All schools need higher standards

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April 24, 2015 — We are pleased to be participating in a series of Town Hall meetings hosted by StudentsFirst-Michigan to examine the issue of charter school accountability, but if we are to make progress with academic outcomes for the students of Michigan, we simply have to work with facts, real data and current practice. As a result we take serious offense at the tone and factual inaccuracies in Lindsay Huddleston’s recent viewpoint (Re: The Detroit News’ April 21 guest column, “Set higher bar for Michigan charter schools”).

We agree with Huddleston’s opening statement that charter schools can work wonders, but it goes downhill from there.

If we want to improve quality education for all students, Michigan should adopt an A-F letter grading system for school accountability that provides meaningful information to parents about school performance, increase early literacy rates, get serious about school improvement, and adopt an authorizer accreditation system.

These are common sense solutions to real problems.

Fact is, charter schools in Michigan are among the most heavily regulated in the country.

Our charter school laws consistently earn an “A” grade by the Center for Education Reform, rank third in the National Health of the Sector Report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and are viewed as a model for the rest of the country.

Huddleston admits that “Poor minority students tend to achieve better academic results on average in public charter schools than traditional public schools.”

There is direct accountability for authorizers by universities, community colleges, ISD or traditional school boards.

In the case of university authorizers, another layer of accountability is added since Gov. Rick Snyder appoints every board member at each of the universities that authorize charter schools.

Also, authorizers don’t actually manage schools, and state law requires every charter agreement is a performance-based contract between the authorizer and the school.

We’d like to see a list of the out-of-state, for-profit, dubious operators who aren’t committed to educating kids that have been swarming to Michigan.

It bears repeating that over 80 charter public schools have been closed for poor performance, while zero traditional public schools have yet to be closed for failing to educate students. Ultimately, charter public schools are accountable to the 140,000 parents who choose to send their children there.

Parents choose a charter school for their child, no student has ever been “assigned” to a charter public school and no student is “stuck” in a charter school.

Our Metro Detroit town hall event will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, at Starr Detroit Academy in Harper Woods. Those interested in a serious discussion about the future of education in Michigan are encouraged to attend and participate.

We need greater accountability, for charter schools, authorizers and all schools. Let’s do it from facts and reality.

Gary Naeyaert, executive director, Great Lakes Education Project

Dan Quisenberry, president, Michigan Association of Public School Academies

Jared Burkhart, executive director, Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers