I. Charter Day at the Capitol
Charter Day at the Capitol was held on March 6, 2019. This day was intended to reconnect legislators and authorizers to raise awareness of the charter school movement. Once authorizers and legislators reconnected, the work of MACSA over the past year was discussed. MACSA desires to be partners with legislators to assist in the charter school movement. As years progress, the goal is to expand Charter Day at the Capitol to create a larger community of support for the charter movement.
Ii. Principles & Standards Series
Charter school authorizing is a critical component of a robust public school system that increases educational opportunities for all students. When implemented well, authorizing can expand the number and variety of quality public schools through approving new charter schools that meet high standards, expanding schools that are effectively educating students, and if necessary, closing schools that do not serve students well.
Charter authorizing is complex work done by skilled and committed professionals, and like any field, it is well served by professional standards. NACSA first developed the Principles & Standards for Quality Authorizing in 2004 and has updated them often in the subsequent 15 years to address the evolution of the profession and the charter-school sector as a whole, as well as to reflect current challenges and the latest lessons drawn from practice, research, and analysis. MACSA has benefited from the work of NACSA and that of other states and organizations in the development of MACSA’s Principles & Standards of Quality Authorizing, and while this version approved in 2018 is the organization’s current best thinking, MACSA will make revisions and updates periodically to ensure the principles and standards continue to support quality authorizing and purpose of charter schools in Minnesota.
- About MACSA
The Minnesota Association of Charter School Authorizers (MACSA) officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 2017. Its purpose is to increase the quality of charter school authorizing across the state in order to advance excellence and accountability in the charter school sector, ultimately helping ensure all students have access to a variety of strong PreK-12 options.
Its mission is to increase the quality of charter school authorizing in the state of Minnesota by developing and identifying practices and policies that ensure effective oversight and evaluation of Minnesota charter schools, and its vision is that quality charter schools are an integral component of a strong education system that results in exceptional academic outcomes for all students in the state.
While MACSA’s official beginning was in 2017, its roots go back as far as 2003 when Education Evolving began working to strengthen charter school sponsors in Minnesota and created the Sponsors Assistance Network. The goals were similar to those of MACSA today including, but not limited to, improving the capacity of sponsors, improve learning opportunities for Minnesota’s children and youth, and what could arguably serve as the foundation for this document, develop a quality indicator system for sponsors and assist them to achieve these qualities in their work.
In response to Minnesota’s law change in 2009 and learning from activities in other states, the Sponsors Assistance Network changed its name to the Minnesota Association of Charter School Authorizers (MACSA) in 2012 and extended invitations to all approved authorizers and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), the Minnesota Association of Charter School (MACS), and other stakeholders to attend meetings. Over time, the authorizers decided to formally create a member organization open only to approved Minnesota authorizers, while meetings are still attended by stakeholders.
- Purpose of Principles & Standards
MACSA’s Principles and Standards for Quality Authorizing is intended to be used as a tool to increase the quality and effectiveness of charter school authorizing in Minnesota by serving as a guide to the formative development of authorizers. This is both a resource for authorizers to guide planning and the development of strong practices and for identifying areas of improvement or refinement to achieve ever-stronger outcomes, as demonstrated by the quality of schools they oversee. Further, the principles and standards are intended to augment the Minnesota Charter School Statute, MDE Regulations, each Authorizer’s Approved Authorizing Plan (AAP), and NACSA’s Principles and Standards. Their overarching purpose is to advance the primary purpose of charter schools in Minnesota, which is to improve all pupil learning and all student achievement, and the additional statutory purposes of charter schools.
- Development of Principles & Standards
Starting in the fall of 2017, the Principles and Standards Committee of MACSA, made of members of the organization and supported by facilitators from NACSA, met many times over the subsequent 12 months, to develop the document you are reading now, MACSA’s Principles and Standards for Quality Authorizing. The committee reviewed principles and standards from other states and organizations including Florida, California Charter Authorizing Professionals, and NACSA, and used these as a foundation for creating principles and standards unique to Minnesota. Throughout the process, the committee received feedback from the full MACSA membership which formally approved the principles and standards in December 2018. This work was funded through a capacity building grant provided by Minnesota Comeback.
- History of Charters & Authorizing
Minnesota is the birthplace of the charter movement with the enactment of the nation’s first charter school law in 1991. That groundbreaking statute initially gave only school districts the authority to act as sponsors and authorize “outcome-based” schools. No more than eight total schools could be authorized, and, as it is today, the sponsor’s authorization for the school was to be in the form of a written contract signed by the sponsor and the board of directors of the outcome-based school. Over time, the limit on the number of schools increased and was ultimately lifted, the name for the schools was changed from “outcome-based” to “charter,” and the types of organizations that could sponsor the schools grew to include colleges and universities and non-profit organizations in addition to school districts.
Initially, the requirements to be a sponsor were minimal and as many as 52 sponsors actively authorized charter schools as of 2009. Concerns about insufficient oversight of charter schools led the Minnesota Legislature to pass sweeping changes to the charter school law in 2009, greatly increasing accountability in the sector. The term “sponsor” changed to “authorizer,” all authorizers were required to apply to MDE for approval, and authorizers were required to outline how they would conduct school oversight and ensure schools met contractual requirements. By 2011, the number of approved authorizers had decreased to 26.
Starting in 2015 MDE implemented the Minnesota Authorizer Performance Evaluation System (MAPES) to meet its statutory requirement to review authorizers’ performance, with the objectives of ensuring authorizer accountability, promoting high-quality charter schools and authorizer excellence, and promoting national principles and standards for quality charter school authorizing.
As of September 2018, there were 14 authorizers and 163 charter schools in operation in the state serving over 56,200 K-12 students or about 6.5% of the state’s K-12 public enrollment. An additional 20 schools have been approved to open in Fall 2019 or Fall 2020.