The voice of California’s charter school movement

New Report Finds California Charter Schools Pivoted Quickly Amid COVID-19

By Ana Tintocalis

A new report produced by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) finds many charter public schools leveraged their independence and flexibility to launch distance learning programs quicker than traditional district public schools after the statewide stay-at-home order went into effect in March 2020.

The report, How California's Charter Schools Mitigated Learning Loss, is the first installment in CCSA’s annual Portrait of the Movement. This year, Portrait of the Movement 2020 is comprised of four reports that explore how charter schools in California responded to challenges brought on by the pandemic.

The most striking finding in the first report: On average, surveyed charter schools transitioned to distance learning in just four days, allowing for more underserved students to stay on track academically.

In stark contrast, traditional district schools rolled out similar programs on average of two weeks after the statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020

CCSA Director of Research Jennifer Kress authored the report and explains the key finding in this video clip: 



“The ability of charter public schools to quickly pivot resulted in more underserved students staying on track academically last year, and being more prepared heading into the 2020-21 academic year,”said Myrna Castrejón, CCSA president and CEO. “Free from bureaucracy, California charter schools are uniquely positioned to deliver high-quality learning opportunities to teach students and support families in this unprecedented time of crisis.”

Springs Charter Schools is highlighted in the new report as a bright spot in the realm of distance learning. Springs is a network of six nonclassroom-based charter schools serving students in Riverside and San Diego counties. With more than 10,000 students attending mostly independent study programs, Springs knows how to provide quality remote instruction at scale.

How California's Charter Schools Mitigated Learning Loss outlines evidence-based best practices and strategies utilized by Springs which CCSA believes can be beneficial for all schools to consider and learn from, including:

Assistant Classroom Educators (ACEs) – Online teacher assistants who attend live classes and set-up meetings with individual students or small groups for more personalized online instruction.

Open Classroom – An online public portal offering free daily online lessons, parent guides and resources aligned to Common Core State Standards. At Springs, over 6,000 people from across the country, and around the world (including as far away as France, Australia, India, Poland, Japan, and Afghanistan) signed up for this resource.

Flipped online classrooms – In this model, a teacher shares recorded lectures ahead of time, and students use online classroom time for conversation, small group discussion, and other engaging activities.

Springs’ Superintendent Kathleen Hermsmeyer explains why she believes the "flipped online classroom" is critical to any distance learning program in this video clip:


Want to learn more about the findings? Click here to read the full report: How California’s Charter Schools Mitigated Learning Loss.

The second installment of Portrait of the Movement 2020 is expected to be released later this month. The focus is on the digital divide among charter public schools, exploring whether charter schools helped students gain access to devices and the Internet so they could participate in distance learning.

Here’s a look at the other upcoming releases in December as part of Portrait of the Movement 2020:

Student Engagement — Focus: How did charter schools keep students engaged and monitor the degree to which students were participating in distance learning?

Social and Emotional Distress — Focus: In what ways did charter schools support students with issues related to mental health, hunger, and social isolation during the pandemic?

This blog story was written by Ana Tintocalis, CCSA Director of Media Relations and Research. She is a regular CharterNation Blog contributor. If you would like to contact her, please email: