Renewal in the Absence of State Assessments

A Conversation Among Authorizers

The COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced an infinite number of challenges for educators and agencies who are striving to provide uninterrupted and equitable high-quality learning to students. For charter school authorizers, prolonged school closures and the resulting abandonment of state assessments have drastically impacted processes for charter school renewal decision-making. So how must authorizes pivot? And what are the key considerations for doing so?

To provide a forum for authorizers to share ideas about this challenge, SchoolWorks hosted a closed virtual session for active authorizers on April 29, 2020. Over 40 authorizers from 16 states took part, representing school districts, state education agencies, independent charter boards, and higher education institutions with a wide array of portfolio sizes. To remove barriers for participation, SchoolWorks hosted this session with the protection of anonymity, but is pleased to share these key discussion points with the community at large.

Overcoming Compromised Academic Performance Data

Facing the realities of compromised academic performance data, participating authorizers acknowledged that the renewal process will likely be impacted in both SY20-21 and SY221-22, at minimum. With that duration in mind, authorizers expressed that they are currently investigating ways to broaden the collection of evidence used to inform renewal. Some authorizers reported investigating the use of alternative performance data, such as school-collected student academic data. Others considered the collection of supplemental qualitative evidence via an altered renewal site visit process. Options discussed included 1) altered site visit formats using virtual interviews/focus groups and 2) the potential use of third-party partners to supplement compromised internal capacity down the line. While participants agreed that classroom visits historically provide key insights into understanding the quality of a school’s academic program, few were exploring how to conduct virtual observations within remote learning environments. Overarchingly, authorizers agreed that the collection of supplementary or alternative evidence cannot deviate from the heart of performance contracts, and that consistency and transparency must be applied to any moderated processes.

In Consideration of Differentiation

Speaking of consistency, where might differentiation thoughtfully be applied? Some participants suggested that “high and moderate flyers,” or schools with an establish record of satisfactory performance, could be renewed in the absence of SY19-20 state assessment data, adding that the risk of these renewals is lower for veteran schools with a longer track record of achievement data. Low-performing schools in renewal, by contrast, could be subjected to more targeted evidence collection. Or, as one participant suggested, a short-term renewal could be offered to a low-performing school with conditions requiring demonstrated learning gains via assessments.

Looking Ahead

Recognizing that current evidence collection processes are severely compromised in these times, some authorizers expressed an interest in evolving established processes to reduce risk. Instead of supplementing regular, remote evidence collection with scheduled site visits for qualitative evidence collection, one authorizer shared an interest in updating processes to support the collection of as much data as possible throughout the charter term and including remote qualitative evidence collection methods.

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

We are so grateful for our community of thought partners. If you are interested in future dialogues, please reach out to SchoolWorks to suggest a topic of interest, or volunteer to be a panelist within one of our upcoming webinar events. You may contact our team anytime at info@schoolworks.org. To stay up-to-date on our events, or access past conversations, please visit our events page.


Stay healthy, and let’s keep talking!

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SchoolWorks and COVID-19

Our thoughts are with all educators as they work to support students and their families during this challenging time. If your school, district, or network is tasked with developing a plan for delivering a distance learning option that may include online learning, SchoolWorks is offering a free rubric to help your team design and implement a sustainable and equitable solution.