Maximize your Renewal Site Visit Process:

Key Considerations for Charter School Authorizers.

Why Consider Renewal Site Visits?
Renewal Site Visits provide charter school authorizers with an opportunity to collect the most current qualitative evidence regarding school programs and operations in order to supplement quantitative data used for renewal. By conducting a renewal visit, authorizers can gain a more clear and complete picture of a school’s performance, both in a qualitative and quantitative sense.

If your authorizing office is considering adding renewal site visits to its renewal decision-making process, here are some ways to maximize their effectiveness.

Develop a Renewal Site Visit Protocol
In order to promote positive relationships with schools and generate consistent results, renewal site visits should be well-planned, evaluative processes with clearly identified objectives and outcomes. Defining, documenting, and publishing your process within a Renewal Site Visit Protocol can ensure consistency, clarity, transparency, and fidelity to your renewal expectations and/or performance framework.

A quality renewal site visit protocol fully articulates the steps taken during the process, the roles and responsibilities of the school and the site visit team, a schedule, and the criteria and indicators that inform the site visit. Key structural components of site visits that are defined by the protocol should include:

  • The length of the visit time. Depending on the amount of evidence collected, site visits typically take place over one to two days, and are sometimes longer, if needed.

  • The number of review team members. Review teams typically include two to four people, depending on the size of the school.

  • Evidence collection activities. Some typical methods of evidence collection include document review, interviews and focus groups, and classroom observations.

Communication is Key
The protocol should also outline a process for communication with schools about site visits. In general, schools should receive advance notice as well as an orientation around what to expect during the site visit and an agenda that frames out the visit. School leaders should be asked to relay those details and expectations to their teachers and staff so that everyone in the building is aware.

Define a Standardized Deliverable
As a best practice, site visits should culminate in a tangible deliverable like a summary or report that includes the findings based on the assessed criteria and indicators, as well as strengths and weaknesses, which will provide transparency to the school and other stakeholders. Establishing a report template can ensure that documented evidence is consistent across reports and over time.

Train Team Members
Team members who will serve as reviewers should be trained and normed in the protocol and evidence collection methods/tools via a formal process (such as a webinar or meeting) prior to engaging in site visits. Collective training and norming will positively impact the consistency and validity of the resulting evidence.

Outsourcing is an Option
If you are interested in the idea of site visits but do not feel like your office currently has the capacity to conduct them, you may consider contracting an external evaluator to conduct visits and write the resulting reports. This option also provides an objective, third-party perspective which may alleviate the pressures of public scrutiny in high-stakes renewal circumstances. SchoolWorks has partnered with hundreds of school districts and charter school authorizers to conduct school quality reviews at traditional district and charter schools.

Next Steps

  • If you currently conduct renewal site visits, think about what information you’re collecting during them, how it’s collected, and what you’re doing with that information. Make sure that everything you’re collecting has a purpose and that there is a deliverable at the end of the process that summarizes the findings.

  • If you don’t currently conduct renewal site visits, consider what useful information you could collect through a site visit that would help strengthen your renewal decision-making process.

  • Finally, if you would like to explore ways to get started, improve your current process, and/or outsource site visit facilitation, reach out to SchoolWorks.

Find Out More. If you’d like to learn more about SchoolWorks’ supports for authorizers or discuss your own needs, reach out to us at info@schoolworks.org. As always, we’re here to help.

Remember, great schools are held to great expectations!

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