New NACSA Report Highlights Trends From 3,000 Charter Applications

By: Paul O’Neill, Senior Fellow of NCSECS

Last week, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) issued an engaging new report on its review of nearly 3,000 charter school applications submitted to authorizers in 20 states over the last several years. Called “Reinvigorating the Pipeline: Insights into Proposed and Approved Charter Schools,” the report identifies a range of significant trends, including these:

  • The “no excuses” model is becoming much less prevalent – with authorizer approval of such applications falling 40% over the last 5 years.

  • In contrast, “diverse by design” school models are surging, with authorizers approving such applications at a rate of nearly 65% nationwide.

  • Schools designed specifically to serve a special education population comprise only 2% of the charter applications NACSA reviewed; such applications were approved about 42% of the time, a rate comparable to that of more general applications.

NACSA acknowledges that this analysis is just scratching the surface of what we can learn from the data it has identified. One element it wants to drill down on is equity and access issues. That inquiry could shed important light on special education considerations, including these:

  • What sorts of information about serving students with disabilities do authorizers require of applicants?

  • What are applicants saying about how they will serve diverse learners? How much knowledge do authorizers have about this when they are deciding whether or not to approve an application?

  • Are certain approaches to special education finding favor with authorizers? Are others less likely to be approved?

Currently, this sort of information is scarce and very localized; a national study would be of tremendous value in understanding the current charter environment and fostering positive change. NCSECS looks forward to NACSA’s continuing work in this area. The full report can be found here.

A Much-Needed Resource for Charter School Authorizers

By: Paul O'Neill

There is nothing easy about public education, but there are quite a few things that raise the level of difficulty even higher. One of these is meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Another is engaging in effective oversight of charter school programs. 

A new resource from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) and the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) provides crucial, comprehensive guidance regarding the crossroads of these two challenges.

Their toolkit highlights best practices with the hopes that more authorizers will consider the needs of students with disabilities during each phase of the charter school lifecycle. For example, the toolkit offers a useful summary of applicable laws and regulations; profiles exemplary authorizers who are effectively addressing special education; and addresses important financial considerations relating to special education in charter schools.

Meeting the needs of students with a wide range of disabilities and navigating layers of federal and state compliance obligations is a complex challenge. By providing authorizers with critical information and empowering them to ensure that schools understand and meet the challenges of serving all students, we are hopeful that supports and services for students in charter schools will improve.

Access the Special Education Toolkit here!

NACSA Authorizer Voices Series: Serving Students with Unique Needs

Featuring NCSECS Executive Director, Lauren Morando Rhim, the fifth video short in NACSA's Authorizer Voices series centers on how authorizers ensure access to charter schools for students with unique needs. Authorizers first give parents quality options. They leverage school autonomy. They expect schools to reflect their neighborhoods and cities. And they partner with schools to fix problems.

See the video here.