Amidst the heated debate surrounding charter vs. traditional schools, one conclusion has been clear: charter schools may only be as good as the laws that govern them. To find out which states offer the best environment for charter school growth and development, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools issues an annual report on the best – and worst – state charter laws in the country. The results for 2010 were recently printed in the 2011 NAPCS State Charter Law Ranking Report and we have the highlights of the findings below.
What is the NAPCS?
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is considered the leading nonprofit organization committed to the success of charter schools throughout the country. The goal of this organization is to "increase the number of high-quality charter schools available to all families, particularly in disadvantaged communities that lack access to quality public schools," according to the organization's website. To achieve this purpose, the NAPCS provides information about the current state of charter schools across the country, including this report on the state of charter laws in every state.
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The NAPCS website reports that significant legislative changes were made in various states during 2010. These changes made it easier for charter schools to perform at top levels, with restrictive caps lifted and quality control provisions to boost the overall performance of charter schools in some states. These changes were reflected in the 2011 NAPCS State Charter Law Ranking Report to offer parents and educators the most updated information about the state of the charter schools in their areas. Authors of the report warn that some might be surprised at the results, with some states performing better – or worse – than originally expected.
"There were a lot of shake-ups on the list this year," Peter C. Groff, president and CEO of the NAPCS, said in a press release statement on PR Newswire. "Through Race to the Top competition, states had new incentives to take bold steps and make major improvements to their charter school laws. Some chose to do so and gained in our ranking. Those who made superficial or no changes, however, often lost ground."
The Top Ten
According to the official NAPCS report, the top ten charter law states are as follows: Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, California, Georgia, District of Columbia, Louisiana and Utah.
Florida made the biggest jump on the chart, moving from number eleven in 2010 to second place in 2011. Other states that moved up included Massachusetts, which jumped from sixth to third place, and New York, which moved from number eight to number five. Some of the states in the top ten dropped a few slots, including the District of Columbia, which moved from second place to number eight; California, which moved from the third position to sixth, and Georgia, which dropped from fourth to seventh place.
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According to Echo Press, Minnesota has grabbed the top spot on the report for the second year in a row. Eugene Piccolo, Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools told Echo Press, "Our ongoing effort has been to enhance accountability, quality, and innovation in Minnesota's charter schools and authorizers – so we are extremely pleased to see that, for the second year in a row, Minnesota's charter school law is ranked first in the nation, especially as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the enactment of Minnesota's first in the nation charter school law. The first in the nation ranking, however, does not mean that we cannot continue to improve our law. In fact, we will be introducing a number of proposals during this legislative session to continue to promote quality and accountability."
Room for Improvement
Some states still have enrollment caps in place that impede the growth and progress of charter schools, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Ohio. While these states restrict the number of students that can attend the schools, research indicates that limiting enrollment does not improve quality or student achievement in any way.
Ten states have also failed to enact charter school law at this point, including Alabama, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
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The latest analysis includes detailed information about charter laws in the 41 states that have them, as well as the rubric that contains 20 essential components used to rank state charter law for the report. The components are determined from the NAPCS' model charter school law. Color-coded maps make it easy to compare one state against another to find out exactly how your state stacks up in charter school law across the country.
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