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Michigan charter authorizers seek independent evaluations, launch pilot program

Children in a classroom
Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
More than 70% of charter school leaders surveyed expect to leave their schools in five years, according to a study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Michigan charter school authorizers are trying to come up with independent ways to evaluate themselves.

Authorizers help create charter schools and are supposed to hold them accountable. They’ve been under a lot of scrutiny lately.

This week Michigan’s state superintendent removed Grand Valley State University and six other authorizers from a list he considered “at-risk” for suspension. Four others remain at risk.

“If you look around the United States, there are a lot of states that are looking at this and we’re one of the first to really come up with a model,” Jared Burkhart, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers said.

A non-partisian, non-profit organization worked with Grand Valley State University over the past year to come up with a new way to evaluate authorizers. The pilot program looked at several factors in its report released Thursday afternoon.

More than 32,000 kids attend charter schools set up by Grand Valley State University.

President Tom Haas says the move is not prompted by more scrutiny from the state. He says they seek independent evaluations in many areas. 

“It could be in nursing, could be in engineering, and could be in other areas. If there is an agency that is credible, that has high standards, that we want to make sure we are meeting or fulfilling if not surpassing those standards,” Haas said.

Burkhart says they’re working on a drafting legislation that would require all charter authorizers to get a third party accreditation or face suspension.

“This isn’t going to be a rubber stamp where authorizers are just accrediting each other and that’s why we thought we needed somebody with the reputation of AdvancED to be a worldwide organization to help us with that independence,” he said.

AdvanceED is expected to approve Grand Valley State University in June. The non-profit organization says GVSU is doing a good job. But it could improve in certain areas, such as how it measures whether or not the teachers at its schools are doing a good job and how they try to improve their success.

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s investigative reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor and West Michigan Reporter.
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