A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Michigan Charter Schools Closing While Failing Conventional Schools Stay Open

Analyst: 'That is how charter schools are held accountable'

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In the city of Flint, Center Academy charter school and Northern High School both struggled academically.

In 2011-12, Center Academy ranked in the bottom 14 percent of all Michigan schools. Northern High was even worse, finishing in the bottom 1 percent

Center Academy closed. Northern High School continues to operate.

It is an important distinction between how charter schools authorizers handle struggling schools compared to conventional school districts.

Richard Lemons, deputy director of the Connecticut Center for School Change, was quoted by MLive recently as saying charter school authorizers should be prepared to shut down failing schools.

"Where are our best schools, and how do we get rid of our bad schools, both charters and traditional schools?" he said. 

Charter authorizers in Michigan have been shutting down schools for various reasons, including failing to perform academically. Since 1996, there have been 96 charter schools that closed in Michigan.

Gary Naeyaert, senior adviser for policy and communications at The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University, said Flint's Center Academy was shut down in June because of its failure to meet academic performance standards.

Charter authorizers review schools every year to determine whether they are achieving academic goals, whether they are financially viable and whether they are making a good faith attempt to be in compliance with the laws, said Billie Wimmer, executive director at the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers.

"The whole point of charter schools is that the bad ones close," said Audrey Spalding, an education policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "That is how charter schools are held accountable. Conventional public schools, however, aren't threatened with closure if they continue to fail students. Unless there is a severe decline in enrollment, the public education system allows failing conventional schools to operate almost indefinitely."

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