What is a Charter School? (NASCA)
It is a tuition-free public school created on the basis of a contract or "charter" between an authorizer and operator who wants to establish a school. A charter school has more freedom than a traditional school in return for a commitment to meet higher standards of accountability.
What is Accountability? (NWREL)
The basic charter school concept is encompassed in the idea of "autonomy for accountability". Charter Schools are public schools that are granted a specific amount of autonomy, determined by state law and the specific charter, to make decisions concerning the organizational structure, curriculum, and educational emphasis of the school. Charter schools are granted waivers from certain regulations (including district policies and processes) that typically bind public schools.
In return for this additional autonomy, charter schools are held accountable for:
- Meeting or exceeding state and district academic achievement targets
- Success in meeting contract performance goals
- Responsibility in the use of public funds
- Compliance of all applicable laws and regulations not waived for charter schools
According to Maryland's Charter School Law, the county boards of education as the sole authorizers for charter schools are required to develop a charter school policy that defines guidelines and procedures for the followings:
- Evaluation of public charter schools
- Revocation of a charter
- Reporting requirements; and
- Financial, programmatic or compliance audits of public charter schools.
How is Accountability Ensured?
An authorizer can ensure a high level of accountability by implementing processes and practices designed to produce better results. Some of these processes include:
- The use of clearly defined performance contracts
- The development of a charter school accountability plan
- Effective oversight and monitoring
- Timely and appropriate interventions
- A performance based renewal process