TITLE 23: EDUCATION AND CULTURAL RESOURCES
SUBTITLE A: EDUCATION
CHAPTER I: STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
SUBCHAPTER o: MISCELLANEOUS
PART 650 CHARTER SCHOOLS
SECTION 650.APPENDIX A PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS FOR AUTHORIZING CHARTER SCHOOLS



 

Section 650.APPENDIX A   Principles and Standards for Authorizing Charter Schools

 

The following principles and standards for charter school authorizers align to Article 27A of the School Code and are based on the "Principles and Standards of Quality Charter School Authorizing" (2012), published by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), 105 West Adams Street, Suite 3500, Chicago IL 60603-6253 and posted at http://www.qualitycharters.org/publications-resources/principles-standards.html.  No later amendments to or editions of these standards are incorporated. A small number of standards are identified as "advanced" (recommended); all others are considered "essential" (required).

 

PRINCIPLES

 

A high-quality authorizer engages in responsible oversight of charter schools by ensuring that schools have both the autonomy to which they are entitled and the public accountability for which they are responsible.  The following three principles lie at the heart of the authorizing endeavor, and authorizers should be guided by and fulfill these principles in all aspects of their work.

 

Principle 1:      Maintain High Standards

 

Sets high standards for approving charter applicants.

 

Maintains high standards for the schools it oversees.

 

Effectively cultivates high-quality charter schools that meet identified educational needs.

 

Oversees charter schools that meet over time the performance standards and targets on a range of measures and metrics set forth in the charter contracts.

 

Principle 2:      Uphold School Autonomy

 

Honors and preserves core autonomies crucial to school success, including:

 

Governing board independent from the authorizer;

 

Personnel;

 

School vision and culture;

 

Instructional programming, design and use of time; and

 

Budgeting.

 

Minimizes administrative and compliance burdens on schools.

 

Focuses on holding schools accountable for outcomes rather than processes, while at all times strictly enforcing all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements for charter schools.

 

Principle 3:      Protect Student and Public Interests

 

Makes the well-being and interests of students the fundamental value informing all the authorizer's actions and decisions.

 

Holds schools accountable for fulfilling fundamental public education obligations to all students, which includes providing:

 

Nonselective, nondiscriminatory access to all eligible students;

 

Fair treatment in admissions and disciplinary actions for all students; and

 

Appropriate services for all students, including those with disabilities and who are English learners, in accordance with applicable laws.

 

Holds schools accountable for fulfilling fundamental obligations to the public, which includes providing:

 

Sound governance, management and stewardship of public funds;

 

Public information and operational transparency in accordance with applicable State and federal laws; and

 

Compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

 

Ensures in its own work:

 

Ethical conduct;

 

Focus on the mission of chartering high-quality schools;

 

Clarity, consistency and public transparency in authorizing policies, practices and decisions;

 

Effective and efficient public stewardship; and

 

Compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

 

STANDARDS

 

Standard 1:     Agency Commitment and Capacity

 

A high-quality authorizer engages in chartering as a means to foster excellent schools that meet identified needs; clearly prioritizes a commitment to excellence in education and in authorizing practices; and creates organizational structures and commits human and financial resources necessary to conduct its authorizing duties effectively and efficiently.

 

1.1       Standards for Planning and Commitment to Excellence

 

Supports and advances the purposes of Article 27A of the School Code.

 

Ensures that the authorizer's governing board, leadership and staff understand and are committed to the principles articulated in this Appendix A.

 

Defines external relationships and lines of authority to protect the authorizing functions from conflicts of interest and political influence.

 

Implements policies, processes and practices that streamline and organize its work toward State goals, and executes its duties efficiently while minimizing administrative burdens on schools.

 

Evaluates its work regularly against national standards for high-quality authorizing and recognized effective practices and develops and implements timely plans for improvement if these standards and practices are not achieved.

 

States a clear mission for high-quality authorizing (advanced).

 

Articulates and implements an intentional strategic vision and plan for chartering, including clear priorities, goals and timeframes for achievement (advanced).

 

Evaluates its work regularly against its chartering mission and strategic plan goals, and implements plans for improvement when the mission and strategic plan goals are not achieved (advanced).

 

Conforms to reporting requirements about its progress and performance in meeting its strategic plan goals, as required by Section 27A-12 of the School Code and Section 650.55 of this Part.

 

1.2       Standards for Human Resources

 

Enlists expertise and competent leadership for all areas essential to charter school oversight, including, but not limited to, educational leadership; curriculum, instruction and assessment; special education; English learners and other diverse learning needs; performance management and accountability; law; finance; facilities; and nonprofit governance and management through the use of staff, contractual relationships, and/or intra- or inter-agency collaborations.

 

Employs competent personnel at a staffing level that is appropriate and sufficient, commensurate with the size of the charter school portfolio, to carry out all authorizing responsibilities in accordance with the principles and standards set forth in this Appendix A.

 

Provides for regular professional development for the authorizer's leadership and staff to achieve and maintain high standards of professional authorizing practice and to enable continual improvement.

 

1.3       Standards for Financial Resources

 

Determines the financial needs of the authorizing office and devotes sufficient financial resources to fulfill its authorizing responsibilities in accordance with the principles and standards set forth in this Appendix A and commensurate with the scale of the charter school portfolio.

 

Tracks operating costs and expenses associated with the performance of the powers and duties enumerated in Section 27A-7.10(a) of the School Code and any additional duties set forth in the terms of each charter contract.

 

When making decisions pertaining to approving or renewing a charter school, considers whether the terms of the charter, as proposed, are economically sound for both the charter school and the school district.  (See Section 27A-7(a) of the School Code.)

 

Provides funding to all charter schools in compliance with the requirements of Article 27A of the School Code and submits to the State Board of Education information about the budget and financial schedule as may be required.

 

Structures funding in such a way as to avoid conflicts of interest, inducements, incentives or disincentives that might compromise its judgment in charter approval and accountability decision-making.

 

Deploys funds effectively and efficiently and maintains the public's interests when doing so.

 

Standard 2:     Application Process and Decision-Making

A high-quality authorizer implements a comprehensive application process that includes clear application questions and guidance; follows fair, transparent procedures and rigorous criteria; and grants charters only to applicants who demonstrate a strong capacity to establish and operate a high-quality charter school.

 

2.1       Standards for Proposal Information, Questions and Guidance

 

Maintains a charter application information packet or, if actively soliciting proposals, issues a request for proposals (RFP) that:

 

States any chartering priorities the authorizer may have established;

 

Articulates comprehensive application questions to elicit the information needed for a rigorous evaluation of the applicant's plans and capacities; and

 

Provides clear guidance and requirements for the content and format of the application and the evaluation criteria that will be used when considering the application.

 

Welcomes proposals from first-time charter applicants, as well as existing school operators or replicators, and appropriately distinguishes between the two types of developers in proposal requirements and evaluation criteria.

 

To the extent it is determined to be economically sound for the district and the charter school, encourages expansion and replication of charter schools that demonstrate success and capacity for growth.

 

Is open to considering diverse educational philosophies and approaches, and expresses a commitment to serve students with diverse needs. 

 

To the extent it is determined to be economically sound for the district and the charter school, broadly invites and solicits charter applications, while publicizing the authorizer's strategic vision and chartering priorities without restricting or refusing to review applications that propose to fulfill other goals (advanced).

 

2.2       Standards for Fair, Transparent, Quality-Focused Procedures

 

Implements a charter application process that is open, well-publicized and transparent, and is organized around timelines that are clear, realistic and compliant with the timelines for review of charter proposals set forth in Section 27A-8 of the School Code.

 

Allows sufficient time in the application process so that each stage of the application review and school pre-opening processes are carried out with integrity and attention to high quality.

 

Explains how each stage of the application process is conducted and evaluated.

 

Informs applicants of their rights and responsibilities and promptly notifies applicants in writing of approval or denial, while explaining the factors that determined the decision.

 

In compliance with Sections 27A-8(f) and 27A-9(e) of the School Code and Section 650.30 of this Part (Submission to the State Board of Education), submits all required documentation pertaining to charter school approvals to the State Board of Education, and all required documentation pertaining to denials, revocations or non-renewals to the State Board of Education and the Commission.

 

2.3       Standards for Rigorous Approval Criteria

 

Requires all applicants to submit a charter school proposal that is complete and fully addresses all required elements under Section 27A-7(a) of the School Code, including, but not limited to, a clear and compelling mission; a high-quality educational program; a solid business plan; a transportation plan to meet the needs of low-income and at-risk students; effective governance and management structures and systems; founding team members who demonstrate diverse and necessary capabilities; and clear evidence of the applicant's capacity to execute its plan successfully.

 

Establishes distinct requirements and criteria for applicants that are existing school operators and those that are replicators.

 

Establishes distinct requirements and criteria for applicants proposing to contract with education service or management providers.

 

To the extent that these schools are permitted under Article 27A of the School Code, establishes distinct requirements for applicants proposing to operate schools devoted exclusively to students from low-performing or overcrowded schools.

 

To the extent that these schools are permitted under Article 27A of the School Code, establishes distinct requirements for applicants proposing to operate schools devoted exclusively to re-enrolled high school dropouts and/or students 16 or 15 years old who are at risk of dropping out.

 

To the extent that these schools are permitted under Article 27A of the School Code, establishes distinct requirements and criteria for applicants proposing to operate virtual or online charter schools.

 

2.4       Standards for Rigorous Decision-Making

 

Grants charters only to applicants that have demonstrated competence and capacity to succeed in all aspects of the school, consistent with the stated approval criteria.

 

Rigorously evaluates each application through the use of knowledgeable and competent evaluators who employ some combination of a thorough review of the written proposal, a substantive in-person interview with the applicant group, the public meeting required under Section 27A-8(c) of the School Code for gathering more information to assist in determining whether to grant or deny the charter school proposal, and other due diligence to examine the applicant's experience and capacity.

 

Engages, for both written application reviews and any applicant interviews, highly competent teams of internal and external evaluators with relevant educational, organizational (governance and management), financial and legal expertise, as well as thorough understanding of the provisions of Article 27A of the School Code and the essential principles of charter school autonomy and accountability.

 

Provides orientation or training to application evaluators (including interviewers) to ensure the use of consistent evaluation standards and practices, observance of essential protocols and fair treatment of applicants.

 

Ensures that the application review process and decision-making are free of conflicts of interest, and requires full disclosure of any potential or perceived conflicts of interest between reviewers or decision-makers and applicants.

 

Standard 3:     Performance Contracting

 

A high-quality authorizer executes contracts with charter schools that articulate the rights and responsibilities of each party regarding school autonomy, funding, administration and oversight, outcomes, measures for evaluating success or failure, performance consequences and other material terms.  The contract is an essential document, separate from the charter application, that establishes the legally binding agreement and terms under which the school will operate and be held accountable.

 

3.1       Standards for Contract Term, Negotiation and Execution

 

Executes a contract with a legally incorporated governing board of a nonprofit corporation or other discrete, legal, nonprofit entity authorized under the laws of the State of Illinois that is completely independent of the authorizer.

 

Executes all charter agreements within 120 days after the charter's approval and at least 30 days before the start of school, whichever date comes first.  

 

Ensures that all charter school agreements have been certified by the State Board of Education in accordance with Section 650.40 prior to the date on which the charter school opens or begins its renewal term.

 

Defines material terms of the contract.

 

Ensures mutual understanding and acceptance of the contract by the school's governing board prior to authorization or charter granting by the authorizing board.

 

Allows, and requires contract amendments for, occasional material changes to the school's plan, but does not require amending the contract for non-material modifications.

 

3.2       Standards for Rights and Responsibilities

 

Executes charter school contracts that clearly:

 

State the rights and responsibilities of the school and the authorizer;

 

State and respect the autonomies to which charter schools are entitled, based on statute, waiver or authorizer policy, including those relating to the school's authority over educational programming, staffing, budgeting and scheduling;

 

Define performance standards, criteria and conditions for renewal, intervention, revocation and non-renewal, while establishing the consequences for meeting or not meeting standards or conditions;

 

State the statutory, regulatory and procedural terms and conditions for the school's operation, including a clearly defined list of all health and safety requirements applicable to all public schools under the laws of the State of Illinois;

 

State reasonable pre-opening requirements or conditions for new schools to ensure that they meet all health, safety and other legal requirements prior to opening and are prepared to open smoothly;

 

State the responsibility and commitment of the school to adhere to essential public education obligations, including admitting and serving all eligible students so long as space is available, and not expelling or counseling out students except pursuant to a discipline policy approved by the authorizer; and

 

State the responsibilities of the school and the authorizer in the event of school closures.

 

Ensures that any fee-based services that the authorizer provides are set forth in a services agreement that respects charter school autonomy and treats the charter school equitably compared to district schools, if applicable; and ensures that purchasing these services is explicitly not a condition of charter approval, continuation or renewal.

 

3.3       Standards for Charter Performance Standards

 

Executes charter contracts that plainly:

 

Establish the performance standards under which schools will be evaluated, using objective and verifiable measures of student achievement as the primary measure of school quality;

 

Include expectations for appropriate access, education, support services and outcomes for students with disabilities;

 

Define clear, measurable and attainable academic, financial and organizational performance standards and targets that the school must meet as a condition of renewal, including but not limited to required State and federal measures;

 

Make increases in student academic achievement for all groups of students described in section 6311(b)(2)(C)(v) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (20 USC 6301 et seq.) the most important factor to be considered for charter renewal or revocation decision-making;

 

Define the sources of academic data that will form the evidence base for ongoing and renewal evaluation, including State-mandated and other standardized assessments, student academic growth measures, internal assessments, qualitative reviews and performance comparisons with other comparable public schools in the district and State;

 

Define the sources of financial data that will form the evidence base for ongoing and renewal evaluation, grounded in professional standards for sound financial operations and sustainability;

 

Define the sources of organizational data that will form the evidence base for ongoing and renewal evaluation, focusing on fulfillment of legal obligations, fiduciary duties and sound public stewardship; and

 

Include clear, measurable performance standards to judge the effectiveness of alternative schools, if applicable, requiring and appropriately weighting rigorous mission-specific performance measures and metrics that credibly demonstrate each school's success in fulfilling its mission and serving its special population.

 

3.4       Standards for Education Service or Management Contracts (if applicable)

 

For any school that contracts with an external (third-party) provider for education design and operation or management, includes additional contractual provisions that ensure rigorous, independent contract oversight by the charter school governing board and the school's financial independence from the external provider.  In determining whether a charter school is independent of the external provider, the authorizer shall consider the criteria listed in Q & A (B-13) of the U.S. Department of Education, Charter Schools Program, Title V, Part B of the ESEA, Nonregulatory Guidance (Published April 2011) and posted at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/charter/nonregulatory-guidance.doc. 

 

Reviews the proposed third-party contract as a condition of charter approval to ensure that it is consistent with applicable laws, authorizer policy and the public interest.

 

Standard 4:     Ongoing Oversight and Evaluation

 

A high-quality authorizer conducts contract oversight that competently evaluates performance and monitors compliance; ensures schools' legally entitled autonomy; protects student rights; informs intervention, revocation and renewal decisions; and provides regular public reports on school performance.

 

4.1       Standards for Performance Evaluation and Compliance Monitoring

 

Implements a comprehensive performance accountability and compliance monitoring system that is defined by the charter contract and provides the information necessary to make rigorous and standards-based renewal, revocation and intervention decisions.

 

Defines and communicates to schools the process, methods and timing of gathering and reporting school performance and compliance data.

 

Implements an accountability system that effectively streamlines local, State and federal performance expectations and compliance requirements, while protecting schools' legally entitled autonomy and minimizing schools' administrative and reporting burdens.

 

Provides clear technical guidance to schools, as needed, to ensure timely compliance with applicable regulations.

 

Visits each school as appropriate and necessary for collecting data that cannot be obtained otherwise and in accordance with the contract, while ensuring that the frequency, purposes and methods of these visits respect school autonomy and avoid operational interference.

 

Evaluates each school annually on its performance and progress toward meeting the standards and targets stated in the charter contract, including essential compliance requirements, and clearly communicates evaluation results to the school's governing body and leadership.

 

In accordance with Section 27A-5(f) of the School Code, requires and reviews annual financial audits of schools conducted by a qualified independent auditor.

 

Communicates regularly with schools as needed, including both the school leaders and governing boards, and provides timely notice of contract violations or performance deficiencies.

 

Provides an annual written report to each school, summarizing its performance and compliance to date and identifying areas of strength and areas needing improvement.

 

Articulates and enforces stated consequences for failing to meet performance expectations or compliance requirements.

 

4.2       Standards for Respecting School Autonomy

 

Respects the school's authority over its day-to-day operations.

 

Collects information from the school in a manner that minimizes administrative burdens on the school, while ensuring that performance and compliance information is sufficiently detailed and timely to protect student and public interests.

 

Periodically reviews compliance requirements and evaluates the potential to increase school autonomy based on flexibility in the law, streamlining requirements, demonstrated school performance or other considerations.

 

Refrains from directing or participating in the educational decisions or choices that are appropriately within a school's purview under Article 27A of the School Code or the contract.

 

4.3       Standards for Protecting Student Rights

 

In accordance with Section 27A-4(d) and (h) of the School Code, ensures that schools admit students through a random selection that is open to all students who reside within the geographic boundaries of the areas served by the local school board, is publicly verifiable, and does not establish undue barriers to application (such as mandatory information meetings, mandated volunteer service or parent contracts) that exclude students based on socioeconomic, family or language background; prior academic performance; special education status; or parental involvement.

 

Ensures that schools provide access and services to students with disabilities, as required by applicable State and federal laws, including compliance with individualized education programs and section 504 plans, access to facilities and educational opportunities.

 

Ensures clarity in the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in serving students with disabilities.

 

Ensures that schools provide access to and appropriately serve other special populations of students, including English learners, homeless students and gifted students, as required by State and federal law.

 

Ensures that schools' student discipline policies and actions comply with applicable State and federal laws regarding discipline, are fair and ensure that no student is expelled or counseled out of a school outside of the process set forth in those policies.

 

4.4       Standards for Intervention

 

Establishes, and makes available to schools as they are chartered, an intervention policy that states the general conditions that may trigger intervention and the types of actions and consequences that may ensue.

 

Gives schools clear, adequate, evidence-based and timely notice of contract violations or performance deficiencies. 

 

Allows schools reasonable time and opportunity for remediation in non-emergency situations.

 

When intervention is needed, engages in intervention strategies that clearly preserve school autonomy and responsibility (identifying what the school must remedy without prescribing solutions).

 

4.5       Standards for Public Reporting

 

Produces regular public reports that provide clear, accurate performance data for the charter schools overseen by the authorizer, reporting on individual school and overall portfolio performance according to the framework set forth in the charter contract.  (Also see Section 650.55.)   

 

Standard 5:     Revocation and Renewal Decision-Making

 

A high-quality authorizer designs and implements a transparent and rigorous process that uses comprehensive academic, financial and operational performance data to make merit-based renewal decisions and revokes charters when necessary to protect student and public interests.

 

5.1       Standards for Revocation

 

Adheres to all notice and corrective action requirements for revocation of a charter school, as set forth in Section 27A-9 of the School Code.

 

5.2       Standards for Renewal Decisions Based on Merit and Inclusive Evidence

 

Bases the renewal process and renewal decisions on thorough analyses of a comprehensive body of objective evidence defined by the performance framework in the charter contract.

 

Grants renewal only to schools that have achieved the standards and targets stated in the charter contract, are organizationally and fiscally viable, and have been faithful to the terms of the contract and applicable law.

 

Does not make renewal decisions, including granting probationary or short-term renewals, on the basis of political or community pressure or solely on promises of future improvement.

 

5.3       Standards for Cumulative Report and Renewal Application

 

Provides to each school, in advance of the renewal decision, a cumulative performance report that:

 

Summarizes the school's performance record over the charter term; and

 

States the authorizer's summative findings concerning the school's performance and its prospects for renewal.

 

Requires any school seeking renewal to apply through the use of a renewal application, which should provide the school with a meaningful opportunity and reasonable time to respond to the cumulative performance report, to correct the record, if needed, and to present additional evidence regarding its performance.

 

5.4       Standards for Fair, Transparent Process

 

Clearly communicates to schools the criteria for charter revocation, renewal and non-renewal decisions that are consistent with the charter contract and Article 27A of the School Code.

 

Promptly notifies each school of its renewal (or, if applicable, revocation) decision, including a written explanation of the reasons for the decision.

 

Promptly communicates renewal or revocation decisions to the school community and public within a timeframe that allows parents and students to exercise choices for the coming school year.

 

Explains in writing any available rights of legal or administrative appeal through which a school may challenge the authorizer's decision.

 

In compliance with Sections 27A-8(f) and 27A-9(e) of the School Code and Section 650.30 of this Part, submits all required documentation pertaining to charter school renewals to the State Board of Education, and all required documentation pertaining to revocations or non-renewals to the State Board of Education and the Commission.

 

Regularly updates and publishes the process for renewal decision-making, including guidance regarding required content and format for renewal applications.

 

5.5       Standards for Closure

 

In the event of a school closure, oversees and works with the school's governing board and leadership in carrying out a detailed closure protocol that complies with Section 650.70 and all applicable State laws.

 

(Source:  Added at 38 Ill. Reg. 21916, effective November 3, 2014)