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Charter School Accountability

January 29, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Brittany Whitley

Accountability in public education describes how states and communities ensure that schools are effectively using public dollars to meet their students’ needs. Public school quality is usually measured by student performance (e.g., test scores), but can also include measures of transparency and community satisfaction. The specific ways in which states hold public school districts and charter schools accountable vary based on (1) who oversees school performance, (2) which state-level rules and regulations govern school operations, and (3) which schools are authorized to operate.


  • Missouri charter schools report directly to state-approved sponsors, while traditional public school districts are governed by local school boards. Missouri charter schools are exempt from several of the rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools.
  • Every publicly funded school in Missouri receives an Annual Performance Report (APR). APRs are used to determine the accreditation status of traditional public schools and in the reauthorization/closure determination for charter schools.
  • Charter school accountability policies in other states address which state rules can be waived and if waivers are automatic. Other policies specify who qualifies as a charter school sponsor and how charter school authorization/closure is handled.


  • There is debate over how to best measure accountability in public education. Most states use test scores as the primary accountability metric; however, others argue that student improvement and parent satisfaction are more appropriate metrics.
  • Due to significant differences across state policies, it is difficult to determine which charter school accountability provisions are most likely to improve school quality.
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