Finding a Balance: How Application and Authorization Policies Impact School Supply

June 2008

This working paper describes how high-quality authorizers have changed their application procedures and standards and examine the effect that these changes have had on the quality and quantity of new charter school applicants. After initially setting their standards too low, authorizers have learned to use the application process to know prospective suppliers better and clarify their expectations for performance. New screening policies have improved authorizers ability to identify high-quality candidates. However, some fear that excessively stringent requirements may create unnecessary barriers to qualified candidates and/or discourage non-traditional school providers. Furthermore, even the most rigorous process will not be able to screen out all risk.

Authorizers who wish simultaneously to maintain high standards and encourage innovation may wish to streamline their application processes, focus more on the contract as a means to codify high expectations, and engage in technical assistance and/or recruitment as a means to preserve a diverse pool of charter schools.