Massachusetts Charter Schools

Apply to Open a Charter Public School


Apply to Open a Charter School (New Operators)

Charter schools are public schools that are given the freedom to organize their activities around a core mission, curriculum, or teaching method and set their own budgets as well as manage their own staff. In return for this freedom, a charter school must demonstrate positive results within five years or lose its charter.

The Application for a Massachusetts Charter Public School: Proposed Commonwealth or Horace Mann Charter Schools is for use only by applicant groups who wish to form a charter school board of trustees and do not govern a current Massachusetts charter school. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) conducts a process that includes an initial application and a final application phase, participation by internal and external reviewers for both phases, opportunities for written public comment and public hearings during the final application phase, as well as an interview with all final applicants.

Initial applications and final applications are each reviewed against extensive criteria set forth in the charter statute, G.L. c. 71, § 89, and the charter school regulations, 603 CMR 1.04 and as further elaborated in the Application for a Massachusetts Charter Public School.

The objective of the charter application review process is to award charters to applicants who show the greatest probability of creating public schools of the highest quality.

Schedule for 2021-2022 Charter School Application and Review Process Timeline (Standard)

ActionDue Date
Letter of Intent DeadlineFriday, July 30, 2021 by 12:00 noon
Initial Application DeadlineMonday, August 16, 2021 by 12:00 noon
Proven Provider Request Deadline (as applicable)Monday, August 16, 2021 by 12:00 noon
Commissioner Invites Selected Applicant Groups to Submit Final ApplicationSeptember 2021
Proven Provider Determination by Commissioner (as applicable)September 2021
Final Application DeadlineMonday, November 15, 2021 by 12:00 noon
Public HearingsDecember 2021
Final Applicant InterviewsDecember 2021
Commissioner Decision and Board Vote (if recommended)February 2022

Horace Mann II applicants are encouraged to adhere to the standard schedule but may submit an initial application at any time. Applicants for Horace Mann II charter schools that choose not to follow the standard schedule are subject to the same review process as all other Horace Mann and Commonwealth applicants with the same approximate length of time for review of the initial application and final application, a minimum of four months.


  • FY2022 Enrollment Projections by District for New Applications and Expansion Amendments
    The 2021-2022 projections do not guarantee the number of seats available for award in any district in FY2022. The actual number of seats that may be available for award 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 changes in the net school spending caps of individual districts.

Please contact Alyssa Hopkins with any questions about seat availability or the 2021-2022 charter application process.

Apply to Open a Charter Public School (Current Board of Trustees)

The Application for a Massachusetts Commonwealth and Horace Mann Public Charter School for Current Boards of Trustees is for use only by current boards of trustees applying for additional charter(s). Current boards of trustees are exempt from submitting an initial application but must still meet proven provider requirements, if applicable.

Boards of trustees must submit a complete final application for each proposed school in the network which addresses the criteria that is set forth in the charter statute, G.L. c. 71, § 89, and the charter school regulations, 603 CMR 1.04(3) and further elaborated in the Application for a Massachusetts Charter Public School for Current Boards of Trustees.

Boards of trustees that currently hold the charter(s) of school(s) that have undergone one successful renewal; are not presently under conditions or probation; and are identified as in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations are eligible to participate in the one stage cycle. Charter schools that do not meet all of these parameters may consult with the Department regarding their unique circumstances and eligibility. The final application review process for current boards of trustees is virtually identical to other categories of applicants.

Schedule for 2021-2022 Charter School Application and Review Process Timeline for Current Boards of Trustees

ActionDue Date
Letter of Intent DeadlineFriday, July 30, 2021 by 12:00 noon
Proven Provider Request Deadline (as applicable)Monday, August 16, 2021 by 12:00 noon
Proven Provider Determination by Commissioner (as applicable)September 2021
Final Application DeadlineMonday, November 15, 2021 by 12:00 noon
Public HearingsDecember 2021
Final Applicant InterviewsDecember 2021
Commissioner Decision and Board Vote (if recommended)February 2022


  • FY2022 Enrollment Projections by District for New Applications and Expansion Amendments
    The 2021-2022 projections do not guarantee the number of seats available for award in any district in FY2022. The actual number of seats that may be available for award 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 changes in the net school spending caps of individual districts.

Please contact Alyssa Hopkins with any questions about seat availability or the 2021-2022 charter application process.

Request for Qualified Reviewers to Participate in Charter Application Review Process

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) reaches out to highly qualified individuals in many different fields to join us in reviewing charter applications. Below is a brief synopsis to familiarize you with the application process as well as a volunteer form for you to complete and submit (along with a resume and/or biography) if you are interested in participating.

Why Serve on an Application Review?

Charter schools are at the cutting edge of education reform both in Massachusetts and nationally. Serving on a charter school application review is a unique opportunity to learn more about these public schools and to contribute to this important reform initiative. Your expertise will help make the charter school review process as robust and fair as possible and therefore more valuable to the schools and to the public.

Who Are We Looking For?

We seek volunteers with expertise in educational leadership, teaching, curriculum development, K–12 research, special education, English language development education, program evaluation, and non-profit governance. Administrators and teachers (from both charter and district schools), business people, educational researchers, and many others have served as excellent application reviewers in past. If you think your experience and professional expertise might be valuable in our review of charter schools, please contact us by completing and submitting the volunteer interest form below.

What Happens during the Charter Application Review Process?

The charter application review process has two phases — initial application review and final application review. During the initial application review stage, reviewers will be asked to read and comment on one initial application. Reviewers use an online survey tool to record identified evidence based on specific criteria. The Department will use the feedback from charter application reviewers to assist the Commissioner in determining which applicant groups will be invited to submit final charter applications.

Volunteers who review final applications will be asked to read and comment on one final application. Volunteers will participate in a review panel in order to discuss the evidence provided within each application based on specific criteria. The questions raised by review panel participants serve as the basis of the applicant group interviews in December. Application reviewers play an essential advisory role in the formulation of the Department's recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the charter authorizer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Opening Procedures Handbook
A Guide for Boards of Trustees and Leaders of New Charter Schools

The Opening Procedures Handbook serves as the primary tool for boards of trustees and leaders of new charter schools as they progress through the Opening Procedures process. Successful completion of the Opening Procedures process, which is based on Massachusetts charter school law and regulations, as well as the laws applying to all public schools, provides new charter schools with an opportunity to demonstrate to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the public-at-large that it is fully prepared to open and serve public school students. The Handbook offers a strategy, timeline, and resources to support boards of trustees and school leaders to accomplish this goal.

Last Updated: September 2, 2021

 
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