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Home / Blog / CRUNCHED: Carrie’s Crystal Ball – Charter renewals in the future

CRUNCHED: Carrie’s Crystal Ball – Charter renewals in the future

CRUNCHED!, OUSD      November, 2019     

At the first of two charter decision meetings earlier this week, the OUSD Office of Charter Schools rolled out a new tool, the School Performance Analysis framework (SPA), used to guide staff recommendation on whether the district should approve or deny a charter school’s renewal. (Check out this explainer on SPA to learn more about this new tool.) I was excited (typical) to see lots of data being used in the presentations and to see our board members earnestly digging into it in order to guide the deliberations.

On Wednesday night, Director Gonzales astutely asked, “What if AB 1505 were already in effect?” A great question that got me wondering. Among other changes to the charter law, this recent amendment (which kicks in on July 1, 2020) provides potential different renewal terms to charters of different levels of quality, using CA Dashboard data. So, I wondered, how would current charter renewals fare if they were based on the AB1505 definitions of quality?


A Quick AB 1505 Primer:

For those of you who haven’t spent your time pouring over the details of 1505, here’s a quick primer of how charter school performance, which is a key criterion for renewal, will be evaluated come July 1, 2020. (More details in these two summaries.)

A charter school’s performance will be largely evaluated using the CA State Dashboard 5×5, sorting a school’s performance on the dashboard into one of three “buckets” in order to determine its renewal status (and renewal term length). Schools with all indicators in the green or blue will be places in the “high performing schools” bucket and automatically recommended for approval of a new 5 to 7-year renewal term. On the other end, schools with all red or orange indicators would be labeled as “low performing schools” and be denied or, in certain cases, given a short 2-year term to rapidly turn around these outcomes. Finally, schools with mixed results would be sorted into the “middle performing” category and considered on a case by case basis.

Figure 1. Summary of Dashboard thresholds from AB1505 renewal criteria.

See helpful summary from Lozano Smith for more detail.


A simplified hypothetical scenario:

My crystal ball is murky since I don’t have access to student-level data, so I don’t have insight into matched student performance (which might offer a different narrative that the one based on Dashboard). Renewals under AB 1505 will take into account additional data beyond Dashboard data. I’ll be taking a simplified approach and focusing just on the Dashboard thresholds from the AB 1505 renewal criteria, summarized above in Figure 1.

(Caveat: Data from the latest 18-19 school year has not been released yet (scheduled for 12/9 release), so we are working with slightly outdated data here, but it’s what we have available publicly at the moment. This makes it all the the more important for schools and board members to dig deep into their latest round of student data to determine the value-add of their school, which might reveal different trends than what shows up on the Dashboard.)


Applying the 1505 Criteria to OUSD’s 19-20 Renewal Schools:

Running the 9 charter schools currently up for renewal through this exercise, here’s how they land:

Figure 2. Table of 19-20 renewal schools’ performance on CA Dashboard over past 2 years. * Lighthouse HS had data entry errors for graduation and college/career, so scores for indicators do not accurately reflect student performance for 17-18.

None of the charters up for renewal would be categorized as “Low Performing” with two consecutive years of all red and orange on the Dashboard, though Roses in Concrete and NOCCs both had one year of “Low”. Roses in Concrete scored “Medium” in 16-17 and “Low” in 17-18; on Wednesday night, the OUSD board denied renewal. We’ll see what they decide about NOCCS on 12/2.

Schools like COVAHS and Francophone are too small to receive a color on the dashboard for some indicators (to protect privacy of students); this is where the additional student data would be necessary. Charters falling into the medium quality bucket include Aspire Berkeley Maynard, Cox Academy, Envision, Lighthouse HS, and Oakland School for the Arts. On Wednesday night, the OUSD delayed the vote on both Lighthouse and OSA until the 12/2 meeting.


What if We Look at All Schools Citywide with this Same Criteria?

I believe that the dashboard indicator thresholds set forth by AB 1505 are solid gauges on schools’ statuses – scoring all green/blue on the Dashboard probably indicates that it’s a high functioning and higher performing school. Scoring all red/orange on the Dashboard (especially multiple years in a row) is a strong indicator that significant intervention is needed to help improve outcomes for kids, with the options ranging from closing the school and getting those children into higher performing schools or directing intense financial and coaching resources for a major transformation.

Given the reasonableness of this AB 1505 tiering as an indicator of quality for charters up for renewal, and the fact that charters requesting renewal are often judged in comparison to alternative options for families (i.e. other district and charter schools serving similar students), I was curious how schools in Oakland did citywide based on the AB 1505 framework (again, using their 16-17 and 17-18 Dashboard data). Here’s what I found:

Figure 3. Quality distribution by school based on Dashboard data (16-18) per AB 1505 criteria.


Figure 4. Table of schools in low or high performing categories. (Excludes alternative schools since Dashboard data only available one year).


Closing thoughts:

With charter renewals underway (decision-making to be continued at the OUSD Board meeting on 12/2), we’ll see how the Board will vote. This is an opportunity to shine a light on not just the handful of charter schools that are up for renewal but to zoom out citywide to see how things would look if we applied the same rubric to all public schools in our city consistently. And knowing it’s not just about the numbers, what else besides Dashboard data should be considered when deciding whether a school is high, medium, or low quality? Charters get the benefit of intense public attention every few years (outcome: improvement or closure), and I believe it would be beneficial to direct some more attention (and hopefully resources) towards students who are in district-run schools that have been struggling year after year so they can get the intervention they need for their students.

Next up – another post inspired by board members’ question! Many board members asked whether the student body in the schools being discussed reflected the diversity of the students in Oakland. I’m curious which, if any/to what extent, schools in Oakland do. Stay tuned in to the next CRUNCHED blog to find out!


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