Massachusetts Charter Schools

Proposed changes to the Charter School Site Visit Protocol – Feedback Requested

To:Charter School Leaders and Board Chairs
From:Claire Smithney, Coordinator of Accountability
Date:July 5, 2017

The Site Visit Protocol (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. Following last year's implementation of the Protocol, the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign has made additional adjustments to the Protocol based on best practices, suggestions, and challenges that arose during the 2016-17 school year. A track change version of the proposed Protocol (Revised June 2017) is attached that shows the key changes highlighted below.
Area Revised (page)Description of change
Special Considerations (page 4)The Department has provided a list of special considerations that may impact the type of visit a school receives. Special considerations include, but are not limited to:
  • Trending low academic achievement results for all students or subgroups of students, or a sudden drop in academic achievement
  • Concerns about a school's financial health
  • Significant leadership or board turnover
  • Complaints, dependent on the volume and severity
  • A pending or recently granted Board-approved amendment request
  • A school replication
Types of Site Visits (pages 4 and 5, 20 and 26)These two sections of the protocol have been revised to align to the May 24, 2017 memorandum Proposed Changes to the Charter School Performance Criteria and Accountability Processes - Feedback Requested. The revised protocol reflects further differentiation that the Department has made in types of site visits. The types of visits now include Year One Site Visits, Full Criteria Site Visits, Core Criteria Site Visits, Year 21+ Site Visits, and Targeted Site Visits.

Further detail about each of these types of visits is provided in the Protocol in pages 4 and 5 and 20 through 26. Revisions have been made throughout the document to reflect necessary changes made based on these types of visits.
Site Visit Report (page 7)This section has been revised to reflect that Year 21+ Site Visits will receive memorandums with observations instead of findings.
Appendix B: Charter School Performance Criteria (page 17-20)The Protocol now states that focus groups questions are developed based on each criteria and key indicator as well as the specific circumstances at each school.

Throughout this section, changes have been made to the guiding questions to reflect revisions made to the Charter School Performance Criteria v. 3.4.

Criterion 2: Access and Equity - Questions now include:
  • Per Department guidelines, has the school updated and received approval for its student recruitment and retention plan to include deliberate, specific strategies that the school uses to ensure the ongoing provision of equity before, during, and after enrollment?
  • Has the school worked to retain a student population that is demographically comparable to the population enrolled in similar grades in schools from which the charter school enrolls students by implementing its approved recruitment and retention plan?
  • Has the school made 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 by implementing its approved recruitment and retention plan?
  • Does the school eliminate barriers to program access? Do school policies, including disciplinary policies, ensure that students are able to access the educational program?
Key Indicator: Instruction - The first two guiding questions in this key indicator have now been combined to read: Do classrooms and/or focus groups reflect that the school has a common understanding of high quality instruction for all students?

Key Indicator: Supports for Diverse Learners - Three of the guiding questions have been combined into one guiding question which now reads: What interventions, supports and resources does the school provide to meet the academic needs of diverse learners, including but not limited to, students with disabilities and English language learners? In addition, the guiding question related to the school's use of the results of a data-based program of self-evaluation to inform the special education and English learner programs has been moved from Key Indicator: Assessment and Program Evaluation to Key Indicator: Supports for Diverse Learners to ensure that it is addressed on all types of visits.

Criterion 9: Governance - The Protocol no longer includes "a process for self-evaluation" as one of the indicators under strategic and continuous improvement planning.
Appendix D: Required Documents (pages 27-30)Several changes have been made in this section. Revisions include clarifications to the following documents: the master class schedule, the strategic plan, classroom observation, and student assessments. The Protocol also now includes a request for the contract for schools that have contracts with Education Management Organizations.

Additional changes include the submission of special education and English learner program self-evaluations and Memorandum of Understandings with Horace Manns for all types of visits instead of only full site visits.
Appendix F: Student Demographic Information (page 35)This document has been updated so that it no longer duplicates SIMS reporting.
Recently, as reflected in the Protocol, during the report-out, the team leader provides findings on the following Criteria/Key Indicators: Criterion 1: Mission and Key Design Elements
Key Indicator 6.2: Instruction The Department would like feedback from the field as to whether this limited report out is beneficial to schools. We welcome any questions or comments on the draft Protocol. We would appreciate it if you could provide feedback by July 19, 2017. We anticipate posting a finalized version on our website by July 26, 2017. If you have any questions or wish to provide feedback please contact me at or 781-338-3213. Thank you.

Last Updated: July 4, 2017

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