FREEP: A path toward improving charter schools in Michigan

Article originally published in the Detroit Free Press:

One of the beacons of educational hope in Detroit can be found at Detroit Achievement Academy, a small school on the city’s northwest side. The school is only 2 years old, but it’s already experiencing amazing results in both math and reading. When the first-graders were assessed at the end of last year, school officials discovered they had experienced an average of nearly 11/2 years of growth in math.

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A year-and-a-half of math growth in just one year? That’s remarkable. Then again, it shouldn’t be remarkable. It should be the norm. And the fact that it’s happening at one school in Detroit should give us hope that it can happen at every school in Detroit.

But currently, students in Detroit and across Michigan are falling behind the rest of the country. In our state, only about 1 in 4 fourth-graders is proficient in reading. In Detroit, the numbers are even worse, with 93% of eighth-graders in Detroit Public Schools reading below grade level, according to 2011 data.

With statistics like this, there should be universal agreement that something needs to be done now. Improving the education environment in Detroit must be a priority, but agreeing on how to go about fixing our schools has been more difficult. Many groups and individuals have come out with competing plans and it shows how much work there is ahead of us.

This need for improvement expands well beyond Detroit. That’s why in a series of recent town halls, members of our organizations discussed ways to increase standards to ensure access to high-quality school options for all kids in Michigan. Although we have different ideas about how to approach this issue, we feel encouraged by where we do agree. Our shared commitment to ensuring that every child in Michigan has access to a great education inspired us to keep working until we came to some shared beliefs on solutions.

Our shared solutions have two simple goals: Increase the number of high-quality schools and decrease the number of low-performing schools. We can do this, in part, by focusing on improving the laws that govern charter school accountability, while raising the bar to only allow high-quality charter authorizers in our state.

To do this, we propose creating a statewide A-F report card for all schools, an accountability system that includes both growth and proficiency. This system should include easy-to-understand information that parents can use to make education decisions; be transparent and easy for schools to understand the factors involved and the goals they are striving to achieve, and lastly, once this system is in place, we must use the data to ensure schools are educating our kids.

Our second solution is ensuring charter school authorizers are held to high-quality standards for authorizing. Authorizers failing to meet these standards or who consistently authorize poor-performing schools should have their authorizing authority suspended or revoked. We expect authorizers to evaluate and hold schools to high academic standards, so we should expect them to deliver equally high standards for filling this key role.

Third, we all agree legislation is needed to stop “authorizer shopping” — a practice where low-performing charter schools attempt to find a new authorizer to avoid accountability. Schools slated for closure must not be able to find an escape path, because a bad school is one of the biggest threats to our educational system.

Finally, transparency is essential to having an open and honest conversation about the quality of our schools. We suggest expanding the input of parents, neighborhoods and communities in the process of reviewing applications for charters. This information is required now, but more can be done to truly build partnerships with “communities” as a charter school is being developed. This kind of transparency will ensure people’s voices are heard, and it will give authorizers the chance to be influenced by people who will be affected most by their decisions: families.

Let’s work together and take the right steps to ensure that all of our schools live up to their original intent, which is to provide families with high-quality school options. It is time to start a conversation in the Capitol and make the necessary changes to the laws that our kids need. Let’s keep finding a way forward.

Gary Naeyaert is executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project.
Jared Burkhart is executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers.
Dan Quisenberry is president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.
Lindsay Huddleston is state director of Students First-Michigan.

Authorizer Accreditation Helps Make Michigan Top 10 State

Children and their parents deserve access to quality schools that fit their families’ needs.

As authorizers of public charter schools, we have an immense responsibility with the public to set high-quality academic, operational, and legal standards that produce quality educational options for kids.

That’s why we’re investing time and resources into a first-in-the-nation accreditation process. The gold standard for authorizing accountability in the nation resides in Michigan!

Charter School Authorizer Accreditation Process


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Comprehensive system reviewing all aspects of authorizing developed in partnership with AdvancED, an internationally recognized accreditation organization.


Authorizers will have to perform well in six standards, 29 performance indicators and 14 assurances.

  • New website reporting requirements for charter contracts and education service provider agreements.
  • Ensure charter schools are meeting all transparency and reporting requirements.
  • Policies governing educational service provider agreements are in place.
  • Academic results of charter schools are publicly reported.
  • Authorizers provide professional development opportunities for charter school board members.


Process holds authorizers accountable to a higher standard ensuring quality educational choices for students.

  • Ensure poor performing schools are closed or reconstituted.
  • Assure authorizers are following nationally recognized best practices.
  • Prohibit poor performing schools from the ability to transfer authorizers.
  • Provide data and information to schools on their academic, financial and operational performance in relation to their charter contract.


Programs Look to Protect Children – OK2Say, Cyber Safety

The Department of Attorney General is featuring two customized programs to protect children across the state: OK2SAY – Michigan’s student safety program and the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative. Both programs are free and feature content tailored specifically for each grade level.

OK2Say and Cyber Initiative_edited-1Michigan’s school safety initiative, OK2SAY, is a confidential way for students to report anything that threatens their safety or the safety of others. OK2SAY operates as an early warning system in our schools to stop tragedies before they can occur. Anyone who knows about a student safety threat (students, teachers, parents, etc.) can submit a tip to OK2SAY operators by phone, text message, mobile app, email, or on the OK2SAY website: Tips may be submitted on a wide range of issues including: weapons possession, bullying/cyberbullying, abuse, drugs, alcohol, suicide talk, school attacks, threats of violence, assaults, or anything that may threaten student safety.

The OK2SAY technicians address the immediate need and forward the information to the appropriate responding agency. Most tips go to schools and local law enforcement agencies. However, in some instances, the tip may go to the local Community Mental Health office or to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Since its launch in September of 2014, OK2SAY has received hundreds of tips. The top three tip categories are: 1) bullying/cyberbullying; 2) suicide threats; and 3) drugs/alcohol.

Michigan CSI is a national, award-winning program that has been presented to more than one million students throughout the state. It teaches children in grades K-5 the importance of being safe, making smart decisions, and protecting themselves and others on-line and off.

Students in grades 6-8 receive CSI and OK2SAY programming while the central focus of the presentation to students in grades 9-12 is on OK2SAY and how students can make a positive difference in their schools. The goal for both programs and presentations is to empower students, especially bystanders, to do the right thing and submit a tip to OK2SAY if they see harmful behavior.

To help promote CSI or OK2SAY, schools may register for any of these FREE presentations at or More information about each program is also available on the respective websites.


In Michigan, all schools need higher standards

Re: Lindsay Huddleston’s April 21 guest column, “Set higher bar for Michigan charter schools”

Source, Detroit News: In Michigan, all schools need higher standards

April 24, 2015

We are pleased to be participating in a series of Town Hall meetings hosted by StudentsFirst-Michigan to examine the issue of charter school accountability, but if we are to make progress with academic outcomes for the students of Michigan, we simply have to work with facts, real data and current practice. As a result we take serious offense at the tone and factual inaccuracies in Lindsay Huddleston’s recent viewpoint (Re: The Detroit News’ April 21 guest column, “Set higher bar for Michigan charter schools”).

We agree with Huddleston’s opening statement that charter schools can work wonders, but it goes downhill from there.

If we want to improve quality education for all students, Michigan should adopt an A-F letter grading system for school accountability that provides meaningful information to parents about school performance, increase early literacy rates, get serious about school improvement, and adopt an authorizer accreditation system.

These are common sense solutions to real problems.

Fact is, charter schools in Michigan are among the most heavily regulated in the country.

Our charter school laws consistently earn an “A” grade by the Center for Education Reform, rank third in the National Health of the Sector Report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and are viewed as a model for the rest of the country.

Huddleston admits that “Poor minority students tend to achieve better academic results on average in public charter schools than traditional public schools.”

There is direct accountability for authorizers by universities, community colleges, ISD or traditional school boards.

In the case of university authorizers, another layer of accountability is added since Gov. Rick Snyder appoints every board member at each of the universities that authorize charter schools.

Also, authorizers don’t actually manage schools, and state law requires every charter agreement is a performance-based contract between the authorizer and the school.

We’d like to see a list of the out-of-state, for-profit, dubious operators who aren’t committed to educating kids that have been swarming to Michigan.

It bears repeating that over 80 charter public schools have been closed for poor performance, while zero traditional public schools have yet to be closed for failing to educate students. Ultimately, charter public schools are accountable to the 140,000 parents who choose to send their children there.

Parents choose a charter school for their child, no student has ever been “assigned” to a charter public school and no student is “stuck” in a charter school.

Our Metro Detroit town hall event will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, at Starr Detroit Academy in Harper Woods. Those interested in a serious discussion about the future of education in Michigan are encouraged to attend and participate.

We need greater accountability, for charter schools, authorizers and all schools. Let’s do it from facts and reality.

Gary Naeyaert, executive director, Great Lakes Education Project

Dan Quisenberry, president, Michigan Association of Public School Academies

Jared Burkhart, executive director, Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers

CREDO Study Finds Urban Charter Schools Outperform Traditional School Peers

Click to read the full report.

Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the nation’s foremost independent analyst of charter school effectiveness, released a comprehensive Urban Charter Schools Report and 22 state-specific reports that combine to offer policymakers unprecedented insight into the effectiveness of charter schools.

The report found that:

Across 41 regions, urban charter schools on average achieve significantly greater student success in both math and reading, which amounts to 40 additional days of learning growth in math and 28 days of additional growth in reading. Compared to the national profile of charter school performance, urban charters produce more positive results.

Check out the full report for specific information on Detroit!

AdvancED Completes External Review of GVSU Charter School Office

Originally found here:

Grand Valley State University Charter School Office is the first authorizer to seek accreditation from AdvancED

ALLENDALE, MI.—March 26, 2015—To address concerns by Michigan lawmakers about the extent to which the state’s charter school authorizers are providing rigorous oversight over Michigan’s 380 charter schools, Grand Valley State University Charter School Office (GVSU CSO), Michigan’s largest charter school authorizer, is seeking accreditation from the world’s largest accrediting body, AdvancED.

A seven-member national team from AdvancED, with representatives from Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, visited GVSU CSO this week to assess the university’s effectiveness in providing oversight of its 69 charter schools that educate more than 32,000 students.

AdvancED is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Georgia with expertise grounded in more than 100 years of work. Each year, AdvancED completes hundreds of research-based, rigorous, on-site external reviews of PreK-12 schools and school systems and has recently been working with the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers (MCCSA) to demonstrate how external review is a meaningful process that can be used as a vehicle to provide deeper accountability of the state’s 40 authorizers.

While AdvancED has accredited more than 300 charter schools nationwide, this is the first time a charter school authorizer has gone through the process for accreditation. AdvancED’s process for accrediting charter school authorizers includes a systematic and balanced review of how well these agencies define and monitor the effectiveness of charter school academic and instructional programs, operations, governance and financial performance. The process also determines the extent to which authorizers hold schools accountable for rigorous Standards for Quality and assess stakeholder feedback, learner outcomes and evidence of school effectiveness.

“GVSU CSO has demonstrated their commitment to their role as a charter school authorizer mission of enhancing student by providing oversight, compliance and professional development to the charter schools they authorize,” says Dr. Angie Koppang, Vice President, AdvancED Midwest Region and Lead Evaluator of the GVSU CSO External Review Team. “Their leadership and staff are committed to meeting the AdvancED Standards for Quality and a focus on continuous improvement in supporting the schools they serve in quality learning.”

AdvancED is continuing to work with MCCSA to assist the council in educating lawmakers in the Senate and the House so that they can better understand accreditation as a solution for charter school authorizers. MCCSA is also in the process of developing legislation that will require the accreditation of charter school authorizers to ensure accountability among all Michigan charter school authorizers.

“We recognize the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers for their commitment to a quality assurance process by an external accreditor. Bringing this type of accountability to charter school authorizers is timely as we see more and more charter schools across our nation,” says Dr. Annette Bohling, Chief Accreditation Officer at AdvancED. “We have already received interest from other charter school authorizers across the country, and we look forward to working with them as they work toward providing the best educational experience for all learners attending their schools.”

For more information about AdvancED Performance Accreditation, contact Blair Edwards, Director of Public Relations at 678.392.2285 ext.5713.

About AdvancED
AdvancED is the world leader in providing improvement and accreditation services to education providers of all types in their pursuit of excellence in serving students. AdvancED serves as a trusted partner to more than 32,000 schools and school systems—enrolling more than 20 million students—across the United States and 70 countries.

AdvancED is the parent organization for the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).


Press Contact:
Blair Edwards
Director, Public Relations
678.392.2285, ext. 5713

Preserve school choice in Detroit

Burkhart: Parents in Detroit should have the same opportunities as parents in cities like Livonia, Warren, Lansing or Grand Rapids.(Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)
Burkhart: Parents in Detroit should have the same opportunities as parents in cities like Livonia, Warren, Lansing or Grand Rapids.(Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News)

Article originally appeared in The Detroit News on March 26, 2015.

Over the last six months there has been a large amount of conversation around reforming the education landscape in Detroit. This is a conversation that is well past due. Too many of our children have been ill prepared for their next steps in life due to the failures of outdated systems.

Any plan to reform the system of schools in Detroit needs to focus on empowering parents to do what is best for their children and giving them more options to choose from — not fewer.

We know that every person has an individual learning style. Only parents are in the position to truly understand the needs of their children and provide the best choices for their future. One of the most essential elements in parental empowerment is the ability to choose the school that provides the educational program that best fits their child’s individual needs. That program may be in a traditional school, a charter school or a parochial school. It may also be within the city limits of Detroit or housed in a neighboring city.

Parents in Detroit should have the same opportunities as parents in cities like Livonia, Warren, Lansing or Grand Rapids. .

Any practical plan for Detroit education must include items to allow parents to better access the best schools, including:

A working and reliable public transportation system will allow children from anywhere in the city to access the school that is the best fit for their needs.

Creating a true letter grading system for Michigan schools will allow parents to better understand the effectiveness of education programs that are provided.

A mandatory closure provision for schools that do not meet clear academic proficiency and growth measures will ensure that all schools are viable options for parents.

True education reform is about increasing student performance — not about protecting buildings and outdated systems. Any so-called reform that limits parental choices will also limit opportunities for Detroit students. The focus should never be about the preservation of jobs or governance models. The focus must be on allowing students to access academic programs that give them the same opportunities as students in every other city in this state and country.

Jared Burkhart is executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers.

GVSU seeks to nationally accredit its charter schools office

Grand Valley State University’s charter school’s office is seeking accreditation from an outside education group to demonstrate their dedication to quality and independent oversight.

Here is an excerpt from MLive:

grand_valley_state_universityThe university is asking AdvancEd, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Arizona and Georgia, to accredit its charter schools office. To become accredited, the charter school’s office must pass a site visit and evaluation by the group, said Tim Wood, the head of GVSU’s charter school’s office.

Wood said a seven-member team from AdvancEd is scheduled to visit GVSU on March 23-26. The team would ask GVSU for numerous documents, such as contracts between the university and the charter schools it authorizes, as well as interview key personnel like university President Thomas Haas, he said.

“We will have to prepare documents towards each standard and indicator,” Wood said, “such as whether GVSU’s contracts with charter schools hold boards accountable for student performance.”

He added: “It’s a very high standard, high stakes document that not every authorizer, in my view, in the state will be able to achieve those standards.”

Read the full article on