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Accreditation Plan Unveiled For Charter School Authorizers

Charter school authorizers vow to hold themselves to higher standards

A group of institutions that oversee Michigan charter schools has come up with a system it says will lead to better oversight.

It's a voluntary accreditation system that would judge authorizers based on things like transparency and efforts to turn around failing schools.

The authorizers would also shut down any charters that "consistently" rank in the bottom five percent of Michigan schools.

"This process will ensure that all Michigan authorizers are following and adapting standards that are the strongest in the nation," said Jared Burkhart, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers (MCCSA). "This will lead to the best authorizing practices, we feel, throughout the United States."

Earlier this month, state Superintendent Mike Flanagan warned eleven authorizers he might stop them from opening or overseeing new charters schools if they don't improve the oversight of their existing schools.

Martin Ackley, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education, says Flanagan is interested in incorporating the standards. But he says he's concerned that they are not detailed enough.
"They don't articulate the rubrics and metrics that will be used and are undefined in some areas," said Ackley. "So those are some things that Superintendent Flanagan would need to see addressed."

Ackley says the new system could supplement Flanagan's existing plans for holding charter school authorizers more accountable. He says it is not being considered as an alternative to those plans.

A recent Detroit Free Press series suggested problems in Michigan charter schools. Those include conflicts of interest, mixed academic results, and a lack of transparency.

Some state lawmakers have since expressed interest in revisiting Michigan's charter school law. A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, has said his office is exploring the idea.