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Report: Michigan doesn’t hold charter schools accountable

Publication date: Feb 19, 2015

WOOD TV

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A report from a nonprofit education organization says that Michigan charter schools and authorizers are lagging behind.

The report, called “Accountability for All: The Need for Real Charter School Authorizer Accountability in Michigan,” claims that the state needs to hold charter school authorizers more accountable, even saying at one point that “charter school authorizers, in particular, are arguably accountable to no one — not even our state’s governor.”

>>Online: The full report

The report was released Thursday by the Education Trust – Midwest, a division of a national nonprofit.

Part of the report gives charter school authorizers letter grades based, it says, on how they decide to open new schools, how they set performance standards and improving the failing schools they have.

In West Michigan, Grand Valley State University got a grade of B as an authorizer for its 63 schools. Grand Rapids Public Schools got an A grade for the one school the district authorizes, the Child Discovery Center (CDC).

The CDC serves kindergarten through 5th-grade students, and though it is authorized by GRPS, it is its own autonomous charter school district.

The report calls CDC a model, stating that GRPS “closely monitors [sic] their schools’ progress, with the goal of high student learning at the forefront.”

“Right now we have a separate and unequal education system between traditional schools and charter schools,” said John Helmholdt, the spokesperson for GRPS. “Our belief, and this is something in our legislative platform, is that we are one public education system and that we need to work together.”

Helmholdt said the district doesn’t look at CDC as competition to the traditional district, but rather an extension of what the district has to offer.

“What are the services as central office that we can provide as this big entity that we can say, ‘Hey, IT, food service, other items, professional development, things like that, that were doing for 50-plus schools we can easily provide as a support service to this charter school,” said Helmholdt.

He applauded the report, stating that there needs to be more accountability for charter schools and their authorizers.

“Anyone who opposes that, it’s really a double standard. There is an expectation that you have that level of accountability and transparency for our public schools so the taxpayers of Michigan know how their dollars are being spent,” Helmholdt said.

The report calls into question how Michigan regulates charter school authorizers. It says other states hold authorizers more accountable. In Illinois, the study cites as an example, the state board of education can revoke an authorizer’s authority.

The report also points out that about 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit companies, compared to five other states where for profit companies are outlawed.

The president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, Dan Quisenberry, said he questions how the organization reached some of the conclusions in the report.

He said that his organization and some authorizers, like GVSU, have already been working on qualifications and standards for charter schools.

He said charter schools have a place in Michigan public education, because they provide choice for families. And he said authorizers and his groups want to make authorizers more accountable and charter schools better.

“We support, and continue to support accountability for schools, for operators, for people who operate schools and for authorizers,” Quisenberry said.

PDF: Statement from Michigan Association of Public School Academies

 

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