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Part I Conclusion: Common Practices
The eight authorizers profiled have years of expertise, carefully honed procedures, and useful materials that can aid in empowering other authorizing offices across the country to improve their own oversight and support of high-quality charter schools. Each of these authorizers follows established policies and employs fundamental processes that foster success. They approve and oversee their charter schools with an eye toward what will best serve students and families in their communities, and they constantly strive to improve their practices.
The field of charter authorizing is relatively new, though, and there is a great deal of necessary experimentation—and resulting variation— among the offices profiled here. These authorizers have come to different conclusions regarding the specific form their recruitment, approval, oversight, and accountability efforts will take because of the unique circumstances in which they operate. Other authorizers across the country also will want to consider their context— demographic, political, financial—when developing and refining their policies and procedures. They would do well, however, to carefully consider the common themes that emerge from the experiences and comments of the authorizers profiled in this guide (summarized in fig. 14, "Checklist of Common Practices Used by Highlighted Charter School Authorizers").
Build a Strong Organization
Recruit and retain qualified staff members building a staff of dedicated individuals with the skills and experience to conduct authorizing responsibilities effectively and with an allegiance to the office philosophy.
Use external resources strategically, such as external contractors or staff in a parent organization, to supplement internal staff capacity.
Develop a Strong Talent Pool
As allowed by charter law, engage in strategic recruitment of local and national school models that show strong potential for operating successful charter schools.
Build criteria into the application process that provide an opportunity to align selection with the authorizer's organizational mission.
Select for Quality
Employ a variety of evaluation methods to assess applications' capacity, using methods such as a multistage application process, in-person meetings, and reviews by internal and external teams.
Use the application process to ensure that schools are in touch with the communities they intend to serve, such as by requiring letters of support or evidence of claimed partnerships with community organizations.
Balance the risk involved in authorizing innovative charter program by carefully evaluating the applicant's capacity to implement its plan.
Support New School Operators
Allow school operators sufficient time to develop rigorous performance goals to ensure goals are based on students' incoming performance levels.
Ensure that each school has the support it needs between the initial grant of its charter and the first day of school, and, in some cases, throughout the school's first year.
Provide Meaningful and Transparent Oversight
Streamline compliance and reporting requirements and be very clear up front about the information schools are required to collect and the form in which to submit it.
Use focused site visits to gather information that can be observed only on site.
Craft a monitoring process that is thorough but also safeguards schools' freedom to experiment with new approaches to governance, curriculum, and instruction.
Hold School Accountable for Meeting Performance Goals
Intervene early when problems arise and follow a predetermined protocol when a school falls short of organizational, fiscal, or performance expectations.
Collect sufficient evidence on both student performance (e.g., achievement test results) and school performance (e.g., financial viability) in order to build a solid case for school renewal or closure.