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Governing for Accountability
The freedom to innovate with governance models is a signal feature of charter schools. Each has a governing board of directors that is responsible for school policy-making and oversight. Those serving on governing boards are stakeholders in the truest sense of the word, people not only attuned to the school's mission, but also highly familiar with its daily operations. Parents are board members in each of the schools visited. At Oglethorpe, because Georgia charter law requires parents to be the majority on a charter school's board, the board is made up of six parents, two teachers, and four non-voting members, including three community members and one school administrator. At other schools, community members might make up the board's majority.
Figure 9. Gates Adult Education Program
English as a Second Language (ESL)
Ingles Como Segundo Idioma
Computer Assisted Classes at
Clases asistidas de computación en la escuela
We Offer Two Classes:
Hay Dos Clases:
TESTING AND ENROLLMENT
New students should come to Laguna Hills High School or Silverado High School on any of the dates indicated to take the English assessment test and to enroll. The assessment process is on a first come, first served basis. The testing takes approximately two (2) hours.
EXAMEN E INSCRIPTICION
Nuevos estudiantes deben venir a Laguna Hills High School or Silverado Continuation School en una de las fechas indicadas para hacer el examen de ingles e inscribirse. El proceso de este examen dura dos (2) horas aproximadamente.
English Assessment Sessions
Please call Adult Education for more information (949)837-8830.
Including teachers on school boards is one of the biggest departures from traditional public schooling. In states where charter schools are exempt from collective bargaining, teachers presumably face no conflict of interest in negotiating teacher contracts and can serve on the governing board alongside parents and community members. The advantages of teacher membership on school boards include deepening teachers' ownership of the school's vision, giving them a greater stake in policy and organizational decisions, and helping to ensure that a board's solutions fit the identified problems.
Figure 10. Roxbury Prep Annual Accountability Plan (Excerpts)
Academic Program (Note: Once the MCAS is expanded to include Math and English Language Arts exams for all middle school grades (6-8), RPC may no longer use the Stanford 9 exam for external accountability purposes.)
Faithfulness to Charter
Annually, charter schools are expected to evaluate their school program, quality of teaching, and student outcome measures in light of the mission and goals defined in the charter document. All charter schools publish an annual report or a school improvement accountability plan outlining specific goals to be accomplished each year (see excerpt from Roxbury Prep's plan in figure 10). The governing board monitors a school's progress and helps to set new goals to keep it moving forward toward its mission.
Over a longer time frame, typically three to five years, a charter school must demonstrate that it is meeting the terms contracted in its charter. The authorizer, whether district, state, or another entity, is responsible for monitoring whether the school has in fact lived up to the promise of its charter. If a school fails to meet ongoing criteria for success-ranging from financial management to student performance-its charter can be denied renewal or revoked.
Yet another dimension of charter school accountability has to do with family satisfaction. Charter school practices are open. Information is shared and available. All parents and community members can see how students are doing on a regular basis. Thus a school that is not delivering is likely to lose its customers: Parents will no longer choose to send their children there. It is this openness of the charter process, the high visibility of the quality of performance, which may be the strictest accountability measure of all. As one principal put it, "The conditions of chartering, if anything, lead us to be more self-analytical and critical, holding ourselves to a higher standard than most schools."
Again, the natal twin of charter accountability is freedom to act. Success "hinges on academic achievement and other performance indicators, not on regulatory compliance or standardized procedures."7 Charter school boards do not have to convince districtwide majorities or unwilling superintendents that their approaches are right. A Roxbury Prep board member remarked that as a charter school, "We have the flexbility to turn on a dime." If board members see a need, they can follow up. Freed from the constraints of bureaucracy, when a decision is made, implementation is immediate.
The charter schools in this guide measure success in a number of ways. All have made continuous academic gains and are proud to have done so. All have attendance rates at 95 percent or more. Waiting lists to get into these successful schools provide new meaning to "winning the lottery."
In other ways, what constitutes success at a given school varies with its mission. The Community of Peace Academy in St. Paul, Minn., can point to its designation as an exemplary character education school. KIPP Academy Houston can take satisfaction in the 85 percent of its students who enroll in college. Parents at the School of Arts and Sciences in Tallahassee, Fla., find that the school succeeds in welcoming all students, however unique or whatever color they may have dyed their hair. The school profiles in the next section provide additional measures of success at each school.