Frequently Asked Questions about Charter Renewal
What is “renewal?”
Charter schools must apply for re-authorization of their charter every five years. In some cases, schools will be granted a short-term renewal of one to four years, which could result in a school having one or two years in between renewal applications.
When does the renewal process start?
Schools apply for renewal one year before their term is set to expire. Schools should start writing and compiling the application at least six months before the submission deadline.
What does the application process involve?
- Narrative Application: Schools must submit a narrative application that describes the school’s record of academic, organizational, legal, and financial progress over the course of its charter term. The narrative application includes supporting documents, tables, and financial projections.
- Plans for the Future Charter Term: Schools must submit updated charters for the next charter term, detailing any major changes such as expansion to new grades.
- Renewal Visit: The authorizer will visit the school for one to two days to observe classrooms and interview teachers, students, and staff.
- Board Interview: The authorizer will visit a board meeting and interview trustees.
- Response: After submitting the application, and completing all interviews, visits, the school will receive a detailed report summarizing the authorizer’s findings. The school will have an opportunity to make any corrections to this document.
- Recommendation: The authorizer will issue a recommendation for renewal.
How long does the renewal process take?
Renewal applications are usually due in summer or fall, with visits and interviews happening one to two months after the application is submitted.
What does it take to get renewed?
A school’s academic performance is the most important indicator. Authorizers will review both the school’s academic performance data on state standardized tests and on-site observations of instruction. Highly renewable schools will have evidence of sustained student achievement that meets or exceeds district, city, and state averages.
What about schools that aren’t meeting or exceeding district, city, or state averages?
Schools that do not have consistent records of strong academic performance data must show that their current systems and plans for the future will lead to academic success. For schools in this position, organizational, financial, or compliance weaknesses must be corrected to ensure a strong case for renewal.
How can a school prepare for renewal?
Plan in advance. Maintaining a renewal mindset in every year of operation can help a school meet authorizer expectations for renewal. Schools should conduct an annual renewal audit to determine areas of weakness. If these weaknesses are proactively addressed, a school can improve its renewal candidacy. Even for schools that have strong records of performance, a renewal audit is a valuable tool for driving strategic plans at a school, and is helpful for new trustees or leadership to gain a holistic view of a school’s performance.