Outside operators receive term-limited charters or contracts to run charter or contract schools, generally for three to five years. As part of the routine management of these schools, an evaluation (called renewal) conducted in the final year of the contract or charter leads to a decision on whether to renew the contract or charter for a subsequent term.
The Charter and Operator-led Schools Advisory Board reviews the following to inform the renewal recommendations it makes to City Schools' CEO:
- Information provided by the school's operator in its renewal application
- The renewal rubric and report
- Data prepared by City Schools
- School effectiveness reviews
These materials and the advisory board's recommendation are summarized in a renewal report for each school. (Find the most recent reports linked on schools' profile pages and archived reports in the renewal report archives) After review by the CEO, renewal recommendations are presented to the Board of School Commissioners for further review. According to policy, the Board may then vote for full renewal (another five-year contract term), partial renewal (a three-year period) or not to renew the operator's contract or charter.
Criteria and measures
Maryland law and Board policy establish criteria for renewal. Contract and charter schools are evaluated on multiple measures including, but not limited to,
- Student achievement — performance on state assessments, growth measures, unique indicators, and fidelity to charter (accounting for at least 50% of the renewal score)
- School climate — attendance, suspensions, enrollment, graduation and dropout rates, student choice data, and school survey results
- Financial management and governance — annual audits, budget submission, grants management, and board documentation
- Effective management — academic programming for special student populations and compliance with laws, rules, policies, and regulations
Improving the process
The Renewal Stakeholders Working Group (including school operators from a range of school types, City Schools staff, and representatives of the Maryland Charter School Network) met regularly in 2011-12 to advise on development of a fair, transparent, and rigorous evaluation process and rubric to reflect the unique nature and contributions of schools with outside operators. Since that time, district staff confer with key stakeholders following each renewal period to identify areas in which the process could be strengthened while also maintaining a level of predictability for schools up for renewal in the following school year.