Fourth in a series
VP, Authorizer Learning & Development
We can hope (or imagine) that all students come to school every day on grade level, ready to learn. But the reality is, some students have been totally or partially disengaged from school, and this impacts their academic learning.
Good educators in all kinds of schools meet students where they are to support their academic growth. Some schools–often referred to as “alternative schools” or “alternative education campuses” (AECs)–are designed specifically for these learners. Evaluating the academic quality of these schools is among the biggest challenges faced by charter school authorizers.
Addressing this challenge is not a new concept for authorizers. In 2013, NACSA released Anecdotes Aren’t Enough: An Evidence-based Approach to Accountability for Alternative Charter Schools, to help authorizers think about new and different quality measures and how to better evaluate alternative schools.
Since then, many authorizers have leaned into multiple measures not only for alternative schools, but for all schools in their portfolio.
The National Charter School Institute, in partnership with Momentum Strategy &Research, first launched the A-GAME (Assess: Global access, Academics, Mission, and Equity) initiative in 2018, with support from Federal CSP funds, to identify, develop, and disseminate best practice resources focused on authorizers of AEC charter schools. A-GAME has since evolved to apply the learnings to goal setting and performance evaluation for all schools, not just AECs.
One authorizer who has worked closely with the A-GAME is the Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office, whose multiple measures work is led by John Carwell, a longtime leader in authorizing and proud member of the first NACSA Leaders Program cohort. (I was lucky to be a cohort mate of John’s in the program!) John has always been a forward thinker, and while he works in a state agency that must use the state accountability framework as a component of school evaluation, he and his colleagues began to explore multiple measures in 2018. John shared, “We wanted to differentiate between underperforming schools that can improve with additional support and those on a clear pathway to closure. We realized this work would require additional metrics to inform these high-stakes decisions, while enhancing transparency.”
In 2019, John joined the A-GAME community to learn with other authorizers, and he offered to pilot the concepts he was learning with Positive Outcomes Charter School (POCS), which John described as “doing some remarkable work with students, even though it rarely shows up well on the State’s accountability framework.” Central to the A-GAME’s approach is the creation of responsive goals that measure the entire school population. This starts with using student engagement phases –distinct levels determined based on a student’s previous engagement with school, using data such as attendance, discipline, credit attainment, grades, and social-emotional survey results, as well as risk factors such as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). In other words, this process acknowledges and meets students where they are at and sets growth and achievement goals from there.
Together, John, the POCS leadership team, and A-GAME facilitators,Dr. Jody Ernst and Naomi Rubin DeVeaux, explored what the school was using for outcomes and measures and then reframed the outcomes based on a student-centered approach, while adding dimensions to more accurately capture what the school was doing to improve student performance.
Where they landed is not simple–but it is comprehensive. POCS school leader Ed Emmett is excited about what they accomplished: “The outcome is more rigorous than what we were doing. We are looking at data we never looked at before. We have better tools to measure the growth and learning of all of our students.”
Now John and his colleagues have again teamed up with A-GAME to develop a comprehensive authorization report card to use with all the schools in their portfolio. John emphasized, “This information will supplement, not replace, the Delaware School Success Framework, to help us provide a more complete data picture.”
NACSA encourages all authorizers to lean into this work, and we will soon share a resource so that you can assess your readiness.
In the meantime, learn more about the A-GAME community and resources on their website and/or contact their team. And if you have not yet done so, renew your NACSA membership (or become a new member) to access special partnership opportunities with the A-GAME for NACSA members.