Failing charter schools still allowed to expand

Thirty-two new charter schools are set to open in Michigan this fall, and a new study shows that chronically low-performing charter operators are being allowed to expand their operations.

And while test scores don’t tell the whole story, the study, released by the non-partisan Education Trust-Midwest, reinforces the need for charter schools authorizers to be held to the same standards as traditional public schools.

Education Trust-Midwest analyzed the charter school operators planning on opening new charter schools this fall and found a great deal of variance in performance. Some newly approved charter schools — like National Heritage Academies, which is opening the Oakland Scholars Charter Academy in Waterford — have strong records of student performance.

But when legislators lifted the cap on charter schools in 2011, they made no provisions for holding charter school operators accountable. As a result, the following operators with poor achievement records can continue to open up more charter schools:

  • The Leona Group has one of the worst track records in Michigan. The Arizona-based operator runs 26 schools in nine cities in the state. Student test scores consistently run below the state average of 40 percent. Only 6 percent of students in their Milford Wells Academy in Benton Harbor met state standards. At its Cesar Chavez Academy in Detroit, students performed worse than the rest of Detroit’s Hispanic students, yet Leona will be opening another Detroit Chavez Academy this fall that will enroll 300 students.
  • CS Partners in Brighton operates nine schools in the state. One of its schools, Pansophia Academy in Coldwater, performed worse than 90 percent of Michigan schools on the 2012 MEAP.
  • Midwest Management Group is opening a new school in Flint, despite poor performance by its existing schools. Its Woodward Academy in Detroit falls far below the state average in reading and math.

The 32 new charter schools will offer Montessori programs, a public safety academy, cyber schools and a school for special needs students.

Meanwhile, seven charter schools will close at the end of this school year. One is closing for financial reasons, three are closing for academic reasons, and two are closing for both financial and academic reasons.