Michigan Charter Schools Closing While Failing Conventional Schools Stay Open

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

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. 

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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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See also:

New Report Card Compares High School Test Scores and Adjusts For Economic Status


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A Response to the New York Times About Charter Schools in Michigan

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Another Charter School Critic Misses the Mark

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Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

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