charter schools to align the CPR cycles if desired and possible. We will reach out to affected charter schools directly, but please feel free to contact Ruth Hersh at rhersh@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3211 with questions or for additional information.

  6. Nutrition Reviews for Networks of Charter Schools for 2014-2015 and beyond

    The Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign has worked with the Unit has worked to ensure to align the nutrition reviews for charter schools in the same network cycles if desired and possible. The Nutrition Unit will reach out to affected charter schools directly, but please feel free to contact Diane Sylvia, School Nutrition Programs Coordinator at dsylvia@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-6464 with questions or for additional information.

  7. English Language Learning Leadership Training Opportunity for Summer 2014 for Urban Charter Schools

    A key component of success of the Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners (RETELL) initiative is to ensure that core academic teachers who have one or more ELL students and administrators who supervise and evaluate teachers of ELLs complete training in Sheltered English Instruction (SEI). In conjunction with this SEI teacher/administrator training, the Department is seeking to train ELL experts from the field to become ELL expert leaders through training in an institute designed to support ELL school leaders in their efforts to strengthen and improve a school's response to the specific educational needs of ELLs. The institute will last for three days (June 16th, 17th, and July 31st from 9am-3 pm). We need commitments from 25 charter school ELL directors (or a team of 2-3 leaders from each school) so please contact Ellie Rounds at erounds@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3212, if you would be interested in participating. Update, 5/12/14: More information available at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=10223. Register at http://www.cvent.com/d/r4qxl5

  8. New Schools Application Process

    The Department has completed revisions of the Application for a Commonwealth or Horace Mann Charter Public School, will be posted at http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/new/?section=app on April 30. During the 2014-2015 application cycle, the Department will institute a number of improvements to the application process, including online submission of charter applications, interviews with candidates for proven provider status, and a one stage application process for eligible applicants.

    Pursuant to MGL c.71 § 89, current boards of trustees may hold more than one charter and develop charter school networks within and across municipalities. In recognition of their qualifications and capacity, the Commissioner has implemented a single stage application process for current eligible boards of trustees applying for a new charter. While this single stage process eliminates the prospectus submission in July, current eligible boards of trustees will still be required to be granted proven provider status by the Commissioner, if applicable, in order to submit a final application.

    If a current board of trustees is interested in expansion, either through a new charter or expansion of a current charter, please contact Alyssa Hopkins at ahopkins@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3219 to discuss the two different approaches to charter school growth.

  9. Amendment Guidelines and Deadlines

    The Department is in the process of updating the Amendment Guidelines for posting on or before June 1. The Amendment Guidelines highlight the requirements for amending the material terms of a school's charter as well as the required criteria for the submission of major expansion requests. Please review the Amendment Guidelines to identify the types of changes that require Commissioner or Board approval, and those changes that simply require notification to the Department.

    All major expansion requests, specifically changes to maximum enrollment, grades served, and districts served, must be received by the Department on or before the annual August 1 deadline. If your expansion request requires a determination of proven provider status by the Commissioner pursuant to MGL c.71 § 89 and 603 CMR 1.00, current boards of trustees will be required to provide additional evidence to support the determination of proven provider status in addition to their request. The revised Amendment Guidelines will contain the necessary information for your proven provider request submission. All schools submitting major expansion requests will be subject to a Department interview with board and school leadership.

    If you have any questions regarding the major expansion request process or the proven provider requirements, please contact Alyssa Hopkins at ahopkins@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3219.

  10. Open Meeting Law Trainings

    The Office of the Attorney General has begun offering monthly Open Meeting Law (OML) training webinars to members of the public and public bodies. The next upcoming webinar scheduled for Tuesday, May 13, 2014. These free webinars are accessed online where attendees can submit written questions to be answered live by attorneys from the Division of Open Government. Charter school board of trustee members and school leaders are strongly encouraged to so they may better understand OML requirements. If you are interested in registering for this online training or to receive further information on future dates, you may do so by emailing OMLTraining@state.ma.us. Additional information on OML trainings can be found on the Attorney General's Open Meeting Law webpage.

  11. Pre-enrollment Data Update

    The FY15 pre-enrollment reports were submitted by all charter schools by March 15, 2014. This is a statutory data collection used to inform Massachusetts Superintendents of the number of charter school students will be coming from their district during the 2014-2015 school year. The reports are also used to identify the charter schools that are significantly expanding. The memo to the superintendents can be found on our website at: http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/enrollment/FY2015.html

  12. New or Significantly Expanding Data Collection Update

    In order to ensure that the Department has accurate enrollment numbers from which to calculate allocations for entitlement grants, new or significantly expanding charter schools must provide the projected enrollment data for the 2014-2015 school year for Low Income (SIMS Data Element DOE 019), Special Education (SIMS Data element DOE034), and Limited English Proficient (SIMS Data element DOE025) students. Data will be collected via the Charter School Sig. Expansion web application, which will be accessible through the ESE Security Portal in June. Please note that we are collecting this data later than in prior years to improve accuracy. Additional information regarding this data collection will be provided in late May. Please contact Joanna Laghetto at jlaghetto@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3221 with any questions.

  13. FY15 Preliminary Tuition Rates for Commonwealth Charter Schools

    The FY15 preliminary tuition rates for Commonwealth charter schools are now posted at http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/finance/tuition/fy15/projection.html. Please be reminded that payments will be made monthly in FY15 due to the changes in regulations described above. Please contact Hadley Cabral at hcabral@doe.mass.edu or 781-38-6586 with any questions.

  14. Audit Guide and Fiscal Policy and Procedures Guide Revisions

    Please note that the Audit and Fiscal Policies and Procedures (FPP) Guides are both being updated this year to reflect changes in Governmental Accounting Standards Board guidance and updates policies for schools operating as networks. The audit guide is currently in revisions and should be complete by mid-May, and the FPP guide will be complete by June 30, 2014. The Department had a feedback session with the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Community of Practice Meeting on March 20, 2014. The draft guide will be available for review in early May at http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/finance/auditing/ for additional feedback and input. A webinar for charter leaders, business managers, board treasurers, and auditors is scheduled for Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 3:30pm. Please register at http://www.doe.mass.edu/conference/?ConferenceID=3863. Please contact Sara Schnitzer at sschnitzer@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3210 with questions.

  15. Staff Updates and Job Opportunity (Access & Equity Coordinator)

    There have been a couple of staffing changes during the last month. They include:

    • Ruth Hersh has been officially appointed as the Assistant Director for the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign. Her prior roles at the Department included overseeing the new charter school development and growth processes and charter school governance. She also worked on creating the oversight mechanisms for educational collaboratives throughout the Commonwealth. Prior to her work at the Department, Ruth worked as an elementary school teacher and mentor for young adults considering teaching as a profession. Before entering the field of education, she served as a consultant and program officer in the fields of community based economic development and philanthropy. Her experience, expertise, and creativity are greatly appreciated, and I welcome her support and thoughtfulness in this new administrative capacity.
    • Barry Barnett has been appointed to a new Assistant Director position in Program Quality Assurance, where he will be responsible for overseeing the Problem Resolution System through which the Department determines whether or not school districts are implementing the requirements of federal and state law and regulation in response to concerns filed with the agency. He will also be responsible for developing enhanced program monitoring procedures to be used in special education program reviews of the state's Collaboratives and SEIS schools (Special Education in Institutional Settings). Barry broke ground in the access & equity (federal programs) space for charter schools, successfully advocating for the creation of a special education position in the Charter School Office, serving in that capacity since 2000. His work has greatly enhanced the quality of services to special education and ELL students in charter schools. The depth of his experience and expertise will be missed.
    • The Department is now hiring for the position of Access & Equity Coordinator within the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign. Please review the job description and share this opportunity with qualified individuals. Please contact Alison Bagg at abagg@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3218 with any questions.
  16. Educator Preparation Program Review Opportunity

    The Ed Prep team has completely redesigned our review process for the evaluation of prep programs. A big part of that is recruiting, selecting and training a new cohort of engaged educators to serve as reviewers. All of the information is available on our website at: http://www.doe.mass.edu/edprep/reviewers/

Ongoing Communication

As you are aware, we are committed to ensuring open lines of communication with charter school operators. Please feel free to contact us (http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/contact.html) with your questions or concerns. If you are unsure whom to contact, you can email charterschools@doe.mass.edu and your inquiry will be forwarded to the appropriate staff member. The person listed as "charter school leader" and "charter school board chair" in the Directory Administration should have received this message. If for some reason they did not, please ask your school's directory administrator (see http://www.doe.mass.edu/infoservices/data/diradmin/list.aspx) to update this contact information within Directory Administration. Your directory administrator can contact Lee DeLorenzo at ldelorenzo@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3227 for assistance. Others can also subscribe to receiving this information by contacting Lee.



Last Updated: April 28, 2014
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