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Changes proposed to Missouri charter school standards

(Missourinet) The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is revising standards by which charter school sponsors are judged. During a recent Missouri Board of Education meeting, Chris Neale with the department says operating on an almost direct basis with charter schools and sponsors is probably no longer the best practice.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that since sponsors of charter schools have that contractual relationship with their schools, our best efforts need to be put into strengthening those sponsors to ensuring that they are then strengthening the schools,” he says.

Neale says the changes would reduce the number of standards and be more clearly defined. He also says they would emphasize the sponsor’s role in the management of governance, financials, operations, academic expectations, and contract consequences of its charter schools.

“I think what we’ll see is a much more effective approach to sponsor practice and to our evaluation of sponsors against effective practice,” he says.

For the past several months, the department has been revising sponsor standards in collaboration with the National Association of Charter Authorizers (NACA). It has also gathered feedback from sponsors. The Missouri Charter Public School Commission has funded the project.

Bill Mendelsohn, the executive director of Charter Schools at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, says for years, university sponsors have advocated for standards revisions that incorporate best practices.

“We fully support DESE’s efforts to revise the standards and the process by which DESE evaluates sponsors. We deeply appreciate that NACA and DESE have involved us in the process and we support the incorporation of best practice for sponsors in the new standards, knowing that our offices have already incorporated many of them into our own policies and operations,” says Mendelsohn.

He says during the past five years, eight charter schools have been closed in Kansas City and St. Louis. He indicates that some of those schools outperformed the public schools in St. Louis and Kansas City that are comparable in demographics and grade levels.

Charter schools are allowed in Kansas City, St. Louis an any unaccredited public school districts in Missouri. Charter schools in Missouri are required to have a sponsor to operate. Sponsors are given 1.5% of state aid to help cover their operational costs for their charter school responsibilities.

For the changes to occur, the Missouri Board of Education must approve them.

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