Performance Frameworks are the accountability mechanism at the center of the charter school/authorizer relationship, and Performance Frameworks are the means by which authorizers establish performance expectations for schools that are responsive to community aspirations and needs.
NACSA first released our Core Performance Framework and guidance in 2013. Ten years later, we are releasing this new edition that reinforces core aspects of the previous guidance, while including updates that are reflective of our learnings.
Authorizers use the framework to answer the following questions:
- Is the school academically successful?
- Is the school financial healthy?
- Is the school organizationally sound?
And as we emerge from the pandemic, authorizers do this by emphasizing multiple measures and evolving definitions of school quality, student growth and the ability of schools to accelerate student learning as a critical element of school quality, and the differentiation between quality and compliance while protecting school autonomy.
Updates to the Performance Framework Guidance
As outlined in Principles & Standards for Quality Authorizing, quality authorizers evaluate their work regularly against national standards for quality authorizing and recognized effective practices and maintain an environment of ongoing and purposeful improvement. NACSA seeks to maintain that same environment of reflection, improvement, and responsiveness. As such, we spent the last 2 years speaking with leaders in the field, school leaders, partners, and other stakeholders, in reviewing and making updates to our Performance Framework Guidance. The result is not a framework that all authorizers can pull off the shelf and implement; but it is a model and guidance to be adapted by each authorizer for their unique context.
Guiding Principles for the Performance
These Performance Frameworks are grounded in all that we have learned and know from nearly three decades of practice:
- Principles & Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing, to ensure best practices in oversight;
- Leadership, Commitment, and Professional Judgment, to ensure these researched characteristics of strong authorizers are exercised; and
- Communities at the Center, to ensure schools meet their local needs, aspirations, and context.
New themes emerge in the 2023 Guidance
- Interconnectivity: performance across frameworks is interconnected: e.g., academic performance is affected by organizational performance and financial performance, and data needs to be triangulated.
- Performance is measured in different ways (quality v. compliance): the guide distinguishes between compliance standards (met or not met) and standards measured along a quality continuum. This approach allows authorizers to set an expectation for baseline compliance and for performance that demonstrates quality; and
- Analysis and Judgment: authorizers need to know when and how to use performance measures to make a decision and when to use those measures to gather more information. This “peeling back the onion” and inclusion of relevant analysis of performance in completion of the framework leads authorizers and schools to better understand what is behind the ratings in order to drive continuous improvement.
Other Highlights of the 2023 Guidance
- Academic Framework (AF) prioritizes growth and mission-specific goals.
- The AF does not include performance targets for measures. These must be developed at a local level.
- Financial Management and Oversight has moved from the Organizational (OF) to the Financial Framework (FF).
- The OF emphasizes quality v. compliance measures, and authorizers may want to differentiate how these measures are implemented across their portfolio.
- The FF stresses that financial oversight must be ongoing and is more than an annual endeavor once the authorizer receives the audit and can do calculations.
We invite you to further explore our 2023 Guide to Performance Frameworks.