March 2016

State laws and charter authorizing standards have not kept up with the explosive growth of charter schools in the last two decades. AISR's 2014 report Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Policy Recommendations for Effective Oversight, offers seven standards, each with a set of policy recommendations, designed to to ensure that there is a level playing field between traditional public schools and public charter schools and that charters are fully transparent and accountable to the communities they serve. 

"School governance should be representative and transparent" is one of those standards. Whose Schools? examines charter school governance in Massachusetts in light of this standard and its recommendations, with the goal of informing the conversation as the state considers lifting the cap on charter school expansion in fall 2016.

The original report, published in March 2016, was updated on October 5, 2016. Information from school websites and some sources have been updated to reflect changes over those six months; some terms have been expanded and clarified; author's bios have been added; and finding #5 regarding board residency has been modified.


application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet iconData sheet
application/pdf iconFull report (Updated 10/5/16)


Watch the full Question 2 debate
Boston Globe (9/14/16)
This AISR report is cited during the debate on Question 2 and then rebutted by Representative Walz around minutes 17-20 of this video.

NAACP members call for ban on privately managed charter schools
Washington Post (8/7/16)

Who holds the charter-school boards accountable?
Lowell Sun (6/1/16)

Lack of Parents Serving on Charter School Boards in Massachusetts, Report Says
Education Week (4/1/16)

Few Parents Serve on Charter School Boards in Massachusetts, Report Says
Education Week (4/1/16)

Massachusetts charter board members disproportionately execs
Education Dive (4/1/16)

Report concludes parents under-represented on charter school
South Coast Today (3/31/16)

Executives outnumber parents on Mass charter school boards
Boston Globe (3/30/16)

Mass charter boards lack parents, dominated by corporate interests
Massachusetts Teachers Association (3/30/16)


The dominant voices – 31 percent – on charter school governing boards in Massachusetts are from large private sector companies. Professionals from the financial sector alone – executives at banks, investment companies, or hedge funds, for example – represent 12 percent of all trustees.


AISR’s Governance Standards for Charter Schools

In September 2014, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (AISR) released the report Public Accountability for Charter Schools: Standards and Recommendations for Effective OversightAISR’s standards and recommendations emerged out of extensive conversations with parents, students, and educators over a two-year period, a close study of state charter laws, and a review of best practices developed by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). The publication provides a framework for improving cooperation, equity, quality, and transparency across the charter sector.

Author Bios

Leigh Dingerson is an independent consultant contracted by AISR to lead the information gathering from community and educator groups, consult relevant state laws and charter authorization standards, and write this report, under grants from the Communities for Public Education Reform and the Ford Foundation. She has thirty years of experience providing support for community organizing groups working for equity and reform in public schools. She has provided technical assistance to dozens of local organizations across the country, helping them identify issues, build parent leadership, think through strategies for reform efforts, explore local and state policy opportunities, and build political will for low-income communities and their public schools. She has extensive education policy experience in support of building collaborations between community groups and teachers unions. She is co-editor, with Barbara Miner, Bob Peterson, and Stephanie Walters of the book Keeping the Promise? The Debate over Charter Schools (Rethinking Schools, 2008).

Clayton Ross is an intern and graduate student in the Urban Education Policy master's degree program at Brown University.