Friday, July 17, 2009

Colorado's Common Application and Review Rubric

Earlier this year, the Colorado League of Charter Schools, the Colorado Charter School Institute and CDE collaborated in the development of a common charter school application, checklist for completeness and review rubric. For the first time, a charter school applicant, CSI and a school district authorizer all can use the same document to fairly measure what is a good charter school application.

Over the years, very weak charter school applications have been approved and very strong applications denied. Likewise, it's gone both ways when an applicant appeals to the State Board of Education. This "common app" document allows the applicant to see precisely what should be included in each section of the application, the same information available to their potential authorizer. It can be a transparent process now.

The checklist for completeness section allows an authorizer, receiving a charter school application, to quickly evaluate whether or not the application is "complete" before sending it to their board or accountability committee for review. State law doesn't require authorizers to review incomplete applications, a standard which has been unevenly applied across the state.

The final section of each required element is the rubric for evaluating an application. This rubric-based system allows authorizers to use a uniform standard rather than relying on varying opinions. Ideally, this new resource will take the guess work out of the charter application review process and provide more information to the State Board of Education should a denied applicant bring an appeal to the board.

School district authorizers were looking for some method to determine if they were being "fair" to applicants and not doomed for failure at an appeal hearing before the State Board. Charter school leaders were looking for standardization and clarity for charter applicants.

After the "three C's" (CLCS, CSI and CDE) developed the original document, it was circulated for statewide review through CDE's weekly newsletter. The document is now final and available for use.

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