On This Measure of Charter School Laws, Colorado Ranks 4th… Not Bad

Keep those education policy grades a-rollin’ in! Not even two weeks since I shared with you that the Center for Education Reform placed Colorado 10th nationally for the strength of its charter school law, here comes another rating. The ever-growing National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has released its fourth annual ranking of state charter laws.

So what’s different? (Commence Wonk Speak) NAPCS incorporates more factors into its rating system, including an added focus on issues of ensuring quality control. In addition to measuring access to multiple authorizers, levels of school-based autonomy, and equitable funding, NAPCS also gives credence to transparent approval processes, performance-based contracting, and clear guidance regarding student enrollment and recruitment procedures. (End Wonk Speak)

The formula helps Colorado to rank 4th overall, earning 70 percent of the possible points. Remarkably, while the competition is growing from other states improving their policies, Colorado still managed to pick up significant points and gain three spots since last year:

“Colorado moved up in the rankings because the state improved its quality control policies,” said Todd Ziebarth, vice president, state advocacy and support, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and lead author of the report.

However, the charter advocacy group also believes Colorado has more work to do – even though its charter law has been around for two decades.

Ziebarth said potential areas for improvement include clarifying student recruitment, enrollment and lottery procedures and enacting statutory guidelines to govern the expansion of high-quality charter schools through such changes as multi-school charter contracts.

NAPCS also is a great reference tool, sharing information on charter management and governance, year-by-year growth, and even student demographics (which are very similar to their traditional public school counterparts in Colorado).

Interestingly, a new CREDO study strongly suggests that charter schools with a strong focus on quality from the start tend to grow and replicate effectively. As long as charters can balance the emphasis on autonomy, choice, and freedom with great results, the future is bright for the students and families they serve.