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Charter schools are held accountable

It may not be the point of view many would expect, but I agree with Superintendent Crit Caton of Artesia: When it comes to charter schools and traditional public schools in New Mexico, there is absolutely a double standard.

Charter schools write an extensive application, called a charter, that needs to be approved by an authorizer. Every five years after that, the charter needs to be approved for its ability to meet the goals it established in its charter. Under the newest regulation, charters write annual goals into a performance contract that are reviewed for success each year by their authorizer.

In this way, while charters are given some freedom to pursue a specific mission, they are accountable to their authorizer to meet or exceed a number of annual goals.

As part of their increased accountability, charters are granted waivers from certain regulations to help these schools meet their mission. One of these waivers allows charters to create an alternate teacher evaluation system.

This option has existed for charters for many years, and those who sought waivers were able to provide evidence that their system helped them meet the goals of their charter.

Unlike traditional public schools, New Mexico’s charters must be approved by either a local district or statewide elected board after a lengthy application process. Once they are open, they must renew the charter on a regular basis and often face potential closure if they are not serving students well.

This type of accountability doesn’t exist for traditional public schools, yet charters have been under this mandate and expectation since their inception.

Some charters were using student achievement years before the state implemented the current teacher evaluation system statewide. During this time when charters led the way in teacher evaluation we didn’t call it a “double standard;” we called it accountability to the mission of the school.

The current evaluation system in traditional schools is in place in about 85 percent of charter schools. Some of our charters have exercised flexibility granted under the law; however, it is incorrect to say student achievement is less than 50 percent of our evaluations.

New Mexico’s charter schools are home to innovation in the education world.

Students do not attend charters because they live in an agreed-upon state-bounded area that says they must attend a certain school. Instead, students and parents choose to embrace these schools because they are leaders in providing services not always available in a traditional setting.

With this opportunity, charters have to provide quality work, or students will go somewhere else.

Yes, charters are granted waivers and district schools are not; for this “freedom,” charters are accountable for their school report card as well as goals specific to their missions.

It is true that there is a “double standard” when it comes to New Mexico’s charter schools; charters are given a few freedoms to innovate, but that freedom comes with increased accountability for the choices they make.

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