Starting a charter school is a rigorous process. Charter school development requires a team effort, diverse skills and talents, commitment, and hard work. It is imperative that school developers understand the attributes of a quality school and build a strong foundation from the beginning. CSMC is committed to the development of high-performing public charter schools and offers extensive support for teams that demonstrate the leadership capacity to provide students with an exciting and challenging school environment.
One of the effective tools that CSMC offers charter school developers is Charter Vision Academy. Charter Vision Academy is a 24/7 web-based and on-demand training program for high capacity charter school development teams. Self-guided and rooted in effective charter school petition best practices, Charter Vision Academy is the right training to help your team realize its charter school vision. To learn about Charter Vision Academy, click here.
For many charter school developers, the process of research, writing, submission, and earning an approval can take almost two years. Some areas in the charter process to which you’ll want to pay close attention include:
Forming a Team
Starting a charter school demands a wide range of support and expertise. An ideal founding team consists of at least a few committed individuals with diverse skill sets. Consider including individuals on the founding team with expertise in various areas, such as education, business/finance, fundraising, community relations, marketing, facilities, technology, governance, human resources and law.
Engage the Community
In order to best meet the needs of a community, the founding team must fully understand it. It is imperative that the school’s founding team conduct in-depth research on the student population to be served and their educational needs. Actively networking with parents, community leaders, and local legislators will ensure the school is providing an academic choice that is representative of its population.
Define the School’s Vision and Mission
Aside from a school’s name, its vision and mission is the most succinct and informative articulation of a school’s reason for existence. A vision statement should be succinct and give a clear articulation of what the school will ultimately achieve. A mission statement defines what the school intends to do, generally how it is accomplished, and for whom. Not only will the mission serve as the guideline for all current and future decisions, but it will also act as a communication tool for parents and community members. With this one statement, potential founders, board members, and staff must be able to decide if the school reflects their own educational values and seeks to achieve a like-minded vision.
It is essential for each charter school to have a detailed plan for measuring and monitoring student success. Some questions to consider are: What are the measurable goals for the performance of the organization and for students? What are the benchmarks for comparison? What research is available that supports the proposed plan to achieve these goals? What will the school’s students be able to accomplish by the time they leave the school?
Like any public school in America, charter schools receive per pupil funding from the state. Additional state or federal funding may be received based on the school’s unique student population. It’s imperative that you retain the best possible advice and support in your financial and budgeting work. CSMC can provide all the necessary training and support to help your charter school petition garner a solid approval.
Set up Methods of Accountability
Charter schools are held accountable to the same, if not stricter, standards as other public schools, including participation in state standardized assessments, annual submission of a financial report and independent audit, and oversight from a governing board. The school academic and operational plans should include methods for monitoring student progress towards academic goals and sound financial internal controls.
Find a Facility
Securing a facility that meets the needs of the proposed school that is also located in the school’s target area is one of the toughest challenges new charter schools face. The development team should begin researching costs and potential school sites as early as possible. CSMC has partnered with various school facility and commercial real estate experts to help guide charter school developers in the identification, negotiation, and acquisition of their new school site.
Develop and Submit the Charter Application
Developing a charter school is a time-intensive and demanding endeavor, and not one to be taken lightly. The charter school application and petition is much more than a business plan; it is a contract with the state. Be sure not to over- or under-sell your program in the petition and ensure that the foundation of your school is rooted in high quality charter school best practices.