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Case against charter schools falls flat

Diane Ravitch’s bias against school choice is well-known, but her latest case in the Detroit News for taking away the education options of families in Detroit and throughout Michigan falls particularly flat (“Detroit needs a new model of education,” Dec. 14). She claims that “most charters are no better than the public schools.” She has no citation for this, perhaps because it isn’t true. In fact, a 2013 study from the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University found that attending a Michigan charter school on average adds two to three months of extra learning each year. A more recent CREDO analysis looking specifically at Detroit showed that most charter schools in the city clearly outperform district schools.

Ironically, in the preceding paragraph, Ravitch cites CREDO research to try to disparage Michigan charter schools. The latest CREDO report found nationally that non-profit charters do better than those with for-profit contracts, which make up a large share of Michigan’s charters. Ravitch concluded the results must be bad for our state. But a closer look at the study shows that Michigan charters with for-profit connections are among those offering students the best advantage of all.

Amazingly, Ravitch got CREDO wrong on both counts. The promising news it shares just doesn’t fit with the story she wants to tell.

Ben DeGrow, director of education policy

Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Online education is not one size fits all

Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association, wrote an op-ed critical of cyber charters (“Cyber charters are failed experiment,” Nov. 15). We at Michigan Virtual also have serious concerns about the rapid growth of online learning without corresponding gains in student achievement.

Not all digital learning experiences are alike. There is a crucial distinction between full-time, for-profit cyber charter schools and Michigan Virtual, a non-profit organization providing supplemental online courses led by trained educators and mentors and based on research to deliver positive outcomes for students.

Michigan Virtual was created almost 20 years ago by a governor and Legislature that knew online education would be an important tool to leverage in the years ahead. The charge two decades ago was to support the growth and development of digital learning in Michigan. This allows students who attend their traditional school to use online learning if courses aren’t available locally or don’t fit in their schedule.

Michigan Virtual’s student pass rate is more than 25 percentage points higher than the statewide average for other online courses.

Since 2006, Michigan was the first state to require students to have an online learning experience in order to graduate from high school. Schools can meet this requirement in different ways, but 570 Michigan public school districts reported at least one virtual enrollment last year.

Michigan Virtual’s stellar results are the product of the hard work of our top-notch educators — more than 160 statewide.Our teachers must pass rigorous training and extensive professional development in order to deliver these results.

We also offer professional development to all educators in Michigan, at low to no cost.

Online learning prepares students for the world of work and post-secondary education. Not-for-profit, supplemental online courses like Michigan Virtual provides are a critical part of ensuring students have the flexibility and resources to look to the future and achieve success.

Jamey Fitzpatrick, president and CEO

Michigan Virtual

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