The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) has released its annual ranking of state charter school laws across the country. The report, and the NAPCS model charter school law it is based upon, is meant to be a useful tool to assist in passing laws that support the creation of more high-quality schools. Following one of the most positive years for state charter school legislation in recent memory, there were numerous changes in this edition’s rankings. Sixteen states saw their charter school law scores increase, 22 states’ overall scores remained the same, and four states fell in their overall score. Maine’s law, which passed last year, vaulted to the top of the rankings. Of the states that allow charter schools, Mississippi’s law remains at the bottom of the list.
In its third year, Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws ranks each of the country’s 42 state charter school laws. Each state receives a score on its law’s strength based on the 20 essential components from the NAPCS model law, which include measuring quality and accountability, equitable access to funding and facilities and limited caps on charter school growth.
“What’s most encouraging about the charter school movement’s legislative efforts is that they are more frequently marrying growth with quality and accountability,” said lead author of the report and NAPCS Vice President for State Advocacy and Support, Todd Ziebarth. “The long-term viability of the charter school movement is primarily dependent on the quality of the schools that open. It’s critical that state lawmakers recognize the importance of charter school quality and accountability – and the impact that their laws have on it. We are glad to see that they are increasingly doing so.”
In the 2011 rankings, the average score of all states with a charter school law was 100 (out of a maximum possible 208), and in this year’s rankings the average state score rose to 107, demonstrating that state charter laws are increasingly improving. The top 10 states with laws best positioned to support the growth of high-quality charter schools are Maine, Minnesota, Florida, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Indiana, Colorado, New York, California and Michigan.
At long last, Maine enacted a charter school law, becoming the 42nd jurisdiction to do so. Additionally, as a result of positive policy changes made over the past year, New Mexico made a big jump in the rankings, moving from 20th to fourth; Indiana went from 25th to sixth; and Rhode Island from 37th to 26th.
Conversely, Georgia fell from seventh to 14th and New Jersey dropped from 26th to 31st. Louisiana dipped in the rankings from ninth to 13th, and Idaho dropped four spots from 28th to 32nd.
The nine states that have still failed to enact a charter school law include Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.
"There were a lot of shake-ups on the list this year. Most notably, Maine's new charter law is ranked number one after passing a strong charter law that is aligned with the NAPCS' model charter law, although it is yet to be seen how the implementation or enforcement of the law plays out," says Ursula Wright, interim president and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. "While we see an increasing number of states creating favorable policy environments for high-quality charter schools, we acknowledge there is still a lot of work to be done.”
As lawmakers prepare for the upcoming legislative sessions, the rankings provide clear indications of where some states excel and others come up short in their charter school laws. The report is meant to be a tool that offers a roadmap for how governors and legislators can take action to strengthen education reform laws.
The complete analysis can be downloaded at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ website: http://www.publiccharters.org/publication/?id=658.
See detailed state-by-state summaries and color-coded maps of how states measure against each component at the http://www.publiccharters.org/law/.