CSI Strategic Plan August 2013

 
CSI Strategic Plan August 2013
The mission of the Charter
                        School Institute shall be to
                        foster high-quality public
                        school choices offered
                        through Institute charter
                        schools that deliver
                        rigorous academic content
                        and high academic
                        performance in a safe
                        environment and on par
                        with the highest performing
                        schools, including

CSI Strategic Plan      particularly schools for at-
                        risk students.

          August 2013
CSI Strategic Plan August 2013
TABLE OF CONTENTS

CSI 2013 Strategic Plan – Executive Summary ……………………………………………………………..……….. 1

CSI 2011 Strategic Plan: Progress to date……..……………………………………………………………..……….. 2

CSI 2011 Strategic Plan: Remaining work……..…………………………………………………………..………….. 5

CSI 2013 Strategic Plan ………………………………..…………………………………………………………..……..….. 6

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CSI Strategic Plan August 2013
CSI Strategic Plan 2013: Executive Summary

The Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI) has a vision of being a “national leader as a highly effective charter school authorizer by building a
portfolio of high performing public charter schools through authorizing practices that promote a variety of successful and innovative educational
designs, including an emphasis on schools that serve at-risk youth”. This vision is supported by the mission to foster high-quality public school
choices offered through CSI Portfolio schools that deliver rigorous academic content and high academic performance in a safe environment and
on par with the highest performing schools, including particularly schools for at-risk students. The 2011 CSI Strategic Plan provided the
foundation for the required transformation to begin to achieve this ambitious vision and improve education as it exists in Colorado today. CSI
has both the opportunity and responsibility to expand quality charter schools across the state, and CSI is ever-mindful of the high hopes and
expectations invested by the legislature in establishing its existence. The CSI Strategic Plan 2013 describes the goals and strategies required for
this organization to achieve its vision. The Plan is summarized here and described in depth in the following pages.

Rooted in the CSI Board’s “Core Values,” two goals drive all actions at CSI in the immediate future. Under each are listed the primary strategies
that will lead to the successful attainment of the goals.

Goal #1 – Improved outcomes for all CSI portfolio schools.

       Strategy #1 – Complete the development of the CSI annual review of schools (CARS).
       Strategy #2 – Provide constructive and real time monitoring of school progress towards annually agreed upon academic, financial, and
                     operation targets.
       Strategy #3 – Develop and implement a long term sustainability plan and supplemental processes for CARS.

Goal #2 – Increased high quality charter school options for students and families in Colorado.

       Strategy #1 – Improve the CSI Call for Applications
       Strategy #2 – Expand Partnerships
       Strategy #3 – Facilitate Transfers Schools
       Strategy #4 – Increase Expansions and Replications

The strategies and actions aligned under each goal are informed by CSI’s unique role as an independent charter school authorizer and reflect a
strong adherence to and believe in the principles of charter autonomy and strong accountability. It is in this way that CSI believes an authorizer
can best serve the mission of increased student outcomes for all students in schools that reflect a diverse array of educational choices.
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CSI Strategic Plan August 2013
CSI 2011 Strategic Plan: Progress to Date

CSI has made significant progress toward the attainment of the five strategic objectives articulated in the 2011 strategic plan. On April 16,
2013, the CSI board met to assess, discuss and confirm this progress. The staff and board reviewed each action item covered in the pages
below. Discussion was structured to ensure that there was shared understanding of the status of each action item, its implication for the
larger work of CSI, and informal consensus affirming the status of each item. Evidence was presented by staff to inform the review process
and ensure that the discussion was grounded. The following pages provide a high level summary of each objective and its action items.
Overall highlights include:

    The CSI board of directors operates in accordance with governance best practice and conducts its business with increased efficiency
     and focus on outcomes.

    CSI’s authorization practices have been dramatically improved and operate in alignment with state and national best practice.
     Decisions are driven largely by student outcomes. Processes are documented and communicated with consistency and transparency
     to portfolio schools. Board discussion and decisions are based on risk assessment and a focus on providing the best quality educational
     options for students in Colorado, with particular attention to at risk students.

    CSI has implemented a robust annual school evaluation system that incorporates national best practice and local expertise and
     tailoring. Annual feedback in the areas of academics, finances, and operations is provided to schools with in-depth assistance in the
     area of performance data evaluation.

    CSI’s finances are stable with a second year of projected reserves. Finances are monitored by staff and board in accordance with
     financial controls. School financial practices have improved tremendously with significant improvement of most schools’ financial
     practices and position.

The Board discussion on the strategic plan objectives concluded with the direction to staff to proceed with implementation of most remaining
items and to eliminate the pursuit of a limited number of action items based on relevancy. These items are summarized below on the “recap”
page.
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CSI Strategic Plan August 2013
Overview of 2011 Strategic Plan Objectives

The strategic plan identified 5 primary objectives around which the work to transform CSI would be oriented. The following graphic provides a
concise overview of the 5 objectives and their intended impact on performance management.

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CSI Strategic Plan August 2013
Status of Action Items per Objective as of April 2013

As the following pages indicate, each Strategic Plan objective contains multiple action items. The primary action items are summarized here
along with a status indicator to present progress to date as of April 2013. The symbols in the status column indicate the completeness of each
action item: Green check indicates the item is complete or ongoing successfully; Yellow triangle indicates the item is not complete and more
work is required; red “X” indicates that substantial work has not started.

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CSI 2011 Strategic Plan: Remaining Work

Based on the discussions at the April 16, 2013, board meeting, CSI has determined that work will continue on six primary action items. The
original work plan detailed in the 2011 strategic plan for each area will continue to drive the improvements and will be adjusted as needed
during implementation. The CSI board will receive periodic updates on work in these areas and receive a formal update at the April 2014 Board
Annual Retreat. The following summarizes at a high level the remaining work on the 2011 strategic plan.

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CSI 2013 Strategic Plan

Building on the fundamental improvements accomplished at the direction of the 2011 Strategic Plan and in response to its statutory mission, CSI has
established a strategic direction for the next phase in its evolution. Two primary goals will drive this phase of work for CSI:

       1. Improved outcomes for all CSI portfolio schools.
       2. Increased high quality charter school options for students and families in Colorado.

High level plans for the pursuit of these goals are described below. It is important to note that these plans are informed by and rooted in the CSI
Board’s “Core Values” (as approved at the June 2012 Board of Directors meeting). The Core Values are listed immediately below. These value
statements serve as guiding principles for board and staff. Further, they inform board decision making and shape the development of staff actions
and recommendations.

                                                                 CSI Board of Directors’ Core Values
              1.   CSI will be proactive in supporting new, high quality expansions and replications, which have promise of delivering quality education to
                   increased numbers of students in Colorado.

              2.   CSI will actively seek out new, high quality choice options, particularly for at-risk students, through a “request for proposals” process,
                   providing resource referrals to promising applicants, and partnering with organizations that support new charter schools.

              3.   CSI believes one of its key responsibilities is to identify resources that may be used by CSI schools to improve student outcomes.

              4.   CSI believes that all of its schools have the responsibility to demonstrate that they are adding value to their students’ education as a
                   condition for continued operation.

              5.   CSI will use a range of incentives and provide more autonomy for higher performing schools.

              6.   CSI believes that for schools with a history of accurate and timely compliance, reporting burdens should be minimized.

              7.   CSI will consider family, school, and community input in decision making.

Improved outcomes for all CSI portfolio schools

CSI actively monitors student performance at both the school and CSI aggregate level. As the summary graphics below indicate, there are some
areas of promising performance and many areas of concern. Overall, CSI’s aggregate performance indicates downward performance trends over
the past 3 years. CSI’s total percentage of points earned on the CDE’s District Performance Framework (the aggregation of all CSI schools’ School
Performance Framework reports) has declined from 56% in 2010 to 51.4% in 2012. Using 3 years of data, CSI’s current overall rating would be
Improvement (just slightly above the cutoff for Priority Improvement in fact) while using 1 year of data, that rating would be Priority Improvement.
CSI has been rated at the Priority Improvement level for the previous three years due to financial non-compliance at CSI and at a majority of its
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schools.
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CSI is in a particularly challenging situation with regard the CDE 5 year accreditation clock, which imposes severe sanctions for any district (or CSI)
which reaches five consecutive years on Priority Improvement or Turnaround status. These sanctions for CSI include replacement of the CSI board
of directors, replacement of CSI staff, or school closure(s) at the direction of the State Board of Education. Heightened attention to student
outcomes is imperative, and CSI will attempt to infuse awareness of the portfolio’s aggregate performance (and its implications) into all “high
stakes” authorization decisions.

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As an independent charter school authorizer, CSI’s most important and effective lever to address the root causes of performance challenges (and
thus effectively respond to the accreditation clock imperative at the school and aggregate CSI levels) in its schools is the monitoring and
provision of feedback based on a comprehensive and broad performance evaluation system. Unlike a traditional school district, CSI’s singular
focus is on ensuring its schools have sufficient and appropriate outcomes-based feedback annually to assist them in driving their unique, school-
driven improvements. An independent charter authorizer’s core functions do not include the development and promulgation of academic and
instructional strategies. Rather, an independent charter authorizer by design focuses on providing comprehensive progress monitoring and
feedback and then taking appropriate action based on each school’s progress over time (renewal, nonrenewal, revocation, etc.).

CSI has been devoted to developing a variety of evaluation tools (known as the CSI Annual Review of Schools, or CARS) as a means for providing
schools with in-depth analysis and explanation of performance outcomes throughout their charter term. These range from detailed annual
performance reports to user-friendly calculators that forecast accreditation ratings and produce recommended targets at the district, school and
individual classroom level. For example, CSI conducts annual statistical analyses on multiple years of data, as well as seasonal analyses of interim
data when available. For schools with limited resources, this should help prioritize the allocation of attention and resources through their
improvement planning process.

Based on experience with preliminary versions of CARS, feedback from CSI schools and evidence nationally, CSI believes that the CARS system
and its tools/training constitute a real value add for all schools (particularly those with smaller staff and resources). While CARS is aligned with
an authorizer approach to school management, CSI believes that CARS can and should be seen as a real and robust support approach for schools
while not compromising the terms of the charter autonomy/accountability principle. School leaders and school boards can and will benefit from
the depth of the CARS system and from the information it will provide that will inform their decision making. The training elements of CARS will
ensure that the system is well understood by both leaders and boards. Evidence statewide with many charter schools suggests that school
leaders and school boards often don’t have access to outcomes information in this format and don’t have access to training to understand how
to use it on a fundamental level. CSI aims to improve that situation with the CARS system for CSI schools.

Thus, CSI’s primary strategic action aimed at stimulating improved academic outcomes will be the implementation of the CARS system. The
CARS system is well on its way to being an effective tool that CSI will use to drive increased student achievement in all of its schools. The CSI
board of directors is fully supportive of the CARS system and has adopted the Performance Frameworks (Academic, Finance, and Operations)
and CARS system overall into CSI policy. The CARS system’s development was supported by the National Association of Charter School
Authorizers (NACSA) and represents best practice from the national, as well as local, perspective. CSI was one of 10 districts nationally to receive
the support of NACSA in the development of this system.

To achieve a sustainable and effective use of the CARS system, several improvement strategies (aligned with the CSI Unified Improvement Plan)
have been identified for implementation in the 2013-14 school year. The CDE awarded CSI a $150,000 grant to support the pursuit of these
strategies and has expressed strong support for this approach to improving outcomes as an independent charter school authorizer.
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Major Improvement Strategy #1 - Complete the development of the CSI annual review of schools (CARS). This will include:
              external expert review and validation of the primary technical and analytical elements of CARS, completion of two additional
              important evaluation modules (Alternative Education Campuses and Online schools), partnership development with the CDE
              Accountability team, and final feedback collection from CSI school leaders.

              Major Improvement Strategy #2 - Provide constructive and real time monitoring of school progress towards annually agreed
              upon academic, financial, and operation targets. This will include web enabling of the full suite of CARS tools which will make
              them more accessible to school leaders and school boards and increase their efficiency.

              Major Improvement Strategy #3 - Develop and implement a long term sustainability plan and supplemental processes for CARS.
              This will include: development of ongoing and sustainable professional development and training for CSI school leaders and CSI
              school board members and creation and augmentation of CSI staffing and procedures to support the use of CARS long term.

In addition to the development and ongoing execution of the CARS system, CSI will provide augmented and supplemental governance training
and finance training to all school leaders and school boards. Thus, CSI’s three pronged approach to driving increased quality in its school
outcomes can be represented by the following graphic:

The CSI Virtual Resource Center will be the primary driver for the provision of resources (beyond those provided under the CSI district services)
for all CSI schools. As envisioned in the CSI 2011 Strategic Plan, the center concept covers a range of approaches. First, it includes the greater
provision of compliance and submission information and guidance in an online format. This currently includes a compliance and submission
calendar, department oriented guidance and training information (guidebooks and stored webinars), grant process information, 10      and| Ppolicy
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/procedure guidance from the state and federal government. Second, it calls for the provision of access to performance management data tools.
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The CARS implementation plan will include the placement of the calculator tool online as a part of the CSI website/resource center. Third, it calls for
the creation of a school leader interface (chat, etc.) where CSI school leaders can overcome the barriers of geographic isolation and share best
practices, consult on specific challenges and build an electronic professional community. Fourth, the center should house third party resources and
information related to instructional best practices, leadership, operational management, facilities, and performance data management. Lastly, the
center will provide referral listings for external providers in all areas of school operation.

In conclusion, it is critical to point out that a key element of the overall CSI approach to driving quality in its portfolio of schools will be robust,
transparent and effective board decision-making, staff interventions, and process/application procedures. As the following graphics illustrates,
board and staff actions and procedure expectations will be largely driven by school performance categories. In effect, the position of the school on
the CDE/CARS rating system will largely determine the range of board actions, staff actions and authorization procedures for these schools. For
example, under this framework, schools with higher levels of performance will generally receive longer renewal terms while schools in the lower
levels will face shorter renewal terms, or possible nonrenewal, and face greater staff interventions and expectations on an annual basis. The goal of
this approach is to use appropriate and effective authorizer tools/practices to incent higher performance. CSI board and staff will (and have)
promulgate this information to ensure full transparency, predictability and understanding of this approach within its portfolio of schools. Each of
the annual staff interventions will be executed in accordance with the CSI ladder of compliance.

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Increased high quality charter school options for students and families in Colorado

In accordance with its mission, CSI seeks to foster high quality public school choices throughout Colorado in response to the needs of families
and students. In reviewing statewide achievement data, it is clear that many students are not reaching adequate levels of achievement or
growth. Further, based on student performance evidence comparing charter and traditional school performance (specifically the recent Charter
School report released by the Department of Education and additional analyses conducted by CSI staff), CSI believes that charter schools can
provide high quality options if authorized and supported well. CSI is ready to authorize new or existing charter schools throughout Colorado in
response to need and in coordination with high quality school operators. CSI’s growth strategy should be driven solely by student need.

To increase high quality, innovative charter school choices in Colorado in response to that need, CSI will pursue four strategies in the near term
future:
        1. Improve the CSI Call for Applications

       2. Expand Partnerships

       3. Facilitate Transfers Schools

       4. Increase Expansions and Replications

The following graphic summarizes the efficacy of each strategy over the last two years in terms of schools successfully approved.

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The four strategies are described in detail below. However, it is important to point out that each strategy shares a common element: the need
to remove or reduce the statutory barrier that restricts CSI from authorizing and supporting charter schools in the vast majority of districts in
Colorado. Exclusive chartering authority serves to ensure that the geographic district has first right of refusal to authorize new charter schools in
its boundaries. While it is understandable and clearly serves the district’s interests, it does not consistently ensure that charter schools have a
choice in authorization providers. This limitation on choice is not believed to be in the interest of the schools and families they serve. In each of
the strategies described below, a requisite element is adjusting or removing some aspect of exclusive charter authority.

1. Improve the CSI Call for Applications (CFA)

   CSI has issued three requests for applications to date with some evidence of success in terms of quality applicant responses. CSI continues to
   release a “CFA” in advance of each cycle and are working to improve the manner in which need is identified. The overriding constraint on
   this approach of course is the exclusive chartering authority held by most districts. The latest CFA (released in May 2013) improves the need
   demonstration piece by focusing on those districts / schools rated within the Priority Improvement and Turnaround categories. With the
   exclusive chartering aspect in mind, the following categories outline the work necessary to improve the CFA initiative.
        Identify Regions (need & authority intersect). Distribution of current SPF and DPF ratings across the state provide a starting point and
           foundation for region identification. The challenge of course is the intersection of need and CSI’s authority to open and support
           charter schools. The contraints of the current limitations will likely direct CSI action towards partnership agreeements.

        Quantify Need (e.g. student segmentation). The quantification and specficiation of need can begin once a region or subregion is
         identified. The analysis can then follow one of several models applied in Denver and other areas nationally. The goal will be a precise
         specification of the depth of need, characteristics of students, and other options which can then attract and inform potential future
         school operators.

        Address Obstacles (legislative/legal & political). This is probably the most critical and challenging element of the CFA related work.
         CSI must develop a mid term strategy for creating opportunities to authorize schools in the most challenging and impacted regions in
         order to have a chance to fulfill its statutory mission. This work crosses over into other areas described in this section (strategic
         partnerships, namely) and impacts CSI’s future. The approach will likely include a continuation of the CSI legislative strategy and the
         turnaround partnerships work as well.

        Cultivate operators/respondents. A critical and central element to the CFA-related work is the informal and formal cultivation of
           respondents and operators. The CFA itself is the formal outreach and invitation for operators to respond to the need. However,
           there is a series of informal actions that will help ensure operators are aware of the need, understand the specifics, understand the
           potential of CSI as an authorizer, and see a path toward meeting the needs of the communities in Colorado.              13 | P a g e

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 Incentivize (funding). Many in the charter school and authorizer community argue that financial and other incentives (facilities,
         multiple approvals, etc.) are necessary to induce operators to respond to charter needs in Colorado.

2. Expand CSI strategic partnerships
   CSI is pursuing strategic partnerships in three key areas. Partnerships in these areas are critical to CSI’s growth strategy. The following
   summarizes the current and future work in these areas.

        Partnership Authorization. This concept is predicated on the belief that CSI can work in conjunction with school districts in a variety
         of ways to improve the quality of authorization statewide. In accordance with the CSI statutory mission which directs CSI to be the
         model authorizer for the state, CSI staff and board are working to establish informal and formal partnerships with school districts.
         The nature of the partnerships (as codified through an MOU) will vary based on the stage of development of this initiative and based
         on the needs of the district. Ultimately, the partnership agreement will support the successful transfer of schools to CSI but also will
         cover the provision of services from CSI to a district authorizing office. CSI is currently finalizing an MOU with Roaring Fork School
         District and has finalized an MOU with Aurora Public Schools. Initial conversations have occurred with other districts as well. The
         initiative is also intended to help CSI brand itself as a collaborative partner and support agency instead of a potential competitor or
         threat to exclusive authorizing. CSI will continue to pursue this initiative through board to board outreach, CASE and CASB
         presentations and outreach, and one on one outreach.

        Turnaround partnership. CSI has been actively participating in both statewide Turnaround discussions (both those led by the
         education reform community and those initiated by the CDE) for over a year. While the discussions have generated policy papers and
         communication pieces, the tangible direction of the Turnaround efforts continues to evolve. The CSI strategy is to ensure that our
         authorization/support services can be one among many offerings and options in the state’s Turnaround work.

        New school support partnership. Get Smart Schools (GSS) is the primary driver of charter school leadership development in Colorado.
         CSI received a contracted recommendation report in the winter of 2013 which identified a partnership with GSS as the best, single
         strategy for supporting aspiring charter applicants and leaders. The partnership structure has been positively received by both the
         CSI board and GSS staff. The partnership could include a modified training model and will leverage existing elements of the standard
         GSS model. Critical for the next stage in the partnership development will be funding and greater authorization authority/geography
         for CSI.

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3. Facilitate Transfer Schools

   In the past two years, CSI has approved 4 out of 5 transfer school applications. Under current statute, existing charter schools may apply to
   transfer to CSI for authorization and support services with the consent of their host district’s board of education. CSI is working to improve
   its transfer and evaluation process to ensure it is aligned with the CARS system. Transfer schools represent a significant potential for school
   growth in CSI. The exclusive authority challenge is of course present here. However, CSI will continue to work to facilitate transfer schools.
   The following summarizes the strategy and tactics in this area.

        Identify Interested Schools. CSI will work to proactively identify schools who might be a good fit for the CSI approach to authorization
         and service provision.

        Promote CSI Offerings. CSI continues to promote its unique offerings directly to schools via conferences and word of mouth.

        Improve and Define CSI Attractiveness. Much of the CSI 2011 Strategic Plan was devoted to creating fundamental improvements in
         the operations of CSI. Most of that work has been completed and yet there are critical areas of improvement necessary to fully serve
         our schools. The CSI Virtual Resource Center (as described above) is a central part of that. A critical part of CSI’s attractiveness is
         customer service and a singular orientation around the needs of charter schools. The political stability of the CSI board of directors is
         an essential defining and positive feature. Robust and value-added performance data management services and transparent, robust
         authorization processes are also central to defining CSI. Lastly, funding is of course critical in this discussion. CSI was able to ensure
         that mill levy equity was included in the School Finance Act revision (SB13-213) and with passage of the tax increase will be a much
         more financially attractive option for schools.

4. Increase Expansions and Replications

   CSI has approved two replications and expansions in the last two years. CSI believes that replication of high performing schools is an
   essential component of fulfilling our mission of providing innovative, high quality schools with a particular focus on at risk communities. In
   accordance with “Replicator Readiness” guidelines, CSI will promote replications and expansions. Part of this will be a concerted effort to
   identify schools meeting the replication guidelines, identifying barriers to replication, and seeking solutions to facilitate them.

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Projecting Growth

As discussed, state statute currently restricts CSI’s ability to respond to the need for more and higher quality charter schools due to the
requirements of exclusive authority and school transfer requirements. Thus, there is an inherent challenge in projecting school growth in the
near term. However, CSI has created two projections to summarize potential school growth scenarios. The following graphic underscores the
potential for growth in response to need but also represents a scenario in which growth would be restricted.

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