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Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have the flexibility to operate outside normal district control. They are designed to provide greater educational choice to families, reduce bureaucratic constraints on educators, and provide competitive pressure to induce improvement in conventional public schools while remaining publicly accountable. This document reports on an evaluation of the legislatively mandated (under SB 740) process of evaluating California’s nonclassroom-based (NCB) charter schools, in which instruction generally takes the form of independent study, home study, or some combination of these two with classroom-based instruction. The report concludes that the impact of SB 740 has been significant and largely in accordance with the explicit goals of the legislation. However, despite the financial savings to the state and adaptations on the part of NCB charter schools to the requirements of SB 740, the success of the legislation as a mechanism for improving education for California students is unclear, and it may have had some harmful as well as beneficial effects. SB 740 has sent a strong and important message to NCB schools that they must be careful regarding the ways in which they use resources or face strong sanctions. But the regulations need to be reshaped to fit a newly acquired understanding of how these schools operate within the context of all public education and to serve the needs of students more effectively.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    A Profile of Nonclassroom-Based Charter Schools in California

  • Chapter Three

    A Description of SB 740 and the Funding Determination Process

  • Chapter Four

    Examining Whether the Implementation Process Fulfills the Directives of SB 740

  • Chapter Five

    Examining the Impact and Effectiveness of SB 740: Evidence from State Financial Data

  • Chapter Six

    Examining the Impact and Effectiveness of SB 740: Evidence from Surveys of Nonclassroom-Based Charter School Principals and Teachers

  • Chapter Seven

    Stakeholders’ Suggestions for Improving SB 740

  • Chapter Eight

    Conclusions and Recommendations for Reforming SB 740

  • Appendix A

    SB 740 Funding Determination Forms

  • Appendix B

    Description of Data Collection

  • Appendix C

    Time Line of the Implementation of SB 740

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education for the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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