The percentage of charter schools that are being closed when they are up for renewal has fallen for two straight years, afinds, though it’s unclear whether the declines are a result of improved quality or of other reasons, such as lax oversight or political pressure to keep low performers open.
In the 2010-11 school year, 6.2 percent of charters reviewed for renewal were shut down, a decrease from 8.8 percent the previous year and of 12.6 percent the year before that, according to the report, released last month by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
NACSA officials acknowledge that they don’t have clear explanations for why closure rates fell.
One possibility is that the quality of charters has risen, though the organization did not seem inclined to accept that explanation.
"[O]ur experience suggests that authorizing agencies should be closing more, rather than fewer, poor-performing schools,” Greg Richmond, NACSA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The report also notes that closure rates can be affected by the length of terms established for charters by authorizers. Charters with longer terms may have less chance of closing simply because they aren’t reviewed as intensively or as often. Another possibility is that charter authorizers are trying to shut down low performers but are meeting resistance, or at least the process is taking longer, suggests the Chicago-based group, which seeks to promote sound oversight of charters by authorizing entities.
NACSA’s report points out that the policies for authorizing such independently run public schools—and closing weak ones—vary greatly across states.
For instance, the District of Columbia’s public charter school board oversees 98 campuses and has been fairly aggressive in shutting down those that don’t meet its standards—14 over the past three years, the report says
By contrast, the Utah’s state charter school board closed only one school between the 2008-09 and 2010-11 school years—a little over 1 percent of its portfolio of 75 charter schools, according to NACSA.
A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 2012 edition of Education Week as Charter School Closings Trending Downward