Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Time For More Charter Schools in 2008 by Akindele Akinyemi


I do not care about what the General Superintendent Dr. Connie Calloway say about Detroit Public Schools there is no way to change that district until you downsize the district to fit the population needs of the city/district.

Meanwhile, concerned parents continue to pull their children out of Detroit Public
Schools and put them in charter schools. This is a good thing for the charter community because charter advocates have been turning out the grade for quite some time now. As long as you have people fighting on the school boards in the urban communities our children will never learn.

On my way to a ghetto school district this morning I was listening to WDET FM 101.9 (Detroit's NPR) and they announced how Michigan 230 charter schools are improving while traditional schools still continue to lag.

While people say we need to raise the cap off charter schools (I am one of them but as long as we have an incompetent form of state government that will not happen) we need to look at other strategies to foster growth under the cap.

Ensure charter school board independence and community representation: Under Michigan law, authorizers appoint the members of a charter school's board. It is the authorizer's job to ensure the school board's independence. But when an Educational Management Organization (EMO) originates the charter application, it usually nominates the board members who the authorizer appoints. Charter school authorizers vet school board members for conflicts of interest, but the 2002 Auditor General's report suggests they do not catch all conflicts. Michigan's charter school authorizers must embrace high and uniform standards for board independence. They should also ensure that every charter school board includes representatives of the local community, including parents, and that individuals do not serve on the boards of multiple schools operated by the same EMO.

Consider ways to exempt high-performing schools from the cap: Efforts to raise the cap on university-authorized charters are unlikely to be successful in the near term. Because parent demand continues to exceed supply, Michigan's charter sector must also find ways to foster growth within the context of the cap. Michigan's charter sector could benefit in both growth and quality from statutory changes that would allow high-performing charter schools to replicate and create additional campuses that serve more students under the same board and charter. Such legislation could also help create a more balanced mix of EMO and locally-generated charter schools by encouraging non-profit and self-managed schools to replicate.

During the next 19 months The Genesis Project will explore, plan, and construct what we call family centered schools to help promote excellent schools.

Amend the “single-site” rule to allow high-quality charter schools to replicate: Michigan's charter school law prohibits charter schools from running more than one campus serving students in the same grade.

But it also has significant drawbacks. It prevents replication of high-performing charter schools and contributes to the lack of high-quality charter high school options. There are a substantial number of K–12 charter schools in Michigan, but many of them have trouble maintaining high school students, because their small size means they cannot offer the curricular options and extracurricular activities available in larger district and private schools. Allowing a K–12 charter school network to operate multiple K–8 feeder schools leading into a single high school would make non-alternative charter high schools more economically viable.

Allow Wayne County Community College to authorize charter schools: The charter school law should be amended to allow Wayne County Community College to authorize charter schools in Detroit. The law currently prevents community colleges from authorizing charter schools “in a school district of the first class,” which means Detroit, effectively prohibiting Wayne County Community College, the community college serving Detroit, from authorizing charter schools.

This is going to change by next year because I strongly predict Detroit Public Schools is going to fall under 100,000 students. Currently, the enrollment in DPS is at 104,000. All we need is 5,000 more students to leave DPS and it will trigger a state law allowing more charters to be created in Detroit.

School districts like Inkster, whose high school is at Phase 4 of the AYP and middle school is at Phase 6 of the AYP must make hard decision at the end of the school year to allow charters to come into the district or risk losing their Title I funds.

Create partnerships between “professional” authorizers and smaller authorizers: Charter school supporters and policymakers should encourage school districts and community colleges to become authorizers but contract with university authorizers who have greater expertise and capacity for key authorizing functions and services. Michigan's university authorizers have competencies and economies of scale that smaller authorizers, such as local and intermediate school districts or most community colleges, do not. And while the number of schools that may be authorized by universities is capped, the number that can be authorized by these other entities is not.

Provide charter school start-up funding: Providing more state start-up funds for charter schools would help create a more level playing field for community-based schools, spur innovation and diversity, and would be relatively inexpensive to the state right now because of caps that limit charter school growth. Michigan provides no start-up funding for new charter schools, and although Michigan charter schools are eligible to receive federal start-up funds through the federal charter school grant program, the amount is not always enough to cover costs. I predict when we open our first charter school it will costs at least $300,000. If there are any people who want to donate that type of money let me know.

Expand technical assistance and support: In many states there are technical assistance or resource centers that offer charter school founders help with issues from writing the application, to curriculum, to legal issues and compliance. But Michigan has no such entity, largely because the EMOs who have driven much of the state's charter school growth don't need that type of assistance. The National Charter Schools Institute, located at Central Michigan University, and MAPSA provide some assistance, but not enough to support and develop stand-alone or community-based charter applicants. In addition, stand-alone charter schools could benefit from more access to education service providers that provide payroll, benefits, IT, and other “back office” services.

Recruit outstanding national networks: The national charter school movement is increasingly looking to nonprofit charter school networks such as Achievement First or KIPP to drive high-quality growth. Charter Management Organizations (CMO) combine the benefits of EMOs—access to capital, economies of scale, and the ability to create systems that serve significant numbers of students—with the capacity for diversity and innovation found in stand-alone charter schools. Michigan's policymakers, charter school leaders and philanthropic organizations should work to recruit nationally successful CMOs to Michigan, particularly Detroit and other high need urban areas.

Many people are discouraged from opening a charter school in Michigan because of the strange charter laws that are in the Michigan School Code. But that will not stop Genesis from moving ahead to create a world-class school for world-class students.

The Genesis Project is on the way to assist those in need in our community. I am a firm believer in charter education and I would not trade it for anyone in the world. Get involved in the charter movement as we progress into 2008.



1 comment:

Aaron & Alaine said...

Interestingly enough, one of Mayor Peterson's most visionary and far reaching initiatives was the implementation of charter schools in Indianapolis. The mayor of Indianapolis is the only mayor in the country with the authority to charter schools and the charter model implemented in Indianapolis is one that every mayor of an urban city should be rushing pell mell to emulate.