School Choice & Charters

What Are States Doing About Charter Schools in Their ESSA Plans?

By Sarah Tully — May 23, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

States so far are making little mention of charter schools in their federal Every Student Succeeds Act plans, instead lumping charter and traditional public schools together in accountability proposals, according to a new report.

The Education Commission of the States this month released a policy brief, called Charter School Accountability Under ESSA, that examines how states and the District of Columbia are addressing charter schools in their plans to the U.S. Department of Education on the new federal law.

Jennifer Thomsen, the author and director of the commission’s Knowledge and Research Center, examined 22 plans—17 have been submitted and five were drafts—for the report. Read about the 17 ESSA plans in Education Week’s Politics K-12 blog.

Of those, five plans specifically address charter schools, she said. In some cases, states are planning to continue what they were already doing under the previous law, No Child Left Behind.

“What we’re really seeing in most of the accountability sections is that district and charter schools are being treated exactly the same,” Thomsen said.

One unique idea is in Maryland‘s draft ESSA plan from December.

The state would provide training to charter schools and authorizers about using weighted lotteries—a way to give certain student groups, such as low-income children, a better chance of gaining spots in charter schools. My colleague, Arianna Prothero, wrote about the issue of weighted lotteries last year.

Maryland expects to submit its final plan in late summer, said William Reinhard, a spokesman for the state’s education department said in an email.

If the weighted lottery idea stays, Maryland could be the first state to assist charter schools and authorizers in implementing such practices. Currently, state laws vary on using weighted lotteries, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the practice is usually left up to individual schools that want to diversify their populations.

“To have a state put this clearly out as an option for schools ... is really huge,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank that has studied this issue. “I think that would be really exciting if this goes through in the Maryland plan ... so more charter schools know this is an option.”

Here are some other mentions of charter schools in ESSA plans:

  • Tennessee would replicate high-quality charter school models, decrease the number of low-performing charters, and work on closing the achievement gap among students.

  • The District of Columbia would award $1.5 million in grant money for recruiting and training high quality teachers for charters.

  • New Mexico‘s plans for “persistently failing schools” are similar to those under NCLB guidelines. After three years of a school failing to meet its goals, the school could close and restart under a charter school operator or students could choose to transfer to another school, such as a charter.

When Thomsen started the study last fall, she said she didn’t anticipate that so few states would directly address charter schools in their plans, even after increased talk about charter schools since President Donald Trump’s election.

“There’s not that much in the state plans, in spite of the fact that it’s been talked about so much,” Thomsen said about the national discussion. “ESSA does defer to state law on a lot of charter school accountability issues, so that’s really a decision that the states can make.”

Want to know the latest on ESSA? Check out Education Week’s ESSA page.

Contact Sarah Tully at

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty