A panel of state lawmakers delayed a new process by which charter school sponsors would be evaluated under a law passed last year. But the state department of education says it’s determined to go forward with those evaluations next month, using an old process it says will be just as tough.
Last year’s charter school crackdown required new rules for evaluating charter school sponsors – there are 67 right now. That rule had to go to a panel of lawmakers for approval, and the majority Republicans on that panel sent it back for a review by a state agency that looks over rules for their impact on business – even though that agency had already reviewed the rule. It would be months before the rule would be back before the panel of lawmakers again, which put in jeopardy the release of charter school sponsors ratings, scheduled for October 15. So state school superintendent Paolo DeMaria said the Department of Education looked over its options. "We made a choice. It turns out the rule that is already in place gives us all the tools we need to have a rigorous and fully compliant sponsor evaluation process and we decided, ok – that’s what we’re going to do,” DeMaria said.
In that rule it proposed to the panel of lawmakers, the department of education had wanted evaluations to include a review of compliance standards for all of the schools each charter school authorizer sponsors. The old rule, which will be used this year, requires only a sampling of 10% of the authorizer’s schools. But DeMaria said the rule is still tough enough to issue fair ratings, because compliance is one third of the evaluation criteria, which he said are very high. “Let’s say a sponsor has 20 schools. We’re going to look at two of those schools," DeMaria said. "But we’re going to test every part of the compliance of those two schools. But then for all the schools, for all 20 schools, we’re also going to look at their academic performance and we’re going to look at whether that sponsor is engaged in quality practices with all of them.”
DeMaria said in a memo that all sponsors’ compliance data will be publicly published along with their ratings. And he said sponsors will be penalized if they don’t fully comply with more than 300 laws – meaning their ratings will drop if they miss even a few minor regulations. DeMaria says academic performance is – quoting him – the bottom line. But neither the old rule nor the new rule weighted academic performance heavier than the other two elements – compliance and quality practices.