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Evaluation of the Public Charter Schools Program: Year One Evaluation Report


Appendix P


The individuals whom the evaluation team interviewed for the charter school state coordinator survey were almost exclusively those identified by the federal Public Charter Schools Program as the key charter school contact in a state. They were, indeed, the most knowledgeable individuals available for the questions that we had. However, there was considerable variability among them in the degree to which they were engaged with information about the charter school movement, the charter schools in their state, the work of charter school authorizers, and the status of charter school legislation. In some cases, the individuals were brand new to their positions or in an "acting" position until a charter school person could be hired. At many state educational agencies, however, the "charter school hat" is a very small one. The human resources that a state can or will devote to charter school affairs will, in the long run, expand or circumscribe the state role in development of the charter school movement.

SEAs allocated anywhere from a very small percentage of one person?s time to six full-time staff to charter school work. In some cases, but particularly in states with larger numbers of charter schools, multiple divisions of the SEA had became involved with charter schools at various points and to various degrees. Respondents spoke of cross-discipline teams reviewing applications or dealing with various questions from planners or operators. A few states call on other state governmental agencies far afield from education to provide technical assistance and workshops on a wide array of topics, such as building codes and the state auditing procedures, for charter school planners.

Size of the charter school population in the state seems to have an impact on how many staff are allocated to support charter schools at the state level. States with larger numbers of charter schools tended to have multiple staff, and often a full program, addressing charter school issues. Only one of the states with more than 50 charter schools had fewer than two full-time-equivalent (FTE) staff (1.5). The average number of staff was over 3 FTE among these states (excluding the one state in the group with almost four staff overseeing multiple school choice-related issues, of which charter schools was only one).

The number of charter school staff in states with between 10 and 50 charter schools ranged from a small portion of each of three people?s time to a portion of six staff people?s time. The average for these states with medium-sized charter school populations, excluding those states with shared responsibilities across multiple programs (and no assigned FTE, per se) was approximately 2 FTE.

Finally, states with very small charter school populations (fewer than 10) tended to have very few staff. Of the 16 states in this category, 5 had between 1 and 2 FTE staff. However, in Virginia (which has no charter schools yet), an Office of Policy and Public Affairs employs seven staff, all of whom are supposed to be knowledgeable about charter school issues as well as a range of other educational issues. In fact, many of the states with small numbers of charters are states where the charter legislation has just recently passed. It was harder for these states to estimate an FTE because they were still determining how and in what ways they would be supporting charter schools.

States with single-agency chartering authority (either the state agency or local agencies) tended to have smaller staff at the state level working on charter schools. By and large, in states with local entities as the only type of charter school authorizer, 1.5 FTE staff or fewer worked on charter schools; in states with only the state as the charter authorizer, 1 FTE staff or fewer worked on charter schools. In three states (VA, PA, NJ), staff shared the responsibility of charter schools across multiple staff within an office that covered multiple issues besides charters (e.g., an Office of School Choice).

On the other hand, states with multiple entities permitted to charter tended to have much larger numbers of staff working on charter schools. For example, states with multiple entities chartering independent of each other had the largest average of any of the groups of states, with all having more than 1 FTE staff member working on charter schools. In these states, the range of staff assigned to charters ranged from 1.75 to 6 FTE. The number of staff in states with multiple entities chartering with interdependence ranged from fewer than 1 to 5 FTE. Three states in this category (MO, NY, MS), did not estimate a percentage of time, but maintained that multiple persons and divisions were involved at any one point. One implication of the size of a state?s charter school staff and the degree to which their jobs are dedicated to charter issues is the role that the SEAs may or may not play in holding charter schools and/or charter school authorizers accountable for maintaining their respective sides of the charter school bargain.

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