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The Authorizers Profiled in This Guide
The sites profiled in this guide include two public school districts—Chicago Public Schools and New York City Public Schools. In 2006, each had authorized more than 20 charter schools. A very different kind of locally based authorizer also is included: the mayor of Indianapolis. As the only mayor in the country with authority to authorize charter schools, Mayor Bart Peterson had authorized 16 charter schools as of the 2006–07 school year.
Examples of successful charter authorizing offices that operate within institutions of higher education are the Ferris State University (FSU) Charter Schools office and the State University of New York (SUNY) Charter Schools Institute. The guide profiles the Minneapolis-based volunteers of America of Minnesota (VOA of MN) Charter School Sponsorship Program to provide examples of successful practices from a small authorizing office that is part of a much larger nonprofit.
To provide examples of state-level authorizers, the guide profiles practices from two states with very different charter school laws and contexts. The Massachusetts Department of Education is the sole authorizer of charter schools in its state, whereas the California Department of Education fills a discreet role in a state that has over 250 different authorizers.
The guide also includes discussion of successful practices developed by one other authorizer— the Charter Schools Office at Central Michigan University (CMU). Because Michigan state law provides each authorizer with per-pupil funding for every school the authorizer charters, CMU maintains an unusually large and well-resourced authorizing office. As a result, CMU has been able to invest in several key systems that most of the country's other authorizing offices could not afford to create from scratch. Because CMU has made this investment, many of these systems are now available for other authorizers to learn from and reproduce. For example, CMU has created an NCLB Charter Schools Leaders' Guide,2 which translates federal guidelines into an accessible and practical format. CMU provides this guide to other authorizers who request it. The office also has developed an Individualized Performance Review Assessment3 that enables authorizers to evaluate schools on a set of core competencies. Among CMU's most-requested resources is its guide to Educational Service Provider Policies,4 a framework for establishing agreements between charter school boards and charter management companies, which are for-profit and nonprofit companies that manage multiple charter schools. CMU also initiated the development of an electronic Authorizer Oversight Information System (AOIS),5 an online compliance and document management system. other authorizers, such as FSU, have adapted this system and have come to rely on the program to monitor compliance. These resources are described in greater detail in Appendix B: Resources, and other information from CMU that is pertinent to readers is referenced throughout this guide.
Researchers visited each of the profiled sites and conducted interviews in person and by phone with representatives from the offices and a selection of schools that they have authorized. The methodology also included the collection and analysis of numerous documents and extensive data related to the sites' charter authorizing.