The Massachusetts Charter Public School Association (“MCPSA” or “the Association”) is a membership organization that serves as the voice of one of the highest-performing charter sectors in the country. The MCPSA’s mission is to create and protect the conditions that will enable the public charter sector to thrive, so that the charter sector contributes toward the goal of all Massachusetts children having equitable access to high-quality public schools.
The first Massachusetts Commonwealth charter schools opened in the fall of 1995. Since then, the charter sector has grown from an initial cohort of 15 schools to 74 schools serving over 42,600 students across the state. Authorized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Education Reform Act of 1993, Commonwealth charter schools are independent public schools that operate under five-year charters granted by the Commonwealth’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education supports and oversees the creation and sustainability of a variety of high quality public school options, including those that innovate in the areas of instructional practice, time, resources, and technology, to ensure that all students in the Commonwealth have equitable access to a pathway to success.
The Massachusetts charter sector is now known as one of the nation’s strongest: a recent study found that Massachusetts students enrolled in charter schools average 1.5 additional months of learning in reading and 2.5 additional months of learning in math versus traditional public school students for each year they are enrolled in charter schools (“Charter School Performance in Massachusetts,” Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, 2013). Another study found that students in Boston charter schools outperform their district counterparts by an even wider margin, gaining an additional 13 months of math instruction and 12 months of reading instruction every year (“Urban Charter School Study Report on 41 Regions,” Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University, 2015). Since the Association’s founding in 2001, MCPSA has played a critical role in advocating for and creating community among the growing network of charter schools across the Commonwealth through public policy advocacy, sharing of best practices, and providing resources and services to schools.
One significant factor that has contributed to the overall quality of charter schools in the state is the presence of a strong, independent authorizing body, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). In addition to this strong authorizer, the Massachusetts charter sector has benefited from a well-organized association. Founded in 2001, the Association has played a critical role in advocating for and creating community among charter schools across the Commonwealth through a combination of public policy advocacy, best practice sharing, and technical assistance support. Over the years the MCPSA has repeatedly protected charter schools from state legislation that would impinge upon the funding and autonomy of the sector.
As a membership organization, the MCPSA derives much of its influence from the exceptional school leaders who collectively form its core constituency. The Association has averaged a 98 percent membership rate over the last 15 years. A committed board of directors consisting of the Executive Director of the Association and democratically elected charter school trustees govern the MCPSA, and a staff of ten full-time employees located throughout the state manage the day-to-day operations. Working at the nexus of BESE, charter schools, and the myriad other actors involved in the broader ecosystem, the MCPSA has long played a vital role in fostering a strong charter sector in Massachusetts. In August 2017, Tim Nicolette became the new Executive Director for the Association. In November 2017, he successfully completed a thorough and inclusive planning process that culminated in the creation of a strategic plan that was unanimously approved by all member schools. The strategic plan focuses on building-out and sustaining the Association’s communications, advocacy, and school support/best practice sharing functions.