Charter schools in Michigan: A handbook for understanding public policy and practice for Michigan’s public school academies

William Price, Benjamin Jankens

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

Abstract

Without question one of the fastest growing changes in the organization of American public schools has been the growth of the chartered school movement. Now turning twenty years old, chartered public schools (now more commonly referred to as charter schools) have grown from the first such school opened in 1992 in St. Paul, Minnesota (City Academy High School), to a current estimate of 5,600 charter schools nationwide. Charter schools now exist in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Collectively these schools now enroll more than two million students or about 4.2% of the students in those states. Driven by federal policy embodied in the Race-To-The-Top grant criteria, as well as reported waiting lists of students whose parents wish to enroll their child in a charter school, this phenomenon continues to grow at a steady rate. According to Phi Delta Kappa’s annual sponsored Gallup polls on the public’s attitude toward America’s public schools, Americans have continued to express increased support for charter schools reaching a high in 2011 of 70% who favored such schools. Additional recent Gallup polling suggests that 61% of Americans sampled believe students educated in charter schools receive an “excellent” or “good” education, viewing them as better than traditional schools or homeschooling. Despite enjoying such wide spread public support, an emerging issue is that mixed empirical evidence exists to support the contention that charter schools are performing better in terms of student achievement than their traditional public school counterparts. While there are certainly some excellent charter schools and places where charter schools do outperform traditional schools in local school districts, the same can be said for some outstanding traditional public schools when compared to charter schools. Indeed, over the past two decades most researchers have concluded that on average charter schools were neither more or less successful than their traditional school counterparts at improving student achievement although that appears to vary by state and region. If we assume that such findings to date are valid, clearly then some other factors must be at work to garner the overwhelming public support for charter schools both in Michigan and elsewhere. One powerful appeal is the opportunity for a student to escape a consistently failing school where they would otherwise be trapped as a result of traditional school district boundaries and attendance areas. A second major appeal is driven by ideology and the belief that schools can only get better if they are subject to a market driven approach driven by competition and choice. In addition, another powerful appeal is to reduce the influence of teacher unions and to operate schools at less cost as charter school leaders suggest they do. In this handbook, the authors will examine these and other issues surrounding the remarkable growth of charter schools in Michigan. How did Michigan get charter schools? What was their intended purpose? How are they organized, governed and funded? What have we learned about them to date? These and other questions will provide the framework for guiding the reader through this handbook on understanding Michigan charter schools.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNCPEA Publications
Number of pages202
ISBN (Print)978-1-4675-6536-3
StatePublished - Jul 2013

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