The California Charter Schools Association, which counts about three-fourths of the state’s 618 charters as members, has created a Certified Charter Schools Program recognizing schools that have achieved excellence in academic outcomes for their students and in their operations.
The association says its program is the first time a state’s charter school association has defined standards for quality and offered a seal of approval to schools that exceed it.
“It’s giving charter schools a chance to trumpet their success,” said Caprice Young, who heads the association.
It’s also giving charter schools a chance to define success in their own terms, Ms. Young said. The certification process will focus primarily on student outcomes, she said.
“We knew as a movement that if we didn’t take responsibility for defining quality, someone else was going to do it for us. And it wasn’t going to look the way we wanted it to,” she said.
The announcement of the program came after U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings visited a charter school in Los Angeles as a part of National Charter Schools Week.
The certification process includes a detailed self-study as well as a review by a third party, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which accredits public schools in California, or the Washington-based American Academy for a Liberal Education. More than 30 schools have gone through the certification process.
Pat Golding, the director of the 600-student, three-school Hickman Charter District, said the self-evaluation prompted the district to formalize some of its successful internal practices. “It’s good to have quality standards so that everyone knows what they are, and then everyone can be held accountable to them,” she said.
Rick Piercy, the president and chief executive officer of the Lewis Center for Educational Research, which runs the 964-student Academy for Academic Excellence in Apple Valley, said charter schools “have to be better, and we have to set a higher standard for ourselves, if we’re going to survive.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2007 edition of Education Week