Press Release

'Accountability for All': Michigan Charter Authorizers Are Getting a Free Pass

The Education-Trust Midwest’s new letter grade scorecard celebrates high-performing authorizers, yet also shows that 20 percent of Michigan’s charter schools have authorizers with a “D” or “F” performance grade.

 ROYAL OAK, Mich. (February 19, 2015) — Michigan’s public school teachers are being held accountable for their performance more than ever before. However, that same accountability does not extend to charter school authorizers, which have been given a free pass for the past 20 years.

In its new report, “Accountability for All,” The Education Trust-Midwest provides the first comprehensive review of Michigan’s charter school authorizers and issues the state’s first letter grade scorecard for their performance based on student achievement and improvement.

“With this report, we celebrate Michigan’s high-performing authorizers,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest. “Too often, however, these authorizers’ good work is overshadowed by low-performing authorizers. Michigan is ground zero for the issue of charter authorizer quality in our country today. We can — and we must — do better for our students’ sakes.”

The report findings include:

  • Highlighting Top Authorizers: Ten authorizers in the state received an “A” or “B” grade, including Grand Rapids Public Schools, Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Grand Valley State University and Bay Mills Community College.
  • Revealing Low Performance: Of the nearly 150 schools that opened between fall 2011 and 2014, about 20 percent were authorized by “D” or “F” authorizers. That means that a fifth of these new charter schools have authorizers with portfolios made up of many consistently low-performing schools — and very low student achievement levels.
  • Failing to Keep Charters’ Promise: In many of the schools run by “D” or “F” authorizers, students currently receive a much worse education than they would in an average Michigan public school district. Some are getting a worse education than they would even in Detroit Public Schools, which is among the nation’s worst performing urban school districts.

A total of 10 authorizers received either an “A” or “B” grade on the scorecard. In comparison, a total of five authorizers received “D” or “F” grades in the report.

Charter schools opened in Michigan more than twenty years ago with the promise of providing better quality schools than what traditional public schools could provide, especially for urban students.  Too often, that promise has not been fulfilled.

Yet in Michigan, not even the state can close a chronically low-performing authorizer down for its performance. Michigan lacks state performance standards for its authorizers’ opening and expansion of charter schools or strong oversight to ensure quality authorizing practices.

Authorizers are responsible for deciding which charter operators are allowed to open, expand and maintain charter schools – and thus, have an enormous impact on Michigan students.

“We support school choice,” Arellano said. “For Michigan’s charter school sector to succeed, we need high performance standards and an oversight system that will hold its authorizers accountable to the Michigan students they serve,” Arellano said. “Authorizers should be held accountable for their decisions and their performance.”

The Education Trust-Midwest supports the development of standards and accountability measures to strengthen and improve Michigan’s charter school sector and authorizing practices.

Leading education states provide standards and accountability for their authorizers,” said Sarah Lenhoff, ETM’s director of policy and research.  “Michigan students deserve no less.”


For the report’s full technical appendix, go to:


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ABOUT THE EDUCATION TRUST-MIDWEST: The Education Trust-Midwest is a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to improving outcomes for all Michigan students, especially for African American, Latino, American Indian and low-income students. The Education Trust-Midwest believes in the power of intelligent education policy and practices — informed by data, research and the successes of other states — to make Michigan a Top Ten Education state for all students.