Massachusetts Charter Schools

2017-2018 Charter Application Process

To:Potential Charter Applicants
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:May 12, 2017

Thank you for your interest in improving public education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I fully support the continued establishment of high quality charter school options by individuals and groups with a commitment to excellence and innovation in public education. The mission of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (the Department) is to strengthen the Commonwealth's public education system so that every student is prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, compete in the global economy, and understand the rights and responsibilities of American citizens, and in so doing, to close all proficiency gaps. In order to realize our mission for every student's success, the Department is committed to identifying through the charter application process quality programming proposed by both proven providers and groups who have yet to establish a track record of success. I am particularly interested in educational models that will serve as exemplars to the larger public school system and provide a wide variety of high quality college and career pathways for students to achieve postsecondary success and to be engaged citizens. In particular, I encourage applicants to consider school designs that:
  • Focus on traditionally underserved populations and communities, including English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and overage under-credited students;
  • Develop partnerships with early education providers to establish integrated and effective early literacy programs;
  • Align with regional workforce and economic development priorities through the establishment of career-oriented or vocational-technical programs of study, in partnership with local employers and including work-based learning experiences (e.g. high-quality career pathways);
  • Address college readiness and success for "first-generation" college-going students, based on partnerships with higher education, including access to dual-enrollment opportunities in credit-bearing college coursework (e.g. early college)
  • Establish partnerships with school districts to provide complementary programs and services, which may not be locally available; and
  • Utilize time and technology in creative ways to personalize instruction, in order to accelerate and deepen learning (e.g. models that include summer learning and/or blended learning)
For the 2017-2018 charter application process, the Department will accept applications for new Commonwealth charters in the majority of districts, with the exception of 40 districts, including Boston, Cambridge, Holyoke, and Salem. The Department strongly encourages applicants to propose schools in areas of the Commonwealth that are currently underserved by high quality charter schools and where seats are available under current net school spending (NSS) caps.1 Please also note that several districts may not have sufficient seats available to support a viable new school. In the case of the 40 districts closed to new growth, all available seats have been granted and applications cannot be considered. Any remaining seats under the relevant NSS cap will be reserved to accommodate future fluctuations in the NSS caps. The Department annually publishes the list of school districts that perform in the lowest 10 percent on statewide assessments prior to the start of the charter application cycle. The lowest performing 10 percent of districts are subject to the higher 18 percent NSS cap. Applicants must be awarded proven provider status by the Commissioner to be eligible for seats above the standard 9 percent NSS cap. Applicant groups are cautioned that eligibility for charter award is impacted by the statutory requirement that at least two charters be awarded annually to applicant groups who are proposing to serve a lowest 10 percent district. If the Board does not grant at least two Commonwealth charters that would serve a lowest 10 percent district, no Commonwealth charter may be granted by the Board in a district that is not a lowest 10 percent district. All applicant groups will be kept informed by the Department of circumstances that impact their eligibility for charter award. The Department recognizes that the establishment of a high quality charter public school is an arduous and rewarding endeavor. The Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign oversees the charter application process on my behalf. I encourage all potential charter applicants to contact our office at or 781-338-3227 with any questions about the charter application process and application requirements.

Note: line 1 The number of available seats published in this year's application is estimated and subject to change. The actual number of seats that will be available in any district in any particular year cannot be predicted with certainty and is dependent on several factors, including district enrollment, district spending levels, student enrollment for existing charter schools, and potential changes to the applicable NSS cap for the district of interest.

Last Updated: May 12, 2017

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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