Accountability for All: The Need for Real Charter School Authorizer Accountability in Michigan

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Today in Michigan, educators and schools are held more accountable for their performance than ever before. Teacher tenure is now based on performance, instead of seniority. Recently, the state put into place Michigan’s first true statewide school accountability system, which requires schools to consistently improve and narrow achievement gaps. Meanwhile, state leaders have put more pressure on school districts to turn around their low-performing schools in a variety of ways.

Real accountability, however, doesn’t apply to everyone in Michigan public education. Charter school authorizers, in particular, are arguably accountable to no one – though  almost one billion Michigan taxpayer dollars are spent on charter schools each year.

Never before has anyone taken a close look at Michigan charter authorizers that are responsible for making decisions about which charter schools should open, maintain, and continue to expand. To better understand Michigan’s school and authorizer landscape, The Education Trust-Midwest spent more than two years mining hard-to-access data.  We sought to better understand:  Who are our most successful authorizers? Who are the authorizers behind the expansion and continued operation of Michigan’s low-performing charter operators?

In this report, we provide the first comprehensive review of Michigan charter authorizers’ track records of school performance and the first-ever letter grade scorecard for charter authorizers in Michigan. Through this report, we also aim to:

  • Inform: Provide non-partisan data and information to inform the growing policy debate about Michigan charter school quality and accountability.
  • Celebrate: Share the best practices of our state’s top-performing authorizers and data from the charter authorizers that are regularly providing high-quality schools for Michigan’s students.
  • Shed light: As a research and policy organization, we examine student performance among authorizers and their schools, and we suggest how the state can play a role in raising authorizer and charter performance in Michigan.

Leading education states demonstrate how important high  performance standards and accountability are for developing a high-caliber charter school sector. States such as Massachusetts — the nation’s highest performing state for student learning — provide high standards and quality assurances to their families that help give rise to better schools for students who most need them.

Michigan students and parents deserve no less.

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