Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Charter School Support Initiative

Today the Charter School Support Initiative team members met for their annual professional development day. Every year team members meet to debrief on the previous year's visits and talk about new topics in the world of education that are relevant to the visits.

The Charter School Support Initaitive (CSSI) is an external evaluation by a team of about 5-6 charter school leaders that ultimately issue a report that documents the findings. The visit is based on the 9 standards of school reform in use by the Colorado Title I process and two additional standards created for the unique aspect of charter schools, which are the governance and finance standards. All schools receiving federal Charter School Program funds are expected to undergo a CSSI site visit in the final year of receiving the grant.

CSSI team members are some of the best charter school administrators, teachers, governing board members and business managers in the state. The criteria for being asked to be on the CSSI team is having already demonstrated success.

Today team members learned about the School Performance Framework that's now in use for state accountability and is tied to state Accreditation. The SPF replaces the School Accountability Report. Schools are placed in one of four categories based on data on the four Accreditation Indicators: Acaademic Achievement, Academic Growth, Academic Growth Gaps and Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness. Depending on the Accreditation category, schools must write a plan. Schools in either Turnaround or Priority Improvement must write a plan this year using the Unified Planning Template. This year the other schools are not required to use the Unified Plan Template, but next year all public schools are required to use the Unified Plan.

The CSSI team members also discussed classroom observations and how to assess a classroom in a common way. This particular topic is discussed annually in order to ensure continuity amongst team members.

Currently about a dozen charter schools are scheduled for a CSSI visit this year. Others will be added as charter schools are identified in the Turnaround Accreditation category. Several of the grant programs available to assist schools in Turnaround require an external evaluation process in order to ascertain the current condition of the school.

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