The guidance on renewals below is offered to authorizers as well as the 49 schools that will be seeking renewal during the 2020-21 school year. Please reach out to the League with any follow-up questions or for further support.
Prioritize the charter-authorizer relationship and initiate and maintain open and consistent communications regarding accountability.
Charters reach out proactively to determine options authorizers are considering.
Authorizers consider re-envisioning accountability practices in light of the COVID-19 environment.
Authorizers provide structured opportunities to seek and include charter voice when considering renewal options and finalizing practices.
Authorizers consider what routine EoY accountability information and communications have been derailed because of the pandemic and ensure that there is a plan in place to maintain consistency in communications with schools.
Work to identify and carefully consider the root causes for potential discussions of closure.
Is a school facing closure because of current fiscal realities and can’t possibly continue?
Is a school struggling currently with unexpectedly having to implement an entirely new educational model?
Without standardized data, what valid, reliable data will you use to evaluate this school’s yearly performance and growth?
Given the current circumstances, unknowns, and uncertainties, consider removing closure from the list of immediately possible outcomes.
Consider a school’s long-term progress within the context of the current environment and differentiate accordingly in response to renewal data gathering and decisions.
Ultimately, it is recommended that the school and authorizer work together on a plan that will best support the school’s successful sustainability while respecting any accountability concerns of the authorizer.
In considering decision-making practices not just for renewals but for all tough decisions faced — especially during this historic time — it is recommended that schools and authorizers alike reference established decision-making frameworks as needed; one timely example is Bellwether Education’s COVID-19 Strategic Planning Toolkit for Education & Nonprofit Leaders.
Consider extending renewal decisions from December 2020 to February 2021 to allow additional time to gather a more comprehensive body of evidence across multiple academic semesters and fiscal quarters.
Consider an addendum to a school’s contract that cites a continuation of the original agreement for one year and alters the pertinent dates accordingly rather than engaging in a full-scale contract re-negotiation.
Consider how the successes and challenges of distance learning plans will be quantified. Although schools may be choosing to hold students “harmless” during this time by providing effort grades, pass/fail grades, or giving weighted credit for work completed before the pandemic, collecting data is still important for several reasons:
It is important to know how students are doing during this time to help schools improve distance learning programs, especially if any components need to continue into the 2020-21 school year.
It is wise to be prepared for accountability measures that may be enacted when the pandemic is over. Attempt to quantify student participation and attendance as accurately and validly/reliably as possible.
In lieu of 2020 state testing, schools being able to articulate the outcomes and challenges of this school year will be important during renewal processes, not just for this upcoming year, but for several years to come.
Expand the body of evidence as needed (especially to make up for the absence of standardized, summative data), but do not confuse valid and reliable assessments of academic performance and growth with an expanded body of evidence designed to help acknowledge or recognize academic progress.
Consider other methods of acknowledging academic performance in the absence of annual standardized growth and performance.
Identify (and account in detail where possible) the measures that were taken to ensure that students’ and families’ needs would be met.
In examining school progress based on an expanded body of evidence, consider a “hold harmless” approach that recognizes the positive merits of a school during a difficult and ambiguous time of operation.