Cover: Nonclassroom-Based Charter Schools in California and the Impact of SB 740

Nonclassroom-Based Charter Schools in California and the Impact of SB 740

Published Feb 9, 2005

by Cassandra M. Guarino, Ron Zimmer, Cathy Krop, Derrick Chau


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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.

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

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