An initial charter is granted for a period not to exceed five years during which the school must demonstrate progress toward stated goals. The renewal process begins, in actuality, with the initiation of the charter. Rather than a snapshot view, the renewal process is based on the evaluation of continuous school improvement efforts. The summative evaluation is initiated two years prior to the terminal date of an existing contract so that the decision to extend or not to extend a charter is made in time to allow for the possibility of school closure and the requisite parental notice accompanying such action.
The evaluation and renewal process includes the following:
- On-site inspection/verification by the Office of Charter School staff
- Independent review by the Charter School Evaluation Committee (Committee)
- Approval of the Chancellor
- Approval of the University Of Wisconsin System Board Of Regents. Each entity has a defined role Evaluation Entity (PDF) in the process
Evaluation Committee Responsibilities
The Committee is charged with the responsibility of objectively reviewing information provided by the charter school and the Office in order to recommend to the Chancellor and the Board of Regents action in regard to the school’s charter. Members of the Committee are to carry out their work with integrity, act with the best interests of students and staff, and base judgments on evidence. Appendix Q sets forth the Code of Conduct (PDF) for charter school evaluators.
Evaluation Documentation Required
Evaluators will examine multiple information sources from each of the three previous years. Major sources of information are as follows:
- Contract Compliance Records – The Office of Charter Schools will maintain an on-going record of each school’s compliance with the requirements of the contract.
- Strategic Plans – Each organization in cooperation with faculty and staff will create and maintain a strategic plan that clearly states the mission, vision, and strategic goals of the school.
- Annual School Accountability Plans – Annually each school will determine a set of improvement goals emanating from its strategic plan and based on analysis of appropriate data.
- Annual School Accountability Progress Reports – Annually each school will report on the results of improvement efforts.
- Charter Renewal Application – Upon the initiation of the summative evaluation process the school will: inform the Office of the School’s intent to renew it charter, provide additional information to support the renewal application, and present a case for why the school’s charter should be renewed.
Evaluation Committee Activities
The Work of the Committee (Charter Evaluation Process (PDF)) begins with a review of pertinent documents relating to the operation of the school. These include: the Charter Contract, Contract, Contract Compliance Record, Annual School Accountability Reports for the previous three years, assessment information compiled by the Office of Charter Schools, and the Renewal Application (PDF) presented by the charter school.
Based on the records review, the Committee determines the structure of the site visit (Sample Site Visit Schedule (PDF)) and the questions to be asked of members of the school community. The primary purposes of the site visit are to gain a first hand knowledge of the school and to augment information contained in the reviewed documents. During the site visit, committee members discuss the school and its operation with board members, administrators, staff members, parents, and, where appropriate, students. Committee members tour the school facility and visit a variety of classrooms and instructional activities.
Following the site visit, the Committee, guided by the Charter Renewal Benchmarks (PDF) develops the Summative Evaluation Report (PDF) documenting the strengths and weaknesses of the school related to the key measures described above and makes recommendations for improvement. Renewing the charter for a period of less than four or five years places the school on probation and should be accompanied with specific requirements for future renewal of the charter.
Charter Renewal Benchmarks
The Renewal Benchmarks (PDF) serve two functions:
- They provide a framework around which to gather evidence regarding the school’s progress
- They provide the school with a guide to what the Evaluation Committee is looking for
By giving details to a school, a school has a better sense of what is expected when it comes to renewal. Therefore, as the Renewal Benchmarks (or some sub-set of them) are used during the evaluation visits, no school should be surprised by their content.
The Evaluation Committee uses the Renewal Benchmarks as follows:
- The Evaluation Committee does not have a point system for determining whether a school will be renewed. In other words, a school cannot simply tally up the number of benchmarks it meets to determine whether it will be renewed. The use of a tally does not work because some benchmarks count more than others. In particular, the Evaluation Committee gives the greatest weight to the level of student achievement, and in particular the level of growth exhibited by the students and to how well the school has met its academic Accountability Plan measures.
- The Evaluation Committee does not use every benchmark during every kind of renewal review. How the benchmarks are used differs depending on a school’s circumstances. Some benchmarks are given far less weight when a school that has been renewed one or more times previously.
- With the exception of the student academic success and Accountability Plan Goals, no school should fear that a failure to meet every benchmark means that the school is not in a position to make a case for renewal. While there are high expectations for all schools, it is understood that all school’s will not reach the highest level on all benchmarks.