Charter school authorizers propose evaluation plan

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Authorizers of Michigan’s charter schools have proposed establishing a voluntary accreditation and standards system after state education officials cited performance, transparency and oversight deficiencies for one quarter of them.

The Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers announced its plan Friday, which was submitted to the Department of Education last week. It would create a commission to evaluate charter authorizers in nine categories and recommend suspension for those deemed to be not accredited.

Last month, state school Superintendent Mike Flanagan warned 11 of Michigan’s 40 charter school authorizers they could lose their ability to charter additional schools.

The authorizers named as being “at risk of suspension” include Detroit Public Schools, the Education Achievement Authority and Eastern Michigan University. Flanagan said the authorizers fall short in providing effective oversight of their charter schools, which rank in the bottom 10 percent academically.

Those at risk of suspension have until Oct. 22 to remediate their deficiencies, and Flanagan will decide in November whether to suspend them.

MDE spokesman Martin Ackley said said Flanagan believes the proposals are a great start from which to work and will be considered as he moves forward with the timetable he has set forth. But he also has concerns.

“He feels it would be fair to have every authorizer weigh in, including those that are not members of the council, since they will be affected by the possible future system,” Ackley said of Flanagan. “Out of fairness to all authorizers, especially those on the At Risk of Suspension list, he still is moving forward with creating an ‘improvement’ measure to give authorizers due credit for academic growth of their charter school portfolios.”

“There are concerns that the proposed standards are not detailed enough; don’t articulate the rubrics and metrics that would be used; and are undefined in some areas,” Ackley said.

The council represents institutions that authorize 93 percent of charter public school districts, educating 131,000 students in 265 charter public schools.

The accreditation program is based on the 2002 McPherson Report on Charter Schools that proposed adopting a certification process for authorizing charter schools in Michigan.

“The accreditation plan has been on the drawing board over the past year,” said Jared Burkhart, executive director of the Council of authorizers.

“The Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers had always envisioned being in partnership with MDE, but unfortunately the department is going down a different path. As such, we determined that now is a good time to invest and commit to an accreditation process as a mechanism to provide quality choices for education,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.