Two Charter Public Schools Being Closed

If only all schools faced the same accountability

A couple of Michigan charter public schools are facing the harsh realities of being held accountable for performance.

The Academy of Flint and Lansing's Learn, Live, and Lead Entrepreneurial Academy are being shut down, because their authorizers determined they are failing to meet their contractual obligations. The schools are closing for different reasons, but both highlight the extra level of accountability built-in to Michigan's public charter schools.

According to MLive.com, Central Michigan University is not renewing the Academy of Flint’s charter because the school has failed to meet its prescribed student achievement goals. This is certainly unfortunate for the 400-some students whose parents thought this was the best option for their children, but charter public schools must not only attract parents to stay in business, they must also meet the requirements of their performance contract.

The Learn, Live, and Lead Entrepreneurial Academy does not have a poor student achievement record (it's only been open one year), but failed along other lines. According to MLive.com, the school opened late, missed testing deadlines and failed to post fiscal information publicly. These administrative malfunctions prompted its authorizer, Bay Mills Community College, to cancel its charter. The school's design and mission might hold promise for students, but if it cannot meet transparency and accountability requirements, it will have to shut its doors.

Since most parents actively shop for their children's schools, closing them is always difficult. Every school is some student's best available option. But closing charters for poor performance is necessary and required if Michigan wants to improve the educational opportunities that are available to students.

Since 1996, nearly 100 Michigan charter schools have closed for lack of performance. And closing charters for lack of performance is nothing new. According to the Center for Education Reform, about 15 percent of the charter schools opened nationwide since 1992 have been closed for performance-related issues.

Yet, charter public schools serve less than 10 percent of the public school students in Michigan, limiting the positive effects of this extra level of performance-based accountability.

If the state really wants to get serious about improving overall student achievement by shuttering poor performing schools, it would institute a similar level of accountability for all schools.