Group photo of students in school hall

Find information about opening a charter school, guidance for operating a charter school, and details about the charter renewal process.

Since the enactment of the Public Charter School Act of 2003, local education agencies (LEAs), or districts, have served as the authorizers for new public charter schools to operate in the State of Maryland. The first charter schools in Maryland opened in the 2005-06 school year, providing the promise of innovative public schools for parents and students throughout the State.
In evaluating applications to open new charter and operator-led schools, City Schools will prioritize applications that propose to convert an already existing underperforming school to a charter program with an accelerated learning model. Additional consideration will be given for conversion applicants who:

  • Propose to implement a high-performing charter program in areas of the city where the model does not exist and have a track record of (1) strong governance and financial management practices; (2) improving student performance for student populations that are similar to the school they are seeking to convert; and (3) strong leadership and staff retention.

  • Seek to convert a traditional high school which takes in students below grade level and provides access to rigorous content that prepares students for high school, college and career.

  • Propose advanced high school programming, such as early college high school in which students can earn an Associate’s Degree as well as a high school diploma or an International Baccalaureate program.

  • Propose robust Career Readiness programming that meets an identified CTE need and leads to certifications/credentials that are: (1) aligned with industry expectations, postsecondary pathways, and our local workforce communities; (2) integrated with work-based learning experiences; and (3) accessible to our diverse student populations.

  • Propose a dual-language or late language immersion program.

Opening a charter school

Applications to open a charter school for the 2025-26 school year will be taken on Thursday, March 7, 2024, and must be submitted by noon on that day.

All groups who wish to apply for this year’s application round must submit a Letter of Intent by Friday, February 1, 2024 to Email Monique Riley. The letter of intent must include the name of the proposed school, the grade band and enrollment of the school, a brief description of the proposed programming, and which area of the city the school will serve (if known).

Technical Assistance sessions for applicants will offer an overview of the charter application and important details to remember when developing your application. There is a link to last year’s Technical Assistance presentation below, as well as a recording of one of the sessions.

Technical Assistance sessions will be held Thursday, January 25, 2024, between 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Any changes to application materials from previous years are tracked in redline so that you will be able to see updates. Email Monique Riley Email Monique Riley in the Office of New Initiatives if you have questions about the charter application process. 

Charter and operator renewal

Outside operators receive term-limited charters or contracts to run charter or contract schools, generally for three to five years. As part of the routine management of these schools, an evaluation (called renewal) conducted in the final year of the contract or charter leads to a decision on whether to renew the contract or charter for a subsequent term. 

The process

The Charter and Operator-led Schools Advisory Board reviews the following to inform the renewal recommendations it makes to City Schools' CEO:

  • Information provided by the school's operator in its renewal application

  • The renewal rubric and report

  • Data prepared by City Schools

  • School effectiveness reviews

These materials and the advisory board's recommendation are summarized in a renewal report for each school. (Find the most recent reports linked on schools' profile pages and archived reports in the renewal report archives) After review by the CEO, renewal recommendations are presented to the Board of School Commissioners for further review. According to policy, the Board may then vote for full renewal (another five-year contract term), partial renewal (a three-year period) or not to renew the operator's contract or charter.

Criteria and measures

Maryland law and Board policy establish criteria for renewal. Contract and charter schools are evaluated on multiple measures including, but not limited to,

  • Student achievement — performance on state assessments, growth measures, unique indicators, and fidelity to charter (accounting for at least 50% of the renewal score)

  • School climate — attendance, suspensions, enrollment, graduation and dropout rates, student choice data, and school survey results

  • Financial management and governance — annual audits, budget submission, grants management, and board documentation

  • Effective management — academic programming for special student populations and compliance with laws, rules, policies, and regulations

Improving the process

The Renewal Stakeholders Working Group (including school operators from a range of school types, City Schools staff, and representatives of the Maryland Charter School Network) met regularly in 2011-12 to advise on development of a fair, transparent, and rigorous evaluation process and rubric to reflect the unique nature and contributions of schools with outside operators. Since that time, district staff confer with key stakeholders following each renewal period to identify areas in which the process could be strengthened while also maintaining a level of predictability for schools up for renewal in the following school year.