CT ranked near bottom for policies on charter school accountability

Connecticut is one of the worst states for policies that hold charter schools accountable, according to a national organization that advocates for strong oversight of these publicly funded schools.

Connecticut received three out of a possible 30 points when its policies were rated against best practices identified by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the author of the report released Thursday.

“Connecticut lacks all of NACSA’s recommended policy provisions for charter school and authorizer accountability. Connecticut needs to significantly improve its charter law,” the report states.

Six states received a lower score than Connecticut, and no state that has a central approval authority has a lower score.

Source: National Association of Charter School Authorizers

Source: National Association of Charter School Authorizers

The state’s oversight of charter schools has been questioned in recent months after a series of stories in The Hartford Courant about staff qualifications at one of the largest charter school operators in the state.

Reacting to the news, the State Board of Education authorized an investigation and the leaders of the State Department of Education promised to develop policies to prevent nepotism and conflicts of interest in the management of charter schools, as well as background checks for employees.

Theresa Hopkins-Staten, the chairwoman of the State Board of Education’s Legislation and Policy Development Committee, asked agency staff at a meeting Wednesday to develop proposals for the committee to vote on.

“There are some oversight issues,” she said.

The state board last month voted to ask state lawmakers for funding to open eight new charter schools over the next two years.  Thousands of charter school advocates rallied in New Haven yesterday.

The report said Connecticut’s standards are too low because the law doesn’t provide for automatic closure if a school is academically failing and doesn’t provide those approving charter school applications with minimum standards to abide by. (Read the full report here).

The leader of the state charter school organization agrees that state laws need to be updated.

“Connecticut’s charter school law is 20 years old and is no longer state-of-the art,” Jeremiah Grace, the state director for the Northeast Charter Schools Network, said in a statement. “As Connecticut updates its law, we hope it remains firm to the essential bargain of a charter school, which is greater flexibility for the unprecedented accountability taxpayers deserve.”

Grace recommends the law be updated to require charter school board meeting agendas and minutes be posted online, the creation of performance frameworks to oversee academic results, “accountability contracts” and mandatory criminal background checks.

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