Proposed changes to the Charter School Performance Criteria and Accountability Processes – Feedback Requested- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Massachusetts Charter Schools

Proposed changes to the Charter School Performance Criteria and Accountability Processes – Feedback Requested

To:Charter School Leaders and Board Chairs
From:Claire Smithney, Coordinator of Accountability, Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign
Date:May 24, 2017

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The Charter School Performance Criteria (Criteria) articulate the expectations for all aspects of charter school accountability, from the application process to the renewal process. 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.

With another year of accountability activities coming to a close, the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign is working to adjust the Criteria based on the best practices, suggestions and challenges that came up over the course of the year. The proposed Charter School Performance Criteria (version 3.4) is provided below. Substantive changes are marked via track changes in the document. Minor edits to improve clarity have not been marked as changes.

We are in the process of finalizing an appendix to the Criteria that will articulate how the Department will assess specific criteria for alternative charter schools. We anticipate this appendix being added in the upcoming months.

Below please find a summary of the proposed changes.

Criterion Revised
(page)
Description of Change
Criterion 5: Student Performance (pages 4 and 6-8 - footnotes)Consistent with the current practice, during the 2017-2018 school year, Criterion 5: Student Performance will not receive a rating. The wording of the Criteria and the Key Indicators have been revised to reflect the changes that are in process for the statewide accountability system.

Once the statewide accountability system is established pursuant to Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Department will articulate the use of academic data in reports and in charter accountability decisions. Schools will continue to receive a finding with a narrative for this Criterion that includes academic data from prior statewide assessment administrations as well as results from the 2017-2018 assessments.
Criterion 2: Access and Equity (page 5)In order to provide clarity, indicators have been added to this Criterion to articulate school obligations regarding the recruitment and retention of students. Further, there is added language indicating that school policies, including school discipline policies, allow all students to access the educational program.

The indicators under access and equity now read:

  1. The school implements a student recruitment and retention plan that includes deliberate, specific strategies the school will use to ensure the ongoing provision of equal educational opportunity to students before, during, and after enrollment. The plan is customized for each school and designed to attract, enroll, and retain a student population that is demographically comparable to the population that is enrolled in similar grades in schools from which the charter school might enroll students.
  2. The school works to retain a student population that is demographically comparable to the population that is enrolled in similar grades in schools from which the charter school enrolls students.
  3. The school makes efforts to enroll a student population that is demographically comparable to the population that is enrolled in similar grades in schools from which the charter school enrolls students.
  4. The school eliminates barriers to program access, including but not limited to, ensuring that information is readily available to parents, students, and the general public regarding non-discriminatory enrollment practices. The school also advertises the availability of specialized programs and services at the school to meet the needs of all students, particularly those enrolled in special education, English language learners and those with other diverse learning needs.
  5. School policies, including but not limited to discipline policies, allow all students to access the educational program. This will include a review of the rates of in-school and out-of-school suspensions.
Key Indicator 6.1: Curriculum (page 8)The phrase "is fully implemented in classrooms" has been removed from the Key Indicator. The OCSSR has determined that this aspect of the indicator is too challenging to reliably assess during a site visit.
Key Indicator 8.3: Contractual Relationships (page 9)Language has been added to the indicators relating to both schools with management companies and Horace Mann charter Schools.

The indicator for schools with management companies now includes the following language: "The board of trustees and school leadership establish effective working relationships with their management company while maintaining appropriate separation between the entities."

The indicator for Horace Mann charter schools now includes the following language: "The board works to ensure that the MOU is implemented appropriately."
Rating: Meets (page 3)The wording of the rating for "Meets" has been changed, substituting the word "generally" for "substantially." The rating now reads:

Meets: The school substantially meets the criterion and/or minor concern(s) are noted.

We welcome any questions or comments on the draft Charter School Performance Criteria version 3.4 Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document. We would appreciate it if you could provide feedback by June 7, 2017. We anticipate posting a finalized version on our website by June 9, 2017.

In addition to the changes to the Criteria, the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign is developing a more differentiated approach to the accountability process, particularly for site visits and renewals inspections visits. Attached is a document outlining the proposed differentiation of processes.

Currently, as outlined in the Site Visit Protocol, the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign conducts four types of site visits; Year One Visits, Full Site Visits, Check In Visits, and Targeted Site Visits. In addition, over the last two years, either staff members from the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign or contracted vendors conduct renewal inspection visits. Further, in December 2016, the Department targeted the focus of the Summary of Review document, as noted in this memo.

With a goal of improving accountability processes and enhancing efficiency, the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign (Office) is proposing the following revised site visit structures: Year One Visits (fall and spring components), Full Criteria Site Visits, Core Criteria Site Visits, Year 21+ Site Visits, and Targeted Site Visits. Each of these types of visits may also be expanded based on special considerations which are included at the end of the attached document. In addition, the Office is proposing two types of renewal inspection visits, a Full Criteria Renewal Inspection Visit, and a Core Criteria Renewal Inspection Visit. A full description of the each type of visits, related changes to the protocols, special considerations, and other details is included in the attached document. Descriptions of each type of visit are provided below.

Site Visits

Year One Visits (fall and spring)

Keeping with recent practices, in the first year of operation, charter schools will receive two visits. During the fall visit, the Department provides technical assistance including but not limited to the implementation of the special education and ELL programming by the school. The product of Year One Fall Visits will be a summary of technical assistance. The Year One Spring Visit evaluates the school against a sub-set of the Criteria (like a Core Criteria Site Visit, described below).

Full Criteria Site Visits

Full Criteria Site Visits will be conducted in the second year of a charter's first charter term, and then in a school's second charter term with the omission of Criterion 7: Culture and Family Engagement unless special considerations apply. The purpose and scope of Full Site Visits will not change. The Full Criteria Visit evaluates a school's performance in terms of the Criteria and corroborates information contained in the school's Annual Report. The Criteria reviewed during a Full Criteria Site Visit will continue to include the following:

Criterion 1: Mission and Key Design Elements, Criterion 2: Access and Equity, Criterion 3: Compliance (as applicable), Criterion 5: Student Performance, Key Indicator 6.1: Curriculum, Key Indicator 6.2: Instruction, Key Indicator 6.3: Assessment and Program Evaluation, Key Indicator 6.4: Supports for Diverse Learners, Key Indicator 7.1: Social, Emotional and Health Needs, Key Indicator 7.2: Family Engagement, Key Indicator 8.1: School Leadership, Key Indicator 8.2: Professional Capacity, Key Indicator 8.3: Contractual Relationships (as applicable), Criterion 9: Governance, Criterion 10: Finance (data only).

Focus groups and pre-visit documentation will continue to align with the current Site Visit Protocol, with the exception of schools in their second charter term where focus groups and pre-visit documentation related to Criterion 7 will not be conducted or reviewed, unless special considerations apply. The product of this type of visit will be a report with findings and ratings.

Core Criteria Site Visits

These visits will be primarily used for schools in their third and fourth charter term. Additionally, the Year One Spring Site Visits and schools in the third year of operation will receive these visits. For these two types of visits, additional Criteria or Key Indicators may be added based on the outcomes of the prior visit. The purpose of these types of visits will continue to be to gather evidence regarding the school's implementation of its program and how it is performing in terms of a sub-set of the Criteria. The Criteria reviewed during a Core Criteria Site Visit will include the following:

Criterion 1: Mission and Key Design Elements, Criterion 2: Access and Equity, Criterion 3: Compliance (as applicable), Criterion 5: Student Performance, Key Indicator 6.2: Instruction, Key Indicator 6.4: Supports for Diverse Learners, Key Indicator 8.3: Contractual Relationships (as applicable), Criterion 9: Governance, Criterion 10: Finance (data only)

Focus groups and pre-visit documentation will continue to align with the current Check In Visit Protocol. The product of this type of visit will be a report with findings and ratings with the exception of Key Indicator 6.2: Instruction which will not be rated due to the limited scope of classroom observations.

Year 21+ Site Visits

Schools in or beyond the 21st year of operation with a strong history of performance evidenced by the successful completion of four charter terms will receive a condensed check-in site visit. The purpose of this visit is to gather evidence regarding the school's implementation of its program and how it is performing in terms of a modified sub-set of the Criteria. Specifically, this type of visit will provide observations addressing the following Criteria:

Criterion 1: Mission and Key Design Elements, Criterion 2: Access and Equity, Criterion 3: Compliance (as applicable), Criterion 5: Student Performance, Key Indicator 6.2: Instruction, Key Indicator 6.4: Supports for Diverse Learners, Key Indicator 8.3: Contractual Relationships (as applicable), Criterion 9: Governance, Criterion 10: Finance (data only)

The visiting team would hold focus groups with a subset of the stakeholder groups, review limited documentation, and briefly visit classrooms. The product of this type of visit will be a memorandum with observations addressing the above Criteria.

Targeted Site Visits

Targeted Site Visits will continue to be conducted following the current protocol. The purpose of Targeted Site Visits is to evaluate a school's progress relative to declining academic performance and/or imposed conditions, if the school is currently operating under conditions or has a probationary status. Further, to monitor a school's progress on a sub-set of the Criteria the Department may visit if the school's performance was rated "partially meets" or "falls far below" during a previous site visit. The Department also reserves the right to conduct a targeted visit if there is a sudden change in student achievement, school leadership, board composition, or other special considerations as determined by the Department.

Renewal Inspection Visits

Full Criteria Renewal Inspection Visit

The Full Criteria Renewal Inspection Visits will apply to schools in their first and second charter terms, or when special considerations apply. This type of renewal inspection will continue to be guided by the current Renewal Inspection Protocol for two day renewal inspection visits. The product of these visits will continue to be a report with findings.

Core Criteria Renewal Inspection Visit

The Core Criteria Renewal Inspection Visits will apply to schools in and beyond their third charter terms that have earned prior successful renewals. The visit will be guided by the current Renewal Inspection Protocol for one day renewal inspection visits, but will address a subset of the Criteria. The Criteria typically addressed will include the following:

Criterion 1: Mission and Key Design Elements, Key Indicator 6.2: Instruction, Key Indicator 6.4: Supports for Diverse Learners, Key Indicator 8.3: Contractual Relationships (as applicable), Criterion 9: Governance

The Department may evaluate additional Criteria onsite if needed during a Core Criteria Renewal Inspection. The product of this type of visit will be a report with findings.

We welcome any questions or comments on the draft accountability differentiation plan Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document. We would appreciate it if you could provide feedback by June 7, 2017. We anticipate using these changes to inform the Site Visit Protocol and Renewal Inspection Protocol later this summer.

If you have any questions or wish to provide feedback please contact Claire Smithney at csmithney@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3213.

Thank you.





Last Updated: May 24, 2017



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