Quality Practice Project: Leadership, Commitment, Judgment

I had the privilege of authorizing charter schools in Indiana for over a decade. Our still-young profession—nearly 30 years old—has the humbling and exciting responsibility of determining the quality of charter schools in every city and state.

How do we deliver on that responsibility? That is the single most important question authorizers spend time on. I know we did.

Our field has been well-served by the foundational practices established through the wise counsel and guidance of some of the nation’s first authorizers and trailblazers. Yet, the quality of charter school portfolios still varies tremendously from authorizer to authorizer. It’s clear the profession needs to know more, dig deeper, and perhaps most importantly, connect practices to results for students and communities.

Fortunately, we are now at a point where there are authorizers and communities with high-performing charter schools. What are the nation’s best authorizers doing differently to achieve great outcomes?

This question was at the heart of NACSA’s three-year research project to identify authorizer practices associated with high-quality school portfolios. We launched the Quality Practice Project (QPP) by examining the practices of authorizers with the strongest sets of charter schools in the country, as measured by many student and community outcomes. We then looked at the practices of authorizers with average portfolios. When we compared the two, we were able to see clear distinctions.

Here, we release the first results of this groundbreaking research. We learned a lot. Among the most important is that while successful authorizers are grounded with smart systems and tools, they are empowered to make the best decisions for children through great leadership, institutional commitment, and strong professional judgment.

I urge you to spend some time with our key findings, the practices that separate authorizers with exemplary from average portfolios, and the case studies of five great authorizers.

Of course, this work is never done. NACSA will work with authorizers and the field to incorporate these findings into their day-to-day work. In addition, since the needs of students, families, and communities continue to evolve, so will what we need to know about authorizing practices that meet those needs.

We are excited to share the results of this first-of-its-kind research project on charter school authorizing. We are confident that this work will, over time, lead to stronger results for students and communities across the country.


M. Karega Rausch, Ph.D.
VP of Research & Evaluation