Accountability Update from Myrna Castrejón, senior vice president, Achievement and Performance Management

November 21, 2011

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Myrna Castrejón is CCSA's senior vice president, Achievement and Performance Management. In this piece, she shares an update on the Association's academic accountability efforts.

Our efforts to continue to lead toward more tangible, actionable and fairer measures against which to measure the performance of the nearly 1,000 California charter schools in operation are well into the second year of implementation.

Academic Accountability Report Cards went live via a Web interface on Oct. 17, and are available for all schools in operation. Since we began this effort in 2008, we have engaged with hundreds of individual members in pilot testing our report cards, refining our measures, and in deep consultation with nearly two dozen of the top research minds in the nation who are at the cutting edge of educational measurement and research.

The caliber and thoroughness of our work has been recognized nationally; we recently accepted the National Association of Charter School Authorizers' 2011 Award for Excellence in Advancing Knowledge for our Portrait of the Movement research report and accountability framework. The award validates our commitment to accountability and performance management across the state, and our efforts to make as available as possible the right information at the right time, in the most accessible formats, so our charter leaders and their stakeholders can make appropriate adjustments and continue on their path toward academic success for all students. In addition to the framework, we spent last spring in deep data collection and site visitation to our most challenged schools, to ensure our measures and metrics were thoughtfully applied when cross checked with qualitative inputs as well.

It is unusual, yes, to have a membership and professional organization take the extraordinary step to develop the criteria and the framework for minimum performance standards, work typically carried out by authorizers or state agencies. It is unusual to have done so as transparently and doggedly as we have. Unusual, but necessary; controversial, but urgent. It is urgent work because if there is a prevailing theme I've heard across the state, is the sense of isolation many of our charters feel, the sense that they are alone in dealing with the tremendous challenges that their students present - the gifts and challenges they bring through their doors seeking better alternatives than the traditional public school system. A critical role for CCSA to play in this space is to bridge that isolation, to not just "hold up the mirror" so schools can see themselves clearly against the distribution of performance, but to make explicit who else is working through the same challenges, facing the same struggles, and doing so with greater success, so they can learn from each other. Until Portrait of the Movement was published, it was widely believed that even if we had challenges of performance, we still did better than traditional schools, especially when comparing similar populations. And while that holds true when we're working only with averages, the enormously good news is that on an individual school basis we have so many more schools that are vastly outperforming traditional schools, but the bad news is that we also have a small but significant cluster of schools that are badly underperforming. We'll explore how this year's distribution plays out in the next Portrait of the Movement, scheduled for publication in February 2012.

As I noted, our Accountability Report cards are out; based on this year's results, only 32 of the nearly 1,000 schools active today are below CCSA criteria. Of those, 12 are in renewal this year. Pending data corrections or additional data submissions at the individual student level, the number of schools at risk for non-renewal is only 1% of the total charter portfolio. We are in the midst of that period of data corrections and potentially examining additional individual student data that a school may submit for us to consider. That period is closing fast, on December 12, so we urge you to review your card as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Access your report here, and follow the link to the Report Cards. As always, thank you for your continued engagement and great ideas!