New Law Changes Charter School Review Process to Emphasize the Importance of Student Academic Achievement

October 2012

Effective January 1, 2013 Senate Bill 1290 (“SB 1290”) amends Education Code sections 47605, 47605.6, and 47607, resulting in important changes to the charter school petitioning, renewal, and revocation process. 

Petitions for the Establishment of a Charter School

A petition for the establishment of a charter school must include, among other things, a reasonably comprehensive description of the identified measurable pupil outcomes to be used by the charter school.  Existing law defines “pupil outcomes” as: “the extent to which all pupils of the school demonstrate that they have attained the skills, knowledge, and attitudes specified as goals in the school’s educational program.”  Under SB 1290, charter petitions (whether to school districts or county boards of education) will now be required to describe pupil academic achievement outcomes both schoolwide and for all groups of pupils served by the charter school. 

SB 1290 revises Education Code sections 47605 and 47605.6 to specify that “all groups of pupils served by the charter school” means “a numerically significant pupil subgroup” as defined by Education Code section 52052(a)(3).  In particular, section 52052(a)(3) (also recently revised), specifies that a “ numerically significant pupil subgroup” is one that meets both of the following criteria:

             (1)  The subgroup consists of at least 50 pupils, each of whom has a valid test score; and

             (2)  The subgroup constitutes at least 15 percent of the total population of pupils at a school who have valid test scores.

If a subgroup does not constitute 15 percent of the total population of pupils at a school who have valid test scores, the subgroup may constitute a numerically significant pupil subgroup if it has at least 100 valid test scores.

For a school with an API score that is based on no fewer than 11 and no more than 99 pupils with valid test scores, numerically significant pupil subgroups shall be defined by the Superintendent, with approval by the state board.

Examples of potentially significant student subgroups include ethnic subgroups, socioeconomically disadvantaged pupils, English learners, and pupils with disabilities.  (Ed. Code § 52052(a)(2)(As revised by Assembly Bill 1668, effective 1/1/13.)

Both school districts reviewing charter petitions submitted pursuant to Education Code section 47605 and county boards of education reviewing charter petitions submitted pursuant to Education Code sections 47605.5 or 47605.6 will be required to ensure that this new measurable pupil outcome description is met.   

Renewal Process

Per Education Code section 47607, charter renewals are governed by the standards and criteria outlined in Education Code section 47605 (setting forth the requirements for an initial petition).   Under SB 1290, the revised Section 47607 now expressly requires the authorizing entity to consider increases in pupil academic achievement for all groups of pupils served by the charter school as the most important factor in determining whether to grant a charter renewal. 

In addition to the criteria in Education Code section 47605, existing law provides that, when reviewing a renewal petition, an authorizing entity must determine whether the charter school met at least one of the five academic performance criteria specified in Education Code section 47607.  Consistent with the revisions to Education Code section 47605, SB 1290 revised the first of these criteria to state as follows: “(1) Attained its Academic Performance Index (API) growth target in the prior year or in two of the last three years both schoolwide and for all groups of pupils served by the charter school.”  (Emphasis added.)

Since a charter school need only satisfy one of the five academic performance criteria under Education Code section 47607, a charter’s failure to satisfy this one criterion would not justify a non-renewal if at least one of the other academic performance criteria is met.  However, such failure may factor into the authorizing entity’s consideration of whether the charter school satisfied its obligation to increase pupil academic achievement for all pupil groups served by the charter school.   

Revocation Process

Education Code section 47607 specifies the grounds for which an authorizing entity may revoke a charter school’s charter.  Those grounds include:

          (A) Committed a material violation of any of the conditions, standards, or procedures set forth in the charter.

          (B) Failed to meet or pursue any of the pupil outcomes identified in the charter.

          (C) Failed to meet generally accepted accounting principles, or engaged in fiscal mismanagement.

          (D) Violated any provision of law.

SB 1290 makes clear that authorizing entities shall consider increases in pupil academic achievement for all groups of pupils served by the charter school as the most important factor when determining whether to revoke a charter.  This revision does not change the fact that authorizing entities may revoke a charter for other grounds, e.g. fiscal mismanagement, where student academic achievement would not be a consideration.

If you have any questions regarding any of the changes made by SB 1290 including how they may impact your school district or county office of education, please call one of our six offices.

F3 NewsFlash prepared by Melanie A. Petersen and William F. Schuetz

Melanie is a partner in the F3 San Diego office.

William is an associate in the F3 Sacramento office.

This F3 NewsFlash is a summary only and not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult with legal counsel to determine how this new law may apply to your specific facts and circumstances.  Information on a free NewsFlash subscription can be found at www.fagenfriedman.com.

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